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ObamaCare, The Catholic Church, And Religious Liberty

Last week, the Obama Administration announced that it would enforce a rule that is part of the PPACA requiring employer-provided health care insurance to cover contraceptives even if the employer in question happens to be a religious institution that objects to contraception like the Roman Catholic Church. The rule doesn’t apply to a religious institutions core functions, and religious organizations are being given more time to comply than secular employer, but any Church-run hospital, school, or the like would have to comply. The reaction to this on the right has been about what you’d expect it to be and, yesterday, the Catholic Church itself weighed in via a letter that was read to parishioners in very Catholic Church in the country. The letter itself was fairly strongly worded:

I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith. The federal government, which claims to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just been dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people — the Catholic population — and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees’ health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

In so ruling, the Obama Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to either violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The Obama Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.

We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

The letter prompted E.J. Dionne, who is anything but a conservative, to chide the Obama Administration for what he called a breach of faith:

Speaking as a Catholic, I wish the Church would be more open on the contraception question. But speaking as an American liberal who believes that religious pluralism imposes certain obligations on government, I think the Church’s leaders had a right to ask for broader relief from a contraception mandate that would require it to act against its own teachings. The administration should have done more to balance the competing liberty interests here.

Dionne goes on to note that there was a compromise proposed that mirrored a program in Hawaii that allows religious institutions that wish to decline offering insurance that includes contraceptive coverage by informing employees and prospective employees of this and giving them information on how to obtain additional coverage that includes contraceptives a modest cost. Another option would be to make contraceptive coverage a rider to the employer-provided plan that an employee could select, but for which they would have to pay on their own. Ultimately, the Obama Administration refused to do this, and this seems to be the root of Dionne’s problem with the program and the reason that he supports the Church’s position.

Kevin Drum disagrees:

I guess I’m tired of religious groups operating secular enterprises (hospitals, schools), hiring people of multiple faiths, serving the general public, taking taxpayer dollars — and then claiming that deeply held religious beliefs should exempt them from public policy. Contra Dionne, it’s precisely religious pluralism that makes this impractical. There are simply too many religions with too many religious beliefs to make this a reasonable approach. If we’d been talking about, say, an Islamic hospital insisting that its employees bind themselves to sharia law, I imagine the “religious community” in the United States would be a wee bit more understanding if the Obama administration refused to condone the practice.

In the end, I think Drum is correct here. Religious liberty is an important principle, one that I take very seriously, but it doesn’t mean what Dionne and the Catholic Bishops seems to think it means. Operating a hospital or a school or an adoption agency is not a religious undertaking in the same way that, well, operating a church is, and there’s simply no merit to the argument regulations regarding how you operate an institution that is essentially secular in nature are somehow a violation of religious liberty. More importantly, operating such institutions while taking government money (i.e., Medicare and Medicaid) means accepting at least some regulation about how that money is used. As I noted when discussing the issue of Catholic Churches getting ending adoption services rather than provide equal consideration to gay couples, there’s not such thing as a right to receive government money:

Religious liberty does not mean the right to take public money without having to comply with the law because the teachings of your faith tell you those laws are wrong. That’s not how you live in a civil society, and if the Church cannot comply with that simple rule then it needs to rethink its priorities.

I’d also note that it strikes me that the Church is making a fairly bizarre argument here. Providing contraceptive coverage in employer provided insurance is orders of magnitude different from, say, being required to perform abortions, an issue on which I personally think Catholic hospitals should be given wide latitude and the right to object for reasons of conscience if they choose. All it means is that your employees, many of whom might not even be Catholic, have a certain insurance benefit. Considering that there are often medical reasons that women are put on contraceptives that have nothing to do with preventing pregnancy, the relationship between the mandate and Church teaching is tangential at best.

Finally, Drum’s makes a point that is worth noting. Taking the religious liberty argument to its logical conclusion would mean that an Islamic hospital would be able to require its employees, Muslim or not, to adhere to Sharia law. Is that really what the First Amendment means?

As a policy matter I don’t support requiring any employer to provide any specific type of insurance policy. I have doubts that such a requirement is even Constitutional (yes, yes, I know the Commerce Clause, etc. etc). At the very least, perhaps the kind of opt-out that Dionne talks about would have been the better choice. Calling this a matter of “religious liberty,” though, is simply ridiculous. It’s a bad law, yes, but it’s not a violation of the First Amendment.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    This is especially absurd when it’s obvious that a majority of “practicing” Catholics in the US ignore the church when it comes to birth control.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 13

  2. Brummagem Joe says:

    It’s certainly not a matter of religious liberty, this argument of Dionne’s is off the wall. What makes such arguments doubly suspect is that according to reputable surveys some 98% of Roman Catholic women use some method of birth control.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 10

  3. Trumwill says:

    Where the rubber hits the road for me is, as far as Drum’s comments go, if the church were to evacuate “secular enterprise”, would we be better off or worse off? It might make things easier if we did separate these things, and if St. Mark’s Hospital were Carrington Street Hospital, but would Carrington Street Hospital exist without the church?

    Maybe so. And maybe that would be best for all involved.

    But something about Drum’s treating the Church’s presence in health care as an incursion of some sort doesn’t exactly sit right with me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. DRS says:

    I’m Catholic and I couldn’t believe the fuss the Holy Mothership kicked up over this issue. Talk about over-reaction – so much so that I think this is some kind of Trojan Horse issue to collect names, addresses and emails for serious lobbying on other issues later on.

    Side question: this isn’t the first time I’ve seen that photo used on OTB. What city is it from?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8

  5. PD Shaw says:

    Religious liberty is not just enshrined in the Constitution, its also required by federal laws like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The federal government requires additional steps to avoid burdening a religion, such as allowing Indian tribes to engage in ceremonial use of peyote.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  6. Hey Norm says:

    Contraception is pretty cheap and very effective preventative medicine for STD’s.
    Certainly the Church would not put it’s theology ahead of effective medical treatment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 10

  7. KevinA says:

    In principle, I’m with Doug and Drum. In practice, I’m not. I’m a liberal/questioning Catholic, so I think the Church’s contraception stance is stupid, if not harmful in Africa, but they’re NOT changing it. Period. Ultimately, the US Church will do what it did in Mass.- just stop ALL services.

    Is that blackmail/throwing a hissy fit? Yep, but contra Sunny Hostin on CNN today, the Church will NOT back down. If forced to chooswe, they will drop all health coverage. Which, in the end, only hurts millions of people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  8. the Catholic Church itself weighed in via a letter that was read to parishioners in very Catholic Church in the country.

    What about the parishioners in mildy Catholic Church in the city?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6

  9. PD Shaw says:

    @Trumwill: The adoption agency problem is perhaps a better example. Here, in Illinois an exemption for Catholic agencies from the same-sex marriage laws was presumed by many of those who voted for it. And now that Catholic charities is bowing out of these services, there are some areas of the states where there are enough other religious and non-religious agencies to take the job over; in others there is really nothing.

    I do understand the statist position on this. You have religious groups operating without the need to comply with all of the labor laws and benefits programs that state-run operations have to, plus the religious charities receive supplemental funds from the churches, and the religious groups generally enjoy a better reputation. There is some competitiveness at work here and the religious groups are taking public money and in the process helping delegitimize government services that obviously abide by different rules and circumstances.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  10. KevinA says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Heh. Ah, typos.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. michael reynolds says:

    The Roman Catholic Church is very quick on this issue. Not so quick when it comes to priests raping children. But then they have their priorities, I suppose.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 33 Thumb down 19

  12. sam says:

    @Trumwill:

    Where the rubber hits the road for me

    Very droll.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  13. Septimius says:

    The analogy about an Islamic hospital forcing its employees to follow Sharia Law is nonsense. The Catholic Church isn’t forcing it’s employees to not use contraception. It simply wants to be exempt from providing (i.e. paying for) something that it considers sinful.

