Written by Victoria Van Drost
The United States of America was founded on the basis of religious freedom, in a time when religion was subjected to individuals. This freedom was secured in the First Amendment of the Constitution, which stated that Congress shall not make any law respecting one specific religion. At the time of the writing of the Constitution, in the late 18th century, many countries were dominated by one religion, for example, Christianity in many parts of Europe. After fighting for their independence from Great Britain, Americans intensely despised tyranny of any form, and this included the religion Americans chose to practice then and in the future.
This First Amendment was especially important in reference to the way it impacted the government. As said before, Americans were especially fed up with feeling controlled by another power, whether that be an organized practice like religion or from the Mother country in Europe. They did not want anyone to have influence over the way the country functioned. This for the most part carried into today’s America. Politics have always been a separating factor since the beginning of The United States’ establishment, but as racial, social, and religious tensions have escalated with time, there has been a question of how seriously we take the First Amendment today.
A federal judge in Texas ruled that the Affordable Care Act’s process for determining what kinds of preventive care must be fully covered by private health insurance is unconstitutional. (Stolberg, 2022) Why is this important? The basis of the ruling was decided due to religious beliefs. Specifically, it was targeted at H.I.V. and its preventive drug regimen, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which has dramatically helped lower H.I.V. rates in the past decade. The plaintiff, Braidwood Management, believes that the coverage of this preventive service encourages behavior against the owner’s beliefs, such as homosexual behavior, intravenous drug use and sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman. Automatically it can be recognized that two out of three of the behaviors just listed contradict the teachings of the Three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism). But what about those who do not practice those religions or do not practice any religion at all? Should they be forced to conform to these teachings despite differing beliefs or spirituality? No, and this is why the separation of church and state was established in the first place by the Founding Fathers over two hundred years ago.
To speak on the medical/health aspect of this ruling, it opens the door for increased contraction of H.I.V. in America. Human immunodeficiency virus (H.I.V.) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and if not treated, can lead to Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which has no effective cure. (CDC, 2021) This causes an individual to be more susceptible to illness, and in the event, they do become infected with something, their immune system is often too weak to fight off the infection. In the age of Coronavirus, we see how pre-existing conditions can affect the severity of the infection and/or symptoms. In connection with the medical aspect of this ruling, it is important to discuss the effect this will have on (the already poor) preventive care in America. The United States reigns high in providing poor intervention strategies for its citizens, and rulings like this will only decrease the current low percentage of Americans who receive the recommended amount of preventive care.