Religion isn't exempt
The Monitor's View of Feb. 20 ("The birth-control mandate") suggests that the federal government is for the first time entering the "business of defining religion." But that boundary is already long settled.
To the exact degree that practicing an employer's religion is a legal condition of employment, the religious authority controls the conditions of employment. But if religion is not a condition of employment, even a religious employer must obey the public laws on equal-opportunity hiring and health insurance.
The mandate was to provide employee insurance coverage that includes birth control. Our tax system has always made us pay for things majority rule deems necessary regardless of our moral objections.
For example, one could claim conscientious objector status, but not withhold taxes from military spending. One is free to keep kosher or halal, but cannot withhold taxes from pork subsidies.
Religious liberty does not mean you have the liberty to impose your religious restrictions on others.
A 'civil' past of racism?
Regarding the March 5 cover story on civility ("The civility gap"): I agree with those concerned that we need more civility in government, media, and new technologies.
But when comparing the present with the past, let's not forget the routine incivility and even violence toward minorities for much of the 20th century, when "decent" meant not sharing clubs or summer hotels with Jews.
Compare the civility of today's "Occupy" movement with the rudeness of 1960s protesters. And compare the relative good manners of police in response to Occupiers with those police who beat up demonstrators in the '60s.
Incivility seems to move around, but I find American society today far kinder, gentler, and more respectful today than in my youth.
Guns and domestic violence
Thank you for the informative and thoughtful March 12 cover story, "Inside America's gun culture." I am curious about a set of statistics that was not mentioned: domestic violence rates and guns.
Part of the problem is that domestic violence crimes are not recorded as such in many municipalities. However, I do know that a woman who is in an unsafe home situation is at much greater risk to be harmed or killed if her abusive partner/spouse has a firearm.
That is an important topic worth covering.