    A better analogy would be if the government tried to force a Muslim-owned bank to sell mortgages; violating the Islamic tenet prohibiting borrowing or lending with interest. I think most would agree that would be unconstitutional.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

  14. sam says:

    @Septimius:

    Google ‘Islamic mortgage’ — there are such things. See, for instance, A Hometown Bank Heeds a Call to Serve Its Islamic Clients

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  15. Elizabeth says:

    The issue here isn’t about providing services, it’s about paying for them, but I wouldn’t call it different in “orders of magnitude”. The Catholic Church teaches that abortion, contraception and sterilization are detrimental both physically and spiritually to the individual. She feels that paying for those services is to pay for causing physical and spiritual damage to the person. That would be contrary to the very reason the Church established schools and hospitals in the first place: to perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy. I can understand the outrage here, and honestly I am glad to see that the Church is standing up for its beliefs.

    That said, I definitely see both sides of this issue. In my hometown, I was APPALLED when I saw there was a likelihood that a Catholic hospital system would be taking over the university hospital system. This is a university whose hospital does a huge amount of research involving stem cells, I know they provide abortion, sterilization and contraception services, and it serves the majority of the poor in the area. I definitely was not thrilled to see a Catholic hospital system taking over this enterprise. In fact, I was a bit confused. WHY did a Catholic hospital system want to take over running this university hospital??

    The upshot is that I do think that it is wrong to ask the Church to violate her own teachings, by forcing the purchase of certain insurance coverage. I am somewhat unclear on why it would be so objectionable to make the “reproductive services” part of health insurance a portion that could be purchased by an individual separately. I know that purchasing maternity care was an option that I did not purchase during a time when I was paying for individual insurance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3

  16. anjin-san says:

    @sam

    Using an informed argument on Septimus? You are a cockeyed optimist…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. John Burgess says:

    @anjin-san: Yes, but Sam only destroyed part of Septimus’ argument. Islamic mortgages, by definition, do not include interest, the point he made in the second example.

    So, to put it more succinctly, would the US be within its 1st Amendment powers to require an Islamic bank to take part in interest-bearing loans? Or, perhaps, it could only withhold FDIC coverage unless and until the Islamic bank did offer those loans?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. PD Shaw says:

    @Elizabeth: Its nice to read someone actually seeing both sides of the issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  19. Vast Variety says:

    @Hey Norm: The Church puts its theology and its control over people ahead of many things, including common sense medical treatment and equality for minority groups such as gays and lesbians.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

  20. JohnMcC says:

    Regarding the analogy to Islamic Hospital–Sharia, this is not by any means a ridiculous comparison. A Jewish nursing home in my town forbids employees bringing food to work. They do offer meals but during their working hours they must keep kosher. Similarly, a 7th Day Adventist hospital not far away serves only vegetarian meals (but do not attempt to police food brought in.)

    The mixing and matching of dogma and law creates very difficult situations.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. TJM says:

    “Operating a hospital or a school or an adoption agency is not a religious undertaking in the same way that, well, operating a church is, and there’s simply no merit to the argument regulations regarding how you operate an institution that is essentially secular in nature are somehow a violation of religious liberty.”

    Caring for the sick, needy, elderly, and children is a religious undertaking. But you can’t do that on a large scale without complying with laws and regulations about who is authorized to provide medical care, adoption services, elder care, and so forth. Thus, the church conforms their work to the requirements of the state by doing it under the guise of hospitals, schools, adoption agencies, and so forth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  22. Gustopher says:

    Why do we value the religious beliefs of the employer over the employee?

    If the Christian Scientists were to be running the local trash removal service, would they be granted a waver on providing any and all health coverage beyond prayer circles?

    I don’t see the difference between Christian Scientist Trash Removal and Catholic Hospitals.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  23. de stijl says:

    @TJM:

    Caring for the sick, needy, elderly, and children is a religious undertaking.

