"What Are The Limits of Church Authority In the Public Sphere?"

This is part 2 of a debate with Roman Catholic theology graduate student named Mary. In part 1, we introduced and began to debate the topic of whether or not universities, hospitals, and social agencies run by the Catholic Church should be exempted from laws requiring employers to provide their employees health insurance that covers contraception. In this portion of the discussion our primary focus is on what constitutes arbitrary vs. legitimate acts of control by the Roman Catholic Church in the public sphere. This post should be understandable apart from the larger discussion.

Daniel Fincke: You grasp that the Catholic Church is an institution with an abusive authoritarian history and yet you want to give it special exemption to deny its employees fundamental reproductive rights. Based on religious teachings. In a secular society. How is that not legitimizing the above-the-law-authoritarianism of the Church? How does that protect even all those divorcing and contraception-using Catholics from their Church legally?

Mary: Raping children is not a religious activity – it’s not part of church teaching. So those actions are not in any way above civil law. They weren’t performed as part of a Church mission or by the authority of a Church institution. But the services of universities and hospitals are.

Daniel Fincke:  The decisions to deal with the rapists “internally” as though their “punishments” were all that were morally necessary was a matter of ecclesiastical hubris.

Mary: Yea, it was disgusting. And the idea like “no you can’t arrest our bishop” was absurd. Of course the bishop can be arrested if he’s complicit in sexual abuse. He can be and he should be.

I don’t seek to give the Church any more exemption than it is afforded by the constitution (I hate saying “the constitution” by the way, it reminds me of Sarah Palin). No law can be passed that prohibits the free exercise of religion. This law prohibits the free exercise of religion.

And, fortunately, neither of the Catholic schools you teach at are stopping you from buying birth control, they just aren’t providing it for you. They aren’t paying for the service. If you spent an entire year’s salary on yaz and condoms, they wouldn’t do anything about it. But they won’t pay for it.

Daniel Fincke: The Church does not have to pay for the contraception in this case either. They just have to pay for health insurance. The insurance providers pay for the contraception. Paying for health insurance is no formally different than paying money to an individual.

Mary: Right they pay for health insurance that is required by law to provide it.

Daniel Fincke: Yes, as they are required to pay money in general, lest they be slave holders. And there are understandings with money that you are going to pay for food and shelter and entertainment, etc. But the Church by providing that money does not make my purchases for me or have religious rights to dictate how I spend it. And when paying people with health insurance they do not determine how I may exercise my religious rights to control my reproduction. This is forcing people into pregnancies, Mary. It’s dictating they have families or be celibate as a condition of employment.

Mary: Your first point is interesting. How is it different if I simply spend my own money on birth control? But if you pay an insurance provider to provide health services, it is understood that the insurance provider is going to provide medical services, some of which are deeply contrary to that institution’s protected values. Whereas, while it is assumed a professor is going to spend his salary on food, shelter, entertainment, the truth is that you may have been born a millionaire and that you could spend all of that money on booze and hookers. The money paid to an insurance provider definitely goes to healthcare. The money paid to to an employee doesn’t definitely go anywhere.

I don’t really see how it’s dictating to employees they have families or forces anyone into pregnancies. If there was substantial data that people who work for religious institutions were saddled with more unwanted pregnancies than at other places, I could understand. But this merely says that if you want to control reproduction, which almost everyone does, then you have to do it with your own money because we won’t pay for it. I do not use oral birth control and I’ve been preventing pregnancy through non-abstinence methods for years now. The reluctance of the two Catholic universities I’ve been at now to write prescriptions for birth control have had no effect on my ability to control birth.

Daniel Fincke: But the law is changing to make such basic human necessities as health care accessible to all. Putting the burden on people to go beyond their employers’ health insurance is onerous and some people will not be able to afford it and the aim of the Church here is to keep those people from using birth control by excluding it from their insurance. The Church’s aim is to coerce them into pregnancies they wish to prevent, by not honoring their autonomous wishes to use their insurance to control their own reproductive rights in the manner they wish. The Church’s aims are not to exercise their religion but to impose it. Members of the Church are free to voluntarily abstain from using contraception. No member of the Church will be forced to use it. The Church will not even be forced to directly pay for it any more than any of us directly pay for any services the government provides with our tax money. Even ones different groups dislike.

