In light of the Fortnight For Freedom protest, a campaign of Catholic Bishops that kicked off June 21, 2012 to protest Obama Health Care mandates which include contraceptive care, we provide the following perspective.
There has been much discussion amongst the political punditry about the Obama administration’s new regulations regarding health insurance. Basically, all company insurance programs must now provide birth control coverage. This has left many people, especially conservative politicians and the (hierarchy) of the Catholic Church, furious.
Archbishop William Gregory, in a letter to congregants claimed that the Obama administration’s new regulations denied Catholics the religious liberty guaranteed under the first amendment. In addition, Republican senator Roy Blunt introduced an amendment that would basically allow any employer with a “religious or moral” objection to birth control to deny contraception coverage to their employees. This amendment is supported by the Catholic Church hierarchy and essentially all of the senate Republicans except Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.
But the claims made by the Church and Senate Republicans are fallacious and their stance is actually hypocritical.
The Catholic hierarchy has continuously fought these regulations on religious liberty grounds-in fact, they are claiming religious persecution. But if the Catholic Church got its way on this, it would set the dangerous precedent of allowing employers to pick and choose what types of medical care their employees will receive. No reasonable person should find this situation acceptable.
For example, if we followed the Church’s logic, what would stop a Scientologist employer from denying their employees coverage for psychiatric care or a Christian Scientist employer from denying all medical coverage? It could be argued that these people could simply find new jobs, but that isn’t a great comfort, especially when unemployment is still high.
For all intents and purposes, the Catholic Church is trying to claim exemption from a law passed for non-religious reasons with a religious excuse.
This specific line of thinking was actually shot down by the Supreme Court in 1990 in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 when the Supreme Court found that two Native-Americans could be fired from their jobs for ingesting peyote, even though they did so for religious purposes. In other words, they could not use religion as an excuse to ingest peyote. And, interestingly, the majority opinion was written by staunchly conservative Justice Scalia.
Why should the Catholic Church be allowed to deny healthcare coverage for religious reasons when Native Americans are denied their holy peyote?
It’s illuminating when an argument is followed to its logical conclusion.
With the recent Supreme Court decision in support of Obama’s health care Catholic protest of 1) the regulation that will require virtually all health-care plans in the United States to cover, without fees or co-pay, sterilizations, artificial contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, and, 2) the requirement that religious groups, like all employers, will have to pay for abortions and birth control drugs for their employees – is bound to escalate.
Nathaniel Quinn is a student and Willamette Democrat.. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.