    No it isn’t.

    At least not in the sense that only religions can care for the sick, needy, elderly, and children.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  24. de stijl says:

    @DRS:

    Side question: this isn’t the first time I’ve seen that photo used on OTB. What city is it from?

    Per FreakStreets.com – “Only in Salem, Oregon, can you find the intersection of Church and State.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. Septimius says:

    @sam: Yeah. I’ve read about those. I think there’s some controversy among Muslims whether those options are truly compliant with Sharia. I’m not a Muslim, so I really have no opinion. Regardless, if the government tried to force a Muslim-owned bank to sell traditional mortgages or Islamic “mortgages,” I think people would quite rightly be very concerned about the first amendment implications.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Alex says:

    This is another step in Obama’s war on Christianity in this country, no doubt about it. The leaders of other Christian organizations and denominations need to speak out. Pastors need to inform their congregations of this. Go to citizenlink.com

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 24

  27. Scott O. says:

    @Alex: Couldn’t God just inform the congregants directly? Seems to me that would have more impact.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

  28. Franklin says:

    As a policy matter I don’t support requiring any employer to provide any specific type of insurance policy.

    I can agree with Doug here, and to be honest, but it’s the catalyst for the conflict here. The other problem is our tradition of employer-sponsored health insurance. I’m not religious at all, and in fact opposed to the Catholic Church on some or most of these issues, but I’m a bit sympathetic here. The Church shouldn’t even need to be having this argument.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  29. Franklin says:

    Superfluous ‘but’ … oh where oh where did my edit button go?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. Justin Christian says:

    I guess I’m tired of public policy strangling religious enterprises (churches, synagogues, mosques), imposing itself on people of multiple faiths, disserving the general public, squandering taxpayer dollars – and then claiming [its creators and supporters] that the principle of ‘separation of church and state’ [their deeply held secular belief] should exempt it from being informed by any religious belief.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 14

  31. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Scott O.: Actually, God did:
    blockquote>Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
    Romans 13:1

    It goes on further and there are other passages, but the message seems clear. Obey the law. When you can’t obey the law, obey God and accept what happens.

    That last part is where everybody has problems with what God says. Hmmmm…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Justin Christian: Sadly for you, the theological concept of agency works against your peeve. Everyone of us has the right as an indepenent moral and spiritual agent to pursue their own path. The founders got that part right.

    On the other side, I have not actually seen any situations where public policy ever strangled my pursuit of religious truth, so I’m not quite sure where your point comes from or goes to.

    My own position on this matter is that if the church objects to elements of the law, closing those enterprises (notice that I didn’t call them ministeries) that will be affected will show society the costs of its policies. While I feel some regret for children who may not be able to get Catholic education or hospitals that would need to close, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs (and the church will probably be able to mitigate some of these losses if it chooses to).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  33. DRS says:

    De stijl, thanks for the info. Delighted to see that it’s a real sign and not a photoshop. We have a State and a Church Street in my town too, but they’re quite a few miles apart.

    Well, if my Catholic Church feels so strongly about not using contraceptives, why don’t they not employee people who use them? After all, refusing to provide healthcare insurance that covers them seems pretty weak tea beside the actual fact of usage, so why settle for that? Or go back to the days when only nuns and lay sisters did the work in much smaller Catholic hospitals?

    This really does strike me as a phony controversy designed to see who’s rallying round the flag.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  34. Tillman says:

    @Just nutha ig’rant cracker: I thought Romans was written by Paul, not God. God isn’t usually in the habit of writing letters to specific churches.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  35. Tillman says:

    I’d have more sympathy with the Church’s position if, say, the letter drafted to the laity had any hint of nuance to it.

    If forced to choose, they will drop all health coverage. Which, in the end, only hurts millions of people.

    No, it just makes their lives more expensive. This can’t be considered in isolation; PPACA goes into effect only a year later presuming the courts don’t strike down the mandate. Given the statistics of Catholic usage of contraceptives, the Church itself is more likely to feel a backlash from ungrateful employees forced to purchase their own coverage because the Church refuses to move on an issue for which it’s already gotten mud in its face over.