Mary: Well some people won’t be able to afford oral birth control. Presumably other methods would still be available. And I think I would say “discourage” rather than “keep.” But I guess that’s a matter of opinion. I think there is a difference between what is taken by taxes and what institutions provide – institutions already have the right to decide what sort of coverage they will provide. For example, my parents’ insurance (that I am, thankfully, still on) provides just about anything you could need. My brother’s insurance from Lowe’s doesn’t have dental and certain things aren’t available to him. Even after this government mandate, some insurance providers will still provide certain things that other insurance providers don’t – but here the government is imposing something deeply offensive to a religious institution and saying “either don’t provide insurance for your employees or provide this.”

Daniel Fincke: But that deep offensive does not have a secularly justifiable reason. What if the Catholic Church finds deep offense at a gay marriage and refuses health coverage for a gay spouse? What if the Catholic Church takes deep offense at employing divorced Catholics or non-Catholics? There are non-discrimination acts for a reason. Gay marriage is legal in New York. Should gay people lose their rights because they are employed by the Catholic Church for non-religious jobs?

Being religiously offended is not the same as deserving civil accommodation for your arbitrary feelings when they impact people who are outside the sphere of your private exercise of religion. Religions cannot be bastions of intolerable discrimination. That’s not equal protection under the law for the groups they vilify and want to disenfranchise.

Mary: Well all religious feeling, all religious teaching and all religious practice is arbitrary in strictly secular terms. All authority comes from God whose authority isn’t recognized by the state. But that doesn’t mean it’s not protected. Because it is. But I think there is a distinction between the contraception issue and gay spouses or whatever.

While many religious institutions will fight extremely hard to deny health insurance to the legally recognized spouses of homosexuals, it is not the same thing as doing the wedding service. For one thing, while no Church institutions would recognize “spouse,” many are willing to make concessions for legally-domiciled adult. Furthermore, strong moral arguments can be made that it is more important to keep a gay spouse healthy than it is to deny they exist. If we take the case of gay marriage and use it as an analogy for this contraception case, the government is forcing the Church to marry gays – not just to pay them fairly and treat them fairly. The latter is expected equal protection under the law, the former is a first amendment violation.

If Church-related institutions start firing people who use their fairly-earned salaries to buy birth control, then we can have a different conversation. But right now the government is forcing the Church to provide it. Well actually it’s only forcing Church-related schools and hospitals. The employees of parishes and of diocesan-related activities like youth ministers or secretaries to bishops and the like will still be exempted on the basis of a religious conscience clause—because the lady balancing the books at the priests’ house is performing a “religious” function but the 7th grade religion teacher isn’t.

Daniel Fincke: No, again, the government is not forcing the Church to provide it, it is forcing all employers—including the Church—to purchase health insurance plans that may cover contraception.

But, to your initial point, yes, all strictly religious feelings and beliefs are arbitrary and that’s why only the ones that have a secular justification should be respected in the public sphere and only the ones that are not excessively injurious to individuals should be tolerated within religious institutions.

Within religious institutions you have greater latitude to your capricious values and beliefs. You may discriminate against marrying gays, you may enjoin battered women to stay in their abusive marriages because Jesus forbids divorcing (unless your wife cheats, of course). But you can’t do the beating yourself or withhold necessary health care from your kids, etc. There are limits even in the private exercise of religion.

And in the public sphere, when you want to employ and service people outside your faith or perform functions that are not distinctly religious (no matter how much you want to personally interpret them as acts of devotion to God), you need to be subject to the same laws, honor the consciences and health needs of others just as everyone else does. You need more than capricious feelings to justify exemptions from public laws that serve to enforce the rights and dignity of other people in the public.

