Various Direct Links

22 May 2012

Repudiation: Lawsuit to "Preserve Religious Freedom"

Preserve Religious Freedom
Preserve Religious Freedom -- The Roman Catholic Church
Generally speaking, I have a great deal of admiration for a number of Catholic educators, most of my undergraduate and graduate school professors.  But, the lawsuit their church has filed does not make sense.  Preserve Religious Freedom is the website that explains what the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) is doing.
This lawsuit is about an unprecedented attack by the federal government on one of America’s most cherished freedoms: the freedom to practice one’s religion without government interference. It is not about whether people have access to certain services; it is about whether the government may force religious institutions and individuals to facilitate and fund services which violate their religious beliefs.
The Quaker religion is opposed to wars, all wars.  Yet all Quakers pay taxes that fund the Department of Defense.  There is considerable precedent for funding things that violate religious beliefs.  For the Quakers, there is the conscientious objection to serving.  For members of the RCC, they do not have to participate in those services that they feel violate their beliefs.  Same thing.
The HHS mandate that all employers provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization includes only a narrow exemption for certain organizations that the government deems sufficiently “religious.” The exemption applies only if the government determines that all four of the following criteria are met: the inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the organization; the organization primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization; the organization primarily serves persons who share the religious tenets of the organization; and the organization falls within a certain tax code provision defining a narrow subset of religious non-profits.
The opening sentence of this paragraph is erroneous.  The HHS mandate does not include employers providing any drugs or services.  The mandate includes provision of insurance.  Apparently the RCC does not feel that this separation is adequate.  Even upon providing insurance, the decisions regarding whether to use any of these are between the individual and their doctor, not involving the RCC.

Perhaps that is why the RCC objects so strenuously.  They cannot use their influence as an employer to prevent their employees, who may not be members of their faith, from using contraceptives.  An employer, they don't get to dictate their employees' sex lives.
This exemption runs contrary to decades of federal laws that have consistently honored and respected the conscience rights of religious institutions and individuals (see, e.g., This radical and narrow definition of what constitutes a “religious employer” attacks religious freedom by defining it away: by extending religious freedom protection only to houses of worship, HHS’s exemption reduces religious freedom to the freedom of worship.
Not at all.  Every individual is still free to follow her or his conscience.  Religious freedom is based on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution:  Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.  There is no United States official, established religion.  And the question is whether as an employer the RCC can call dictating healthcare to its employees the free exercise of religion.  To agree with the RCC on this strikes me as "radical".

Dropping down a bit on their Issue page, the argument becomes completely absurd.
Effectively, the mandate prohibits us from asking what we’ve asked for more than 200 years, “Are you hungry?” Now we also have to ask, “Are you Catholic?” To qualify for the exemption, and so to be permitted to follow their beliefs, Catholic institutions may have to stop providing educational opportunities to as many non-Catholics as they currently educate, stop serving as many non-Catholics in need as they currently serve, and stop employing some of the non-Catholic employees they currently employ. But this kind of withdrawal from the world violates our religious commitment to serve all in need without regard to religion.
No.  If the RCC stops providing charity to the general community, that is entirely their choice.  They are not being asked to stop hiring non-Catholics as they are not being asked to force contraception on anyone.  This is a threat to take away their community service, nothing more.  They may even follow through on this threat (they did so when they stopped providing adoption services in Massachusetts in protest of marriage equality, including non-discrimination laws on adoption, in that state).  But the threat is entirely their choice.  Their hand is not being forced by the government.
The exemption also involves an invasive federal government inquiry into an organization’s religious beliefs and practices, conferring powers on government forbidden by the Constitution. Specifically, for an institution to know whether it meets the government’s definition, it must submit to a governmental investigation whereby federal employees determine the religion of those employed and served by the entity, whether their beliefs are the same as the institution, and whether the institution hires and serves “primarily” those of in agreement.
This is the single point where I think that the RCC has valid concerns.  There is a loss of privacy.  I still believe that they, like every business, should be required to open their books to the government.  Determining the employees' religions is not an invasion into the frequency or ardor with which they practice those religions.  It is purely to make a determination of granting an exemption to a standard of care for employees.

Businesses have claimed invasion of privacy when OSHA inspects to determine if working conditions are safe.  I don't see this fear of invasion by the federal government as very different.  Dropping to the end of their issue.
In sum, the HHS mandate jeopardizes religious freedom—a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution—and undermines access to a wide range of social services. Catholic schools, universities, hospitals, and social service agencies are in the business of educating and caring for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. As the President acknowledged, these organizations do “more good for a community than a government program ever could.” The mandate jeopardizes all of these good works by forcing Catholic institutions to violate their religious beliefs.
The RCC is what "jeopardizes all of these good works".  There is no violation of religious beliefs in providing comprehensive insurance to employees.  The lawsuit is a political distraction that will cost taxpayers when the government defends itself.

Thanks to Joe My God for the heads up.

1 comment:

  1. "Yet all Quakers pay taxes that fund the Department of Defense. " This is not true; many Quakers are "war tax resisters."


No longer open for freely commenting.