    There are beliefs worth fighting for; this is not the one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  36. Just nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tillman: Are you really going there? Puhleeeze….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  37. sam says:

    @John Burgess:

    [W]ould the US be within its 1st Amendment powers to require an Islamic bank to take part in interest-bearing loans? Or, perhaps, it could only withhold FDIC coverage unless and until the Islamic bank did offer those loans?

    I think you mean “Commerce Clause powers”.

    I’d say it would be within its CC powers to so require if the bank accepted FDIC coverage (of course the bank does not have to accept FDIC coverage). Taking the king’s shilling, etc. But that’s the issue. Institutions accepting government funding, or support in the case of FDIC coverage (or get government tax breaks, see Bob Jones University vs. United States) should be required to play by the government’s rules if they wish to continue receiving the funding or the support (or getting the tax break). If the institution feels so strongly that the government’s rules are too onerous, don’t take the funding or the support or the tax breaks (see Hillsdale College).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. ketchup or salsa says:
  39. PD Shaw says:

    @sam: The First Amendment issue is set forth in the Sherbert Test.

    Without knowing what the purpose of requiring an Islamic bank to charge interest, its hard to tell whether the state would have a compelling reason to do so or whether other alternatives are available, but the features of the Sherbert Test, when applicable, generally results in religious exemptions under the First Amendment. I’d describe it as very favorable to religious organizations.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. @Alex: Is this war anything like the war on Christmas? Because, dude. Christmas is totally kicking ass in that war.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  41. @PD Shaw:

    It is not at all clear that the Sherbert Test is still good law after the Supreme Court’s rulings in cases like Employment Division v. Smith, Boerne v. Flores, and Gonzalez v. UDV

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. sam says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Without knowing what the purpose of requiring an Islamic bank to charge interest, its hard to tell whether the state would have a compelling reason to do so or whether other alternatives are available

    The “other alternatives” could be bank’s defense, I think. After all, interest on a loan is simply how the bank makes money on the loan. If the bank could show that it can make money on mortgages without charging interest, as it does in Islamic mortgages (see my comment and the cites above), I think the government would accept that as satisfying any requirement that interest be charged. The government’s interest is in the bank’s soundness. I can’t imagine the government absolutely demanding that interest be charged as collecting interest is only a means to a bank’s profitability and thus its soundness-sustainability. I think the government would be satisfied with demonstrated other means to than end. If it challenged the bank, I’d think it’d lose in court on the means/end question.

    I think we have to keep in mind that simply because the government can do something does not mean it will do something. The government can raise an army via a draft. There is nothing in the constitution that prevents the government from drafting your grandmother. I’m pretty confident that the government would not draft your grandmother.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. PD Shaw says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The Sherbert Test appears to be good law against the federal government under the Religous Freedom Restoration Act. But I did hedge my comment by saying the test was a very tough one “when applicable.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  44. SoCalMommy says:

    Great article – I am pro-choice & am not a Catholic, however I do take issue with a government mandate sent to a Church organization requiring them to provide care which goes against their beliefs.

    Mr. Mataconis states in the article that operating hospitals, adoption agencies & schools are not religious undertakings. From a secular perspective, this may seem true. Every organization created by a religious organization, however, is in place because there is an agenda in mind. Everything the Catholic church touches has the intent of infusing the touched (patients, students, adoptees) with the Church’s belief system.

    As long as the belief system doesn’t conflict with the ultimate law of the land (our Constitution), then the government should frankly keep its nose out. Sharia law, as interpreted by extreme fundamentalist Muslims, does indeed conflict with Constitutional rights (stoning women would be frowned upon, no?).

    There is nothing in the Constitution requiring churches to provide birth control to me… and nothing preventing me to obtain said contraceptives from sources other than the church – privately purchased insurance, Planned Parenthood, etc. I think the best solution is that the Church organization be required to provide information stating where these services may be found or looked up (i.e. “check out this website for resources regarding contraceptive options”).

    Do I disagree with the Church’s stance on birth control? Hell, yeah. But I am willing to defend their right to practice their faith within the constraints of Constitutional law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  45. datechguy says:

    Any person with any knowledge of western civilization would know that there would not be such a thing as “Universities” for the masses or “Hospitals” that served the public were it not for Catholic institutions providing the precedent for those things.

    I do not expect better from our secular friends who’s beliefs are so fragile that they don’t dare be exposed to so much as a crucifix unless it is submerged in urine, but for who claim Catholicism there is now an unambiguous choices for you to make, which religion do you belong to , the Roman Catholic Church of the church of Liberalism?

    And for those who say they revere the 1st amendment, remember today is Catholic belief, what will it be tomorrow?

    Your call.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8

  46. Socrates says:

    “The analogy about an Islamic hospital forcing its employees to follow Sharia Law is nonsense.”

    Strawman.

    Drum didn’t say this is an analogy, he said if you take the religious liberty argument to its logical conclusion, on what grounds do you refuse to allow some institution to follow sharia law?

    If you think that only some religious beliefs should be exempt from public laws, make your case for deciding which are exempt, and which are not. Good luck with that.

    Drum’s point was that Christians are going to support exempting THEIR religious beliefs, but probably not Muslim religious beliefs. Yep.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  47. KevinA says:

    @Tillman: I don’t disagree in principle, but you assume this Church cares about “backlash.” They don’t. Bizarre as it is, this is like abortion itself to the USCCB. They’d rather lose followers than “compromise their values” on this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  48. Rob in CT says:

    I do not expect better from our secular friends who’s beliefs are so fragile that they don’t dare be exposed to so much as a crucifix unless it is submerged in urine, but for who claim Catholicism there is now an unambiguous choices for you to make, which religion do you belong to , the Roman Catholic Church of the church of Liberalism?

    Yeah, run with that. Please do. You won’t be happy with the results. The vast, vast, vast majority of Americans utilize birth control, for rather obvious reasons. You’ve lost already. All that’s left is the whining.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  49. physics geek says:

    I’m not Catholic, but I at least sympathize with its position. Regardlss of whether or not you believe that this infringes on the 1st Amendment, the reality is that the Church will simply stop services rather than acede to this demand from the government, which leads me to the following question: will this help people more or hurt people more in the grand scheme of things?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  50. physics geek says:

    Darned typos.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  51. Tillman says:

    @Just nutha ig’rant cracker: Oh I totally went there. Biblical textual criticism, bitch! Really, just a pet peeve of mine whenever someone says God wrote anything. Otherwise, I agree with you.

    @KevinA: The slow decline of the Catholic Church in the face of modernity is nothing new to me. I’m just wondering when they’ll notice and start rethinking doctrine. Call me an optimist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  52. Norma says:

    So you don’t think abortions are on the horizon for Catholic hospitals, right? Drank the Kool-aid, didn’t you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  53. David M says:

    I wish the articles were a little clearer on exactly what the controversy was. I’m pretty sure as part of Obamacare, the government will give employers a tax break if they provide health insurance that meets a minimum standard of benefits. If I understand correctly, the Catholic Church wants the tax break but doesn’t want to meet the required benefit levels. Is this in fact the case, that all this disagreement is just over what they need to do to get the preferential tax treatment?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  54. Justin Christian says:

    @Just nutha ig’rant cracker: JNIC, thanks for the comment on my comment. Here’s my comment on your comment:

    1) Agency is a philosophical, sociological, and legal concept not a theological concept.
    2) My comment was not a peeve; it was a well-crafted counter to Kevin Drum’s lead-in.
    3) The Founding Fathers did get it right but you summarize their ‘got it right’ wrong. “Everyone of us has the right … to pursue their own path [not the way I would put it but I understand what you mean] …” not because we are independent moral and spiritual agents but because “… all men are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights that include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
    4) Your inclusion of “I [you] have not actually seen any situations where public policy ever strangled my [your] pursuit of religious truth …” brings very little to the table. I can document numerous instances of public policy strangling religious enterprise.
    5) You state your own position quite strongly but I wonder if as a ‘cracker’ you would take kindly to it being your eggs that were cracked.

