7th place — Grad student essay contest: Abby Corbin
FFRF awarded Abby $750.
By Abby Corbin
In a country that preaches separation of church and state, the United States seems, time and time again, to fall short on this promising notion. From those four inescapable words found on every piece of U.S. currency, to the chosen book sworn on during courtroom trials, and Pledge of Allegiance, the presence of a god is far from subtle.
These religious themes ingrained in the United States government are non-inclusive not only of atheist citizens, but citizens of other faiths, especially those with multiple gods. The constant overarching themes of religion sends the message that, to be a true U.S. citizen, one must fall into the traditional Western standards of religion. This connotation denounces secularism, which is not a quality of a country that expresses freedom of religion, and, more pressingly, freedom from religion.
The greatest concern this lack of religious freedom presents is not when these discriminatory messages are included in the many facets of everyday life, but when they dominate the political atmosphere. Perhaps the most pressing of concerns in today’s political climate is access to safe abortions, and with religious and conservative values at the forefront of the opposing side’s argument, it truly is a bleak time as the rights of many are in question.
This essay was written shortly after the devastating decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. Each day, my heart breaks as I face the tragedy of the countless deaths that will result from a decision that was left up to a handful of people without the proper knowledge to understand the dire consequences of their actions. My grief compounds as I consider the possibility that this group of people were aware of these lethal outcomes, and that they perhaps did not have the capacity for humanity necessary to carry out their duties objectively, without the constraints of their rigid beliefs. The unfortunate truth is that
thousands of people will die because they became pregnant, whether they wanted the pregnancy or not.
The overwhelming Christian nationalism that is overtaking the United States has fooled many into thinking that the overturning of Roe v. Wade was a decision made with saving lives in mind, though it seems it is purely based on control. If saving lives was the goal, then they would have realized that many pregnant people will die due to a miscarriage that won’t release, from an ectopic pregnancy, or from any number of lethal medical conditions for which the treatment is abortion. Repeatedly, those in power have demonstrated their lack of concern with the well-being of their citizens. Their inaction and unwillingness to enact substantial change has occurred at alarming rates and in a multitude of areas as they have watched millions suffer and die from mass shootings, gun violence, poverty, hunger, abuse, toxic pollution, unregulated toxic consumer products, and a general lack of access to health care.
If this was truly about the protection of people, then the punishment for rape would not be less than the punishment for terminating a pregnancy that results from it. When taking all of this into consideration, can you really stand behind your beliefs which claim to be pro-life? And, even if you do diligently care about the topics mentioned, what gives you the right to force others to abide by your beliefs?
It is abundantly clear that in every area of the U.S. government, religion is not the answer and is, in fact, the problem. There is no ethical way in which religion can be incorporated into government policies without infringing upon the rights of those who do not follow that religion. Finding solace in government policies that are rooted in religious principles is a dangerous precedent, even for those who practice the same religion as the lawmakers, as no two people practice their religion identically. Government mandates should not be decided by those with little knowledge of the subject, but rather experts in the field it regards should be consulted. Negligent lawmakers who disregard expert testimony should not be in office, and if not already should be considered in direct violation of ethical codes. The public should be made aware of the ethical codes legislators are to abide by to promote accountability.
Ultimately, medical decisions such as abortion should be made by medical professionals and their patients, not by laws that cannot account for the nuances and ever-growing research within the medical profession.
Abby, 22, attends Grand Canyon University and is working toward a master’s degree in clinical medical health counseling.
“In early childhood, I often found that my love for other people conflicted with the teachings of the church I grew up in,” Abby writes. “The principles in their bible I found to be rooted in hatred and ignorance of others. I received quite a bit of backlash and criticism as I began to question what was being taught to me and pointed out fallacies within the church’s arguments, even as a young adolescent. I stopped believing in a god long before I was willing to admit it. But once I accepted myself and my beliefs, I found that my freedom from the church made me happier than I had ever been.”