And it is irrelevant that you think the Church could have some rationales for accommodating gay spouses. The point is that by your assertion of the right of “deep offense” to trump all laws, the Church would be equally in their rights to deny to cover such a spouse and contribute to the well-functioning of such an “unholy” union as they would be in their rights to deny contraception and contributing to the prevention of unwanted pregnancies.

The point is that your principle of “religious offense” would be a “get out of equal protection” pass which could cover all manner of bigotry beyond the cathedral walls. Even as things stand, Catholic adoption agencies want to refuse to let gays adopt—even while they accept public funds! They want to prohibit abortions in their hospitals, forcing women, even those with life threatening pregnancies, to become mothers (or die!), unless they can escape to another hospital quickly enough or can afford or have convenient access to another hospital, etc. They want to allow pharmacists to get in the way of having people’s prescriptions for contraception filled.

In all these and more cases, they want their “offense” to trump other people’s rights to legal services that hospitals or social service agencies are expected to provide. Your “offense” fiat would cover all of this, and justify gay spouses not being covered under health care plans.

Mary: Well perhaps I should say, “deeply contradictory to the Church’s beliefs in such a way that forcing them to do it would prohibit their ability to act freely as a Church.” The point that I hold, and hope that I have made to some degree of coherency, is that there is a difference between a Church-related institution discriminating against someone and a Church-related institution being forced to provide a service contrary to its teachings.

They are not “equally” with in their rights to discriminate against any legally-recognized spouse, because they don’t have to do the wedding mass. They aren’t being forced to arbitrate divorces by the state. But here they are actually being forced into doing something that violates their religion. It’s forcing them to be proactive in something that is against their teaching. This means that Church-related institutions would have to serve only Catholics and hire only Catholics. That does prohibit their freedom to function as religious institutions.

I still believe that Church-related institutions need seriously to consider the funding it takes from the government and the strings that come attached. The link you posted last year about the adoption agency that simply shut down rather than provide services to gay couples—it’s certainly not what I would personally want because that doesn’t match my views. But I think it was the right thing to do. Don’t take the government’s money if you don’t want to play by the government’s rules. But in most cases, the government provides funding not because they just love nuns or whatever, but because it is in the government’s best interest for services to be run by more locally-administered private institution. And it is well-within its rights to withdraw funding when discrimination is taking place within those private institutions. In this case the government is not saying “we allow you to submit your students for national humanities grants so provide abortions!” they’re saying, “you have to provide contraception whether you’re completely financially free of us or not.”

Daniel Fincke: They are not being asked to provide the contraception. Only the health insurance which may cover contraception. And it’s troubling that you are equating the ability to function as a religious organization with never making accommodations to freedom of conscience of other people on something as non-central to uniquely Catholic belief as the issue of contraception. It’s not like they have to deny the divinity of Jesus.

They argue for their position against contraception putatively on natural law grounds. They derive it as a matter of philosophy, not strictly as a theological matter. They have to recognize, as all of us do, that our rights to impose our private views on metaphysics in ways that unduly burden others are limited.

That’s what it means to live in a secular society. And being financially free, again, is not the issue here. The issue in this case is not government strings attached to money, it’s being an employer of the public and accepting limitations on your ability to do that in distinctly religious ways. You can only do private actions in wholly uncompromised religious ways.

Mary: Well, you’re right, it’s not a Catholic belief. But religious systems are not simply systems of beliefs statements which one must affirm or not affirm, they also have moral teachings and those moral teachings are central to the daily lives of their followers.

As for the natural law grounds of denying contraception, I’m in no position to debate natural law. It is my understanding that natural law is neither natural nor a law and that it is falling out of favor, even with the Church, as a method for defending the Church’s moral teachings. I understand the Church’s teaching on contraception but outside of any natural law claims.

And the Church’s ability to impose its views is limited—to its own institutions and even then to its own actions. It doesn’t force its employees not to buy birth control, it says it won’t pay for it. So it is actually quite limited indeed.

Begun Here.

Concluded Here.

Bonus discussion with Mary on other issues related to Catholicism here.

Your Thoughts?


About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    No law can be passed that prohibits the free exercise of religion. This law prohibits the free exercise of religion.