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  55. TJM says:

    @de stijl
    Me:

    “Caring for the sick, needy, elderly, and children is a religious undertaking.”

    You:

    “No it isn’t.

    At least not in the sense that only religions can care for the sick, needy, elderly, and children.”

    That would be a relevant point if I had asserted that only religions can care for the sick, needy, elderly, or children.
    Your statement would be more accurate if you said that caring for the sick, needy, elderly, and children is a religious undertaking, when done to fulfill a religious obligation or when done from a religiously-motivated spirit of caring.
    Since the “when” condition is clearly present in this case, the caring activities in this instance are religious undertakings. Thus, my statement is both accurate and more concise.

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  56. Lit3Bolt says:

    @physics geek:

    Somehow when it comes to obeying dogma, that question is never asked of religious fundamentalists. They can hurt people, and have the right to hurt people by withholding services, if their precious beliefs are offended.

    Martin Luther was spot on when he rebelled against these malicious, spider-worshiping rapists/papists. What a monstrous institution.

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  57. Marilyn Cantwell says:

    @Alex:

    This is the beginning of restricting the freedom of religion. This nation was begun because people could not worship as they believed in Europe. Whether you are Catholic or anti-Catholic, this is supposed to be a free country. Sorry for all you anti-papists, but St Jude’s Children’s Hospital is just one of the many Catholic institutions that have saved lives and done wonderful things.

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  58. Michael Lupo says:

    It is very alarming that the government is mandating what religious institutions can and cannot do. This issue should go to the Supreme Court to determine if constitutional rights are being infringed upon. In any case, if federal funding is being used to leverage government control, then the affected institutions should dispense with the funds to regain their freedom.
    On a different level, these issues are not trivial. Abortion-inducing drugs and even contraceptives can take innocent human lives by preventing newly fertilized eggs from being implanted in the uterus. We were all at this stage of life once, and all should be respected.

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  59. gofishreds says:

    @Elizabeth:
    I live in Louisville. I suspect that is the city of which you refer.
    I long to read material more informative…..a both sides
    approach as you do…but with more space to elaborate.
    What I do read, sounds convoluted and stays at the
    surface level. I have a very dumbed down version. The old days
    are gone. This was when each major religion had their own hospital.
    But, mergers have been forced due to the cost of running them and, frankly,
    due to poor management decisions. In Louisville, it looks like the catholic
    hospital had the deepest pockets; ergo, they became the white knight and
    the city now can’t live without their help. My frame is that the Church has moved out
    of a more narrow context to the more secular service context while still retaining
    non profit status and benefiting from government funding. So, they simply have to play
    by secular rules. In what may be a lame attempt to offer perspective, Jewish Hospital (which unfortunately is apart of the acquisition) due to their over- expansion, poor management, and burden of providing indigent services) never required that all patients be kosher. Having said all this and racked by lame brain to make sense of it all, our government officials need to make a priority of protecting the country. This issue feeds the propaganda machine for whomever, and is one more distraction from basic governing. How soon we forget that Washington failed to prevent 911 and failed to prevent the collapse of our financial system. Our blood and our treasury damaged, and I expect more of the same if we fight over priorities.

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  60. Jim in Colorado says:

    @KevinA:

    Kevin, you hit the nail on the head. as a PRACTICING Roman Catholic—you just need more research to answer your “questioning”, and I am confident what you will find, like I did—I believe that the Church will just ultimately end up closing down services used by millions of people in this country.

    Remember, the Roman Catholic Church is the biggest benefactor of services and mercy in . . . the . . . .entire . . . . World. Look it up. Think about it.

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