Not all employees of Catholic institutions are Catholics. Why should their employers impose their religious beliefs on them and deny coverage for birth control and other medical care (the other medical care was abortions)? As long as those Catholic institutions are getting taxpayer money, they should follow secular rules. That's the Obama administration's argument and it makes sense.Well, maybe to some people it makes sense, but not to me. In the first place, birth control and the morning after pill are not health care, or at least not primarily so. They're primary use addresses no physiological malady. Although they may be prescribed for certain health conditions like depression or irregular menstruation, that's not why most women buy them.
Secondly, Catholic employers are not imposing their religious beliefs on anyone. On the contrary, they're trying to live by those beliefs themselves. President Obama is saying, in essence, that Catholics can no longer be Catholic. The government will dictate to which of their beliefs they can adhere and which they can't.
Nor do Catholic employers tell their non-Catholic employees that they can't use birth control or have abortions. They're simply telling them that they, Catholic employers, aren't going to pay for them. If anyone is forcing their beliefs on others in this episode it's Kathleen Sebelius and her boss Barack Obama forcing their beliefs on the Catholic church, telling the church that its employers must ignore whatever religious convictions they have about the morality of birth control and abortion and subsidize them. They're telling Catholics, essentially, that they can no longer be Catholics.
I don't know whether the affected organizations receive taxpayer support or not, but why does that matter? If they do receive it it's because they perform a valuable service to society which we want them to continue. If the government forces them to choose between violating their conscience or shutting down everyone will suffer. One in six hospital patients in this country are currently cared for by Catholic hospitals. Close every Catholic hospital, school, adoption agency and other charitable institution run by the Catholic church and their public counterparts would be swamped. Maybe Ms. Vennochio thinks it makes sense to force all those patients into public hospitals, but it's not at all clear to me what's sensible about it.
She closes with this:
Obama isn't trying to regulate religion or undermine Catholicism. He's telling Catholic leaders they can't regulate the beliefs of other faiths. That's fitting in a country that treasures religious freedom, but also values separation of church and state.Exactly how is it regulating the beliefs of people of other faiths to decline to compensate one's employees for doing things that one believes on religious grounds to be morally wrong? The employee knows when she applies for and accepts employment what her insurance will cover and what it won't. She doesn't have to seek the job, she doesn't have to accept it, nor does she have to remain at the job if she doesn't like the coverage she receives. By taking the job and keeping it she has tacitly consented to the employer's provisions for her and she shouldn't now have the right to demand that the employer start paying for what he considers to be moral vices.
Mandating coverage of morally problematic products and procedures is not the same as the government passing laws about working conditions or minimum wage. Compelling employers to provide work breaks or to pay a certain wage does nothing to violate their conscience or their religion. By treating matters of conscience as if they were the same sort of thing as matters of pay equity or work safety the administration has put us on a slippery slope to eventually dictating to religious organizations how they will be able to practice all their religious beliefs.
Perhaps next the government will require churches, whatever they may believe about gay marriage, to marry gays or lose their tax exemption. Mr. Obama's mandate brings us closer to the day when the Church is entirely in thrall to the state and the statists.
Anyone who values separation of church and state, as Ms. Vennochio implies she does, should be appalled at this unprecedented move by the Obama administration to extend the aegis of government over matters of conscience and the contempt it shows for the principles that undergird the First Amendment to our Constitution.
Michael Ramirez expresses his judgment on the matter in this finely detailed piece of artistry: