Contraception and Separation

By Mike Appleton, Guest Blogger

In Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man, Stephen Daedalus is asked by his friend Cranly whether, having forsaken Roman Catholicism, he will become a Protestant.  “I said I had lost the faith,” he replied, “but not that I had lost selfrespect.  What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?”

But God works, as they say, in mysterious ways.  A black man, accused of being secretly a Muslim, a socialist and an illegitimate pretender to the presidential throne, has accomplished what all of the post-Vatican II reconciliation committees and joint worship services and inter-faith conferences could not.  Rev. Mike Huckabee has declared that Protestants will at last abandon illogic and incoherence.  No longer will the Pope be called the Antichrist, nor Holy Mother Church the Whore of Rome.  Once again, he says, we are all Catholics.  My late Irish grandmother’s faith has been vindicated.

Christians have reunited under the banner of Richard “Coeur de Lion” Santorum to defeat apostasy and reclaim America for Christendom.  The enemy this time?  An HHS regulation requiring most health insurance plans to include FDA approved forms of contraception in coverage for preventive health services.  There is, of course, an exception for churches, but not for religious institutions serving the general public.  The outrage has been intense, widespread and misguided.

The newest crusade, like its historical predecessors, is largely fueled by the bad faith of its leaders and the ignorance of its foot soldiers.  The President has graciously described the controversy as a difference of opinion between reasonable people, but his comments are undeservedly charitable.  The argument that the requirement is an assault on religious freedom is legally frivolous.  The suggestion that it raises serious questions under the Free Exercise Clause or the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is laughable, unless one is a graduate of the Michele Bachmann School of Constitutional Revisionism and Beauty Culture.

It has never been the law that the First Amendment exempts religion from all civil authority.  The First Amendment “embraces two concepts,-freedom to believe and freedom to act.  The first is absolute but, in the nature of things, the second cannot be.”  Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 303-304 (1940).  Public policy demands have been found to trump freedom of religion in a number of contexts.  The Mormon practice of polygamy was long ago held to be subordinate to criminal statutes.  Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879).  Jehovah Witnesses have been compelled to comply with child labor laws prohibiting the sale of printed materials on public streets by minors.  Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944).  Bob Jones University was unable to prevent the loss of its tax exempt status despite its religious convictions opposing interracial dating and marriage.  Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983).  And the courts have frequently ordered the provision of emergency medical care to minors over the religious objections of their parents.

The new regulation implements portions of the Affordable Care Act intended to expand the availability of preventive health services to women by requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for those services.  Meeting the public health needs of millions of women pursuant to a grant of legislative authority surely fits any reasonable definition of a compelling governmental interest.  And the impact on religious expression?  None.  Religious institutions are not required to change their moral views on contraception.  No woman will be compelled to practice birth control.

But if the regulation does not raise constitutional issues, why all the fuss?  The answer is that the reaction is a contrived and cynical political attack for election year consumption by Catholics and right-wing evangelicals.  It is an effort to extend the notion of religious expression to include what are clearly non-ministerial functions.  It is also part of an effort to further weaken the wall of separation between government and religion.  Indeed, the position of the Catholic bishops reinforces my opposition to the entire faith-based initiatives program.  How is it that a religious body can assert the propriety of accepting public tax dollars to support what it asserts to be a public function, such as operating a general hospital, and simultaneously insist that the operation of that same hospital is protected religious expression for all other purposes?

The government is obligated to respect the free exercise of religion.  Religious bodies engaged in the operation of public facilities are obligated to respect the rights of all employees, including those having incompatible religious beliefs, and to comply with applicable laws.  Once this has been made clear to all, Christians can return to warring among themselves.

526 thoughts on “Contraception and Separation”

  1. Two brief comments for now —I have an article I have prepared on this subject which is in the process of being submitted to another source.If it is turned down I shall,if possible enter it here at a later date.

    Suppose I am a member of the christian science faith.I need some repairs done in my house and hire someone I know who belongs to a faith that fully utilizes medical treatment.Suppose further that while working for me the man suffers what is clearly recognizable as a heart attack.Do I have a right to limit myself to praying for his wellbeing or do I have an obligation to call 911 and get the medical attention that is permissible for him?Do my beliefs take precedent over his beliefs?

    Our society rests on tolerance.I believe that tolerance amounts to equal legitimacy in the realm of social activity except where the state can prove a substantial and compelling need.It is my impression that those criteria are met when the health ,safety and welfare of women are concerned. In the 1800’s it was alleged that it was appropriate to require that women work 7 days a week at their jobs because idle hands leads to sinful
    behavior.That is, has the church ever been short on excuses for whatever it wanted to approve of or disapprove of,even in the cases of torture,burning at the stake,covering up pedophilia,etc?Here we are talking about an Insurance company covering costs of prescriptions, preventive care.and contraception.The church connected institutions are covering the same kinds of items for men.The church connected institutions are not going to pay any monies that are specifically targeted at covering the contraception and preventive care which the church prohibits.Thus,.Is the opposition nothing more more than an attempt to force upon our society its value just as is true in the case of its Roe vs Wade opposition?

  2. Female Witness Hits Back At Issa: ‘I’m A Woman Who Uses Contraception, That Makes Me Qualified’ To Testify
    By Igor Volsky on Feb 23, 2012

    Democrats on the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee held a special hearing Thursday morning in response to the GOP’s decision to prevent women from testifying in support of an Obama administration rule requiring employers to provide birth control without additional cost sharing. The committee invited just one witness, Sandra Fluke, the third year Georgetown Law student, who House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) dismissed as an “energized” “college student” who was not “appropriate and qualified” to testify before his committee.

    Democrats received over 300,000 requests for women to testify on the issue, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said during today’s hearing, and the GOP’s male-only contraception hearing was widely spoofed in the press and on late-night comedy shows. Fluke herself responded to Issa’s snub in jest, noting, “Well, I will confirm that I was energized, yes” she said to laughter from the committee, “as you can see from the reaction behind me, many women in this country are energized about this issue.” “I’m an American woman who uses contraception, so let’s start right there. That makes me qualified to talk to my elected officials about my health care needs,” she added.

    In her testimony, Fluke reiterated the story of her friend who was denied contraception coverage from Georgetown, despite technically qualifying for an exception that provided students who use birth control for health reasons with the benefit, and had to undergo invasive surgery. She also highlighted the confusion such policies cause, noting that while Catholic employers may claim that their insurance plans include loopholes for women who use birth control for non-reproductive purposes, beneficiaries still interpret the policy as a blanket exclusion of reproductive health benefits. One woman, for instance, did not seek medical treatment after being raped because she believed Georgetown did not provide coverage for women’s “sexual health care”:

    FLUKE: One student told us that she knew birth control wasn’t covered, and she assumed that’s how Georgetown’s insurance handled all of women’s sexual healthcare, so when she was raped, she didn’t go to the doctor even to be examined or tested for sexually transmitted infections because she thought insurance wasn’t going to cover something like that, something that was related to a woman’s reproductive health.

  3. Pelosi: GOP ‘Censoring’ Female Witness On Birth Control

    House Republicans have refused to televise a Democratic-led hearing on birth control that features the testimony of a female witness the GOP spurned in a recent hearing, says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). And Pelosi wants you to know it.

    The hearing Thursday is set to have as its sole witness Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student whom House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) forbade from testifying at his contraception hearing last week despite requests from Democrats. Issa’s hearing instead included an all-male panel of religious authorities, partly in an effort to convey his claim that the issue was solely about religious freedom, and not really about women’s rights.

    “In an apparent effort to again silence women on the topic of women’s health,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammil said in a statement Tuesday, “the Committee on House Administration, chaired by Dan Lungren, has apparently reversed existing policy and denied a request from the Democratic leadership for the House Recording Studio to cover this event and provide video publicly so all Americans can finally hear Ms. Fluke.”

  4. “I doubt anything could erase the pedophile scandal from anyone’s mind.”

    I agree, but what’s a Prelate faced with the evidence of hypocrisy by his Priesthood and himself, to do but grasp at straws in the hopes of deflecting?

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