    The law enjoins the Catholic Church from imposing its beliefs on people who don’t hold those beliefs. It’s like the Muslims who say they can’t draw pictures of Mohammed and nobody else should either.

  • http://quoded.wordpress.com quoded

    But here they are actually being forced into doing something that violates their religion.

    Expecting all employers in the secular sphere to obey the same law isn’t forcing anyone to violate their religion — the church has the option of operating purely as a religious organization with the various exemptions that come with that package.

    And I think if “buying into an insurance plan that may include contraception coverage” counts as being forced to violate one’s religion — how on earth do these people make it through the day without violating their religion? Do they not buy anything from any company that at some point is affiliated (through one conglomerate or another) with a company that makes contraceptives, or products for contraceptives? How indirect does the payment for contraceptives have to be before it is no longer a violation of religion to do so? I ask, because if the government isn’t to be allowed to require the church to buy potential contraceptives, the law will have to clearly define how many places removed the church must be from the actual purchasing.

  • LeftSidePositive

    Wait, and this Mary person USES CONTRACEPTION HERSELF and then insists that the Church has vital moral grounds to prohibit its employees from having access to it? Holy shit, the hypocrisy!

    Mary, the world would be a better place if you admitted to yourself that the Church’s position is so anti-woman and untenable that YOU DON’T EVEN ABIDE BY IT YOURSELF, which necessarily means you should stop defending the Church’s ability to impose it on others.

    And another thing: even if YOU don’t require hormonal birth control, DOES NOT MEAN that everyone can be as well-served by the same methods you are, because people’s medical needs are different.

    Finally, if it goes against the Church’s moral code to provide the minimum level of safety and access to care that our society has determined to be the right of all employees and the responsibility of employers, then the Church’s moral code is UTTERLY REPREHENSIBLE. Failing to provide adequate health benefits (and birth control is among the most common and necessary forms of health care!) is not a matter of doctrine, or of conscience, or of private decision-making: it is a blatant abandonment of the principles of living in a civilized society. If the Church doesn’t want to treat its employees with the respect and basic human rights they deserve, they are more than welcome to sell off their hospitals, universities, and adoption agencies to other parties who will actually run them ethically.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Wait, and this Mary person USES CONTRACEPTION HERSELF and then insists that the Church has vital moral grounds to prohibit its employees from having access to it? Holy shit, the hypocrisy!

      That’s not really hypocrisy. She’s indicating this policy hurts her and yet she’s willing to abide it out of respect for what she perceives to be the Church’s rights of religious expression. Wrong as I think she is on the merits of the Church’s position, she’s actually willing to suffer for the policy on the Constitutional principle as she understands it. And she does not lie about either her opposition to the Church’s stance on contraception nor on her own personal use of it. She’s straightforward, not hypocritical in that.

    • LeftSidePositive

      I still maintain that it is hypocritical, because it is maintaining in-group privilege within her religion (and the presumption of “goodness” that this tends to entail in our society) while failing to uphold the tenets that are supposed to signify that in-group membership. Furthermore, while she apparently has the financial means to flout the Church’s teachings on birth control, not everyone does and may indeed depend on employer coverage–so, it seems like she’s saying “I should have the ability to ignore Church teachings, but I support them imposing their teachings on those more vulnerable.” It is also, frankly, irresponsible to continue to support such a backward organization and focus one’s effort and argumentation at preserving this organization’s coercive privileges and thus lending them credibility, instead of working to change the attitudes of the organization itself, or leaving it.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Those criticisms are very incisive.

    • ACN

      Hear, hear.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      “I still maintain that it is hypocritical, because it is maintaining in-group privilege within her religion (and the presumption of “goodness” that this tends to entail in our society) while failing to uphold the tenets that are supposed to signify that in-group membership.”

      So, either a) she sins or b) she disagrees with some of the policies of the religion which doesn’t mean that she is no longer Catholic since she still believes in God, Jesus, and so on. It seems that the latter is what atheists and secularists have been calling for for ages. Why so offended now that you’ve found one? Because you can’t call them out as easily on their arguments as you would otherwise, since she accepts that birth control is good but still says that Catholics should not be forced to fund it?

