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Letters: Freedom of -- and from -- religion

June 22, 2012

Re "Freedom of religion is safe," Editorial, June 17

As a provider of comprehensive women's healthservices, I applaud The Times for supporting the federal regulation that requires employers' health insurance plans to include contraception services.

I see women of many faiths, including Roman Catholics. For all of my patients who have children, readily available access to safe and affordable birth control is crucial to their ability to care for themselves and their families. For everyone I treat, decisions about contraception and family size are deeply personal and complicated.

My patients must be allowed to make these medical choices independent of their employers' religious affiliations. We must not let one person's religious liberty trump another's need for basic healthcare.

Rachel Steward, MD

Los Angeles

The writer is a fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.

The Times challenges claims by Roman Catholic bishops that religious liberty is under attack. But you fail to distinguish between the freedom of religious institutions and of individuals.

The problem is not that the contraception mandate undermines the church's mission to serve the community, but that it undermines the work of religious individuals to live out their own faith. The fact that the list of exemptions to the contraception mandate is so narrow reflects a failure to recognize that government cannot limit the locations or organizations through which individuals' religious liberty must be protected.

This attack on religion is an attack on the ability to live out one's faith beyond the church doors.

Emily Simmonds

Arlington, Va.

These days, with the rising power of the religious right in American politics, I am more fearful about freedom from religion than freedom of religion.

I will fight for the constitutional right of any religious group to dictate to its members what they may or may not do, but I will fight harder against that group's determining what services are available to me and other non-members of that group.

Kathy Heggemeier

Portsmouth, Va.

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