Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fortnight for Religious Freedom

I no longer live in California (and I never lived in San Diego) and it’s been ages since I last blogged, but I am getting off my duff to blog in support of the Fortnight for Religious Freedom, organized by the United Conference of Catholic Bishops in response to the Health and Human Services mandate. (What does this have to do with San Diego? It's thanks to the members of The SLOBS that I know about it.)Let me start off by quote something--I wish I could remember the source (and if you can let me know, I will cite it):
“The people fighting the HHS mandate are only trying to preserve a status quo that has been in place since 1965; namely, that contraceptives and abortifacients are freely available everywhere in the US, but that churches don’t have to pay for them. The HHS mandate is not making contraceptives even more available than they’ve been before. Instead, it is seeking to shift costs onto employers, including religious organizations and individuals who are doctrinally opposed to contraceptives and abortifacients. And that is chipping away at the First Amendment.”

More specifically, the problem is that the federal government has defined what constitutes a “religious organization” in terms far, far, far narrower than most religions do. “Religious institutions” are exempt from the HHS mandate, but defined only as follows:
          1. “Has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose”;
          2. “Primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets”;
          3. “Primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets”;
          4. “Is a nonprofit organization”

The Catholics (among others; the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod supports the Catholic church in fighting this) feel that part of their mission as a religious and as a religious institution, is beyond merely a place of worship. For example, to “give succor to the sick”--hence Catholic hospitals, (Uh, story of the Good Samaritan? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?) and to “give succor to the poor”--hence other services provided by Catholic charities. (And Lutheran Family Services and the Salvation Army and a whole host of other religiously provided services...) And I am sure that some religious organizations (as more broadly defined by me, the Catholic Church, and most of the rest of the people in the US) feel that the services they provide through the hospitals, schools and charities they establish and run are secondarily involved in the inculcation of religious values: They fact that they are involved in running a hospital provides the inculcation of the value of giving succor to the sick, and so on.

The people who object to the HHS mandate feel that they are being forced to do something (as opposed to being PREVENTED from doing something, which makes the analogy of polygamy, whipping someone, etc., an inaccurate one*), and that is to pay for something that the find objectionable based on the tenets of their faith. While they very likely do care whether people working for them may or may not indulge in that to which they object, the REAL objection of those witnesses is primarily this: “You provide for exemptions from this rule for religious organizations, but then you proceed to tell us we are not one! What we are doing is an integral part of our faith--providing succor to the sick--and we do this as a RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATION. Now, in order to continue to do so, and to not be forced to pay for something against our faith, we must now require that all employees be a member of the church and that we will ONLY serve those who are also members of our church. Which is also against our faith.”

And let's face it, the costs associated with buying one’s own oral contraceptives runs about, according to the news, $600/year, which, if you are employed (and if you are working for a hospital, well, you are employed) is not that much. (And apparently, if you buy condoms in bulk off the internet, it's cheaper still!) A quick Google search shows that there are even cheaper oral contraceptives, looking more like about $20/month (which is, in present dollar terms, about what it was 30 years ago when I was in college, when college girls had to pay for it themselves, because student health services at the state school did not cover it.) Women can get--and have gotten all along--prescriptions for oral contraceptives as requested. The people protesting the HHS mandate are NOT talking about getting involved in what goes on between a woman and her doctor....

No one is saying that birth control be banned. Or that women should not have access to it. And it is not just about forcing an employer to pay for something to which the employer has a moral objection to. And here it should be noted that employers have determined coverage since they started providing insurance as a benefit of employment. And a lot of places
don't offer dental or vision. Employers negotiate co-pays, etc., with insurance companies. (My co-pay at Kaiser for one thing was $7; for the EXACT SAME SERVICE for someone else from a different employer was $10, and for another acquaintance it was $3.) Plus, there are already a number of medications not covered but certain employers' plans-some plans are golden, some are silver, and some pretty basic. And if employers are forced to pay for X, they will stop paying for Y which may actually be of benefit to more employees. (Such as vision, dental--or they increase co-pays for employees across the board for other other services.)

As I was saying...

is saying that birth control be banned. Or that women should not have access to it. And it is not just about forcing an employer to pay for something to which the employer has a moral objection to. What the big fuss is about, and rightfully so, is that the Executive Branch of the United States Federal Government is getting in on defining what constitutes a “church”--that is to say, it is violating BOTH the
Establishment Clause AND the Free Excercise Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. That is, the Federal Government is establishing a religion by way of defining what constitutes “religious organization.” And, more obviously, it is prohibiting the free exercise thereof by preventing religious organizations, such as the Catholic Church, from giving succor to the sick, to the poor, etc., etc., etc.

Oh, I suppose one could say that technically speaking, Congress isn’t violating the First Amendment as it is not Congress that is making the law--it is the Department of Health and Human Services, which is under the Executive Branch. But the point is that the Federal Government as a WHOLE needs to keep its collective nose out of the establishment and free excercise of religion. It’s almost starting to smack of
Mexico in the early to mid 1920's.

Since the Left loves Moslems so much, let’s use an extended metaphor they might understand, and might appreciat: Let’s say the local mosque runs a free optometry clinic as a charity. They do not limit access to the clinic to only Muslims. Nor do they limit employment to Muslims. Anyone can work there and anyone can come get their eyes checked. Employees of this clinic have great vision coverage--everything is FREE, except... enzymatic cleaner that uses porcine derived enzymes (which most do) There is a specific health benefit for using enzymatic cleaner--they take the yuck off contact lenses, keeping one’s eyes healthier. The employee in need of it can buy it himself, use something different, wear glasses instead, or find a job elsewhere (that may cover enzymatic cleaner but diddly in terms of, oh, let's say dental coverage.)

I think Employment Division v. Smith was problematic, but also not entirely applicable to the issue here. And I think people who are fighting the HHS mandate are placing too much hope in the Hosanna-Tabor v EEOC. decision. (What's-her-name was ORDAINED. How many doctors are? How many university employees are? Ministerial exemption? Probably, uh, no...) But I am not a lawyer, just a reasonably intelligent adult. Who would appreciate what any lawyers have to say about this...

* Though on the end, it may turn out that they are PREVENTED from giving succor to the sick, or from giving succor to the poor for that the only way they can not be forced to comply is to get out of the charity business entirely. And a truly sad day that will be for this country.
* The picture below is from Wikipedia, and is of a group of men and women protesting Mexican President Plutarco Calles' law against public religious practices

1 comment:

K T Cat said...

Bookmarking this and coming back later. Making dinner now.