      “Furthermore, while she apparently has the financial means to flout the Church’s teachings on birth control, not everyone does and may indeed depend on employer coverage–so, it seems like she’s saying “I should have the ability to ignore Church teachings, but I support them imposing their teachings on those more vulnerable.” ”

      And what were those people doing BEFORE the government imposed it?

      But this leads into the question that seems to be little mentioned: why is birth control so important that it would have to be mandated? Where I am, our government health care pays for “chosen” abortions but not for eye tests or glasses. I’m finding that hard to justify. What is it that the government plans are not mandating that would be more important to the “vulnerable”, I wonder?

      “It is also, frankly, irresponsible to continue to support such a backward organization and focus one’s effort and argumentation at preserving this organization’s coercive privileges and thus lending them credibility, instead of working to change the attitudes of the organization itself, or leaving it.”

      Where is your evidence that she isn’t also working to change the attitudes? One can indeed both support changing the attitudes while saying that while those attitudes exist it would be a violation of the right to freedom of religion to impose this sort of thing on those who follow the religion.

      That’s actually why there’s no hypocrisy here; one can think the attitude wrong while still defending their right to hold it, like the famous phrase of “I don’t like what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

    • kftrendy

      “why is birth control so important that it would have to be mandated? Where I am, our government health care pays for “chosen” abortions but not for eye tests or glasses.”

      I find that hard to justify, as well – they should be paying for both. The fact that the government doesn’t pay for all health care isn’t an argument against it paying for specific aspects of health care.

      (Birth control is important because it makes it much simpler for a woman to regulate when she becomes pregnant, which is in many cases the most dangerous time of her life. Yes, women get pregnant all the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s a safe thing to do.)

      “That’s actually why there’s no hypocrisy here; one can think the attitude wrong while still defending their right to hold it, like the famous phrase of “I don’t like what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.””

      I don’t think this is appropriate: instead of defending someone *saying* something, we’re talking about defending someone *doing* something. And you can only apply the above (not-actually-Voltaire’s-but-close-enough) quote if that action is protected as free expression or religious freedom – which is what this whole debate is about in the first place.

      Still, I agree at least in part that she isn’t being that hypocritical. She’s arguing for someone else’s right to do something that she doesn’t herself do, which is OK in my book.

    • Anat

      Where I am, our government health care pays for “chosen” abortions but not for eye tests or glasses. I’m finding that hard to justify. What is it that the government plans are not mandating that would be more important to the “vulnerable”, I wonder?

      If you want to know why, see Anatomy of an Unsafe Abortion. The woman in the article lived in a place where abortion was legal, but expensive. She sought a more affordable solution. She nearly died.

    • http://www.nick-andrew.net/ elronxenu

      I support your rant. +1, would read again.

  • ACN

    Daniel,

    I think you were spot on here, and I’d be interested to see if she sees the point that you’re making in the conclusion.

    The church is being forced to purchase health insurance that covers contraception. The church isn’t being forced to provide contraception. If the employees agree with the church’s moral edicts, they should feel free to NOT use their insurance for contraception. In fact, if the catholic leadership and the rank-and-file membership saw eye-to-eye on birth control, it would be a non-issue.

    Of course, a cursory look at the statistics surrounding catholics and birth control (spoiler: 98% of catholic women use or have used a prohibited contraception method) shows you exactly what the church’s game is. The catholic leadership knows that, given the option, catholics will employ prohibited means of birth control. The leadership’s aim is to cut off that option.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I think you were spot on here,

      Thanks!

      and I’d be interested to see if she sees the point that you’re making in the conclusion.

      Spoiler alert: she doesn’t.

      The church is being forced to purchase health insurance that covers contraception. The church isn’t being forced to provide contraception. If the employees agree with the church’s moral edicts, they should feel free to NOT use their insurance for contraception. In fact, if the catholic leadership and the rank-and-file membership saw eye-to-eye on birth control, it would be a non-issue.

