The Continuing War on Women’s Health

 

President Obama speaking

President Obama speaks to a group about Health Care on Wednesday

Written by: Katie Garren

 

Recently, President Obama made a statement on the subject of birth control that became a hotly contested issue. Recently, there seems to be an increased focus placed on the matter of women’s health.  This matter always seems to come up during an election year. This year has been no different, with a slew of Republican hopefuls bringing up the subjects of birth control and abortion.

In Obama’s policy, he stated that health insurance plans would be required to provide free birth control to all female employees, including plans for Catholic hospitals, universities and charities.  The President’s administration saw this as a matter of equality for women.  Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, said upon the policy’s announcement, “I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services.”  This policy was intended to provide even preventative medicine for both men and women.  The contraceptive requirement was accompanied by requirements for blood-pressure screening and childhood immunizations.

The speech quickly became a talking point, both for people who approve and those who do not approve of its requirements.  Religious leaders were not at all open to the concept of providing contraceptives to women.  Catholic bishops were outraged, saying that this requirement “continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions.” They later vowed to fight the legislation through the other two branches of government.  Many leading Republicans also saw an opportunity to attack the President’s speech and interpret it as anti-religious. “This attack … on religious freedom in our country cannot stand and will not stand,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said in a speech on the floor of the chamber.  Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich added to the increasing ire having said, “If he (Obama) is re-elected he will wage war on the Catholic Church the day after (he is elected). We don’t trust him.”

On Friday, Obama changed his position. In a calculated measure, Obama sought to quell the controversy created by his policy.  In this revision, he states that religious organizations would not be required to provide free contraceptives to female employees.  “Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women,” Obama told reporters.

Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit in Times Square Features Largest Collection of Biblical Artifacts

Discovery Time Square's Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times

Written By: Catherine Wolinski

Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times, an archaeological exhibit that opened in New York last October, continues to impress and educate those curious about the physical beginnings of Judaism and Christianity.  Located in Discovery Times Square at 226 W. 44th St., the collection boasts the largest collection of ancient artifacts from Israel ever collected.

“The exhibition brings to life a fascinating period in history and vividly highlights how archaeologists and researchers piece together the past by examining and interpreting objects from daily life and ancient written documents,” says the exhibitions curator, Dr. Risa Levitt Kohn.

A piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls

A piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The main feature of the exhibition, the Dead Sea Scrolls, is an assembly of ancient religious texts found in the Holy Land, extracted from collections of the Israel National Treasures.  Penned 2,000 years ago and hidden when Roman forces advanced upon Jerusalem in 70 CE, the scrolls were first found in the caves of Qumran in Israel in 1947. Now on display in New York City, the 20 scrolls (displayed 10 at a time) include four making their first public appearance.

Among the newly discovered pieces of the past are the oldest known copies of the Hebrew Bible, including pieces from the books of Psalms, Isaiah, and Deuteronomy.  Additionally, they are accompanied by an authentic three-ton stone from Jerusalem’s Western Wall, believed to have fallen from the Southwest corner of the Second Temple’s outer wall during the Roman invasion. Also on display are Biblical artifacts, including remains of religious items, war weapons, stone carvings, mosaics, and everyday household accessories.

“The pots, coins, weapons, jewelry, and of course, the scrolls on display in this exhibition constitute a momentous contribution to our cultural legacy,” Dr. Kohn continued.  “They teach us about the past and also about ourselves.”

a collection of pottery

An example of the pottery displayed among 500 Biblical artifacts

The first in New York City of its size, Discovery Times Square is an exhibition center that presents educational and immersive explorations of culture and history.  Previously renowned for exhibits such as Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Workshop, King Tut, Pompeii The Exhibit, and Harry Potter: The Exhibition, the center’s current exhibit lives up to expectations in its size and scope with over 500 artifacts from the Holy Land. Dead Sea Scrolls: Life and Faith in Biblical Times chronicles the Biblical to the Byzantine periods, offering a physical timeline of the formation of Judaism and Christianity.

The exhibition, created by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), will run at Discovery Times Square until April 15, 2012.

Anti-Sectarian Rally in Beirut Expresses Hope For Non-Sectarian Lebanon

All they are saying is give peace a non-sectarian chance

Several thousand people gathered in the streets of Beirut on Sunday to protest; however, in a country where religion and politics are closely related, it was rather odd to discover a lack of religious symbols, or sectarian political banners, on display at the political event. Nevertheless, The Secular Pride March presented no crosses, crescents or portraits of martyrs or saints. Instead they carried roses, and the red and white cedar flag of the republic in protest against a religious domination over Lebanese civil and political life. And as some weren’t sure they could support what the participants wanted, it wasn’t difficult for spectators to comprehend their message: “What’s your sect? None of your business!”

The cedar flag of the republic in protest

Currently, Lebanon is more religiously diverse than any other middle eastern country, however, nearly all civil aspects of life are controlled by religious authorities, instead of the state. This manifests as the prohibition of Mixed-sect marriage, a domination of private religious schools over the education system, jobs rationing in accordance with sectarian quotas, and a requirement that all political candidates be categorized by a list that is enforced by sectarian political parties.

Confessionalism has fostered an environment of religious conflict – rather than preventing it; therefore, as Lebanon attempts to progress as a non-sectarian society, rallies like these are a desperate attempt by the minuscule minority, to usher in a revolution.