      Of course, a cursory look at the statistics surrounding catholics and birth control (spoiler: 98% of catholic women use or have used a prohibited contraception method) shows you exactly what the church’s game is. The catholic leadership knows that, given the option, catholics will employ prohibited means of birth control. The leadership’s aim is to cut off that option.

      Exactly. And they want to use the law to get this leverage that they can’t get with “spiritual” appeals or moral authority. It’s pathetic.

      So, it makes me on the one hand think that this will be ineffective as their big threat to bully Obama in this election year. If the laity disagree with them precisely on contraception, why would they vote in a way that lets the Church strong arm them?

      But, then I’m seeing numerous purportedly liberal Catholics defending the Church here and thinking that it’s become one of those, “We can tell our Church to stuff it but you outsiders can’t” kind of things. You know, like with your own family. You can pick on them but outsiders can’t.

      It’s troubling to me. I am getting the vibe this is going to be a big controversial issue in the next few months and that principles of secularism are going to get defamed and mischaracterized on a massive scale. I’ve felt an urgent need to start addressing it on the blog because of this. Every time Newt Gingrich has been demagoguing this issue with irresponsible language of Obama “declaring war on religion”, it’s made me spitting mad. It’s the only lie in his egregious shameless parade of them that’s actually makes me see red.

  • karmakin

    I’m going to respond down here because I’m touching on everything. I’m not sure if the best word is hypocritical. That assumes that there’s a presented solid bedrock principle that’s being self-violated, and I don’t think that’s the case here.

    I don’t think there’s a solid bedrock principle in the first place. It’s “Terra Infirma”. It’s a house built on sand.

    Ophelia had a good article touching on this today I think (what else is new?), it’s about the arbitrariness of authoritarian religion. That’s what we’re presented with here, is an arbitrary morality. There’s no here here.

    Somehow it’s bad if pooled insurance dollars go towards contraception but not bad if pooled tax dollars go towards the same but contraception really isn’t that bad in the first place except if people may have to contribute money towards it who don’t want to.

    It’s moral gibberish, basically.

    The only thing that comes out through all this, and it’s what Daniel said just above…it’s all identity politics. It’s promoting the idea that identity is more important than morality. This is something that, speaking for myself, is simply a no-go for me.

    This is simply church leaders and church followers trying to exalt the “glory” of the church, nothing more, nothing less.

  • Robert B.

    Actually, I think your point of “they’re not buying the contraception, they’re buying the insurance which may include the contraception” is a weak dodge. Imagine in some particular case, an employer buys an insurance policy for an employee and it is used to cover contraception. Who paid for the pills? Not, on average, the insurance company: as a general rule, it will have taken in more money on this policy than it has paid out. Certainly not the employee, unless there’s a co-pay or deductable. The employer is the only one who’s down money on the deal. It seems very odd to say they didn’t pay for it.

    I would rather say that when the Constitution forbids “prohibiting the free exercise of” religion, it does not mean that religious organizations are exempted from general laws. The exercise of religion is here understood to mean things that would be legal in a non-religious context. To build tall impressive buildings, to gather and listen to a man in shiny clothing give a speech, to give and accept donations, to publicly state opinions on matters of ethics, to drink wine and eat crackers: these are all perfectly legal, and it would be wrong for the government to forbid any of these, or publicly endorse one way of doing them at the expense of another, just because they have to do with a religion. That’s what constitutional freedom of religion is about.

    It is not about letting churches commit crimes. A (hypothetical) religion that claims human sacrifice as a crucial practice of the faith does not have license to murder. A (again hypothetical) religion that practices ritual prostitution is not allowed to do so in jurisdictions where prostitution is illegal for everyone else. A religion that teaches violent punishments for certain crimes (or supposed crimes) is not allowed to try and punish these crimes itself. The Christian Scientists (to get less hypothetical) are not allowed to refuse to buy health care at all for employees at their secular institutions, even though medicine is against the teachings of that church. And the Catholics are not allowed to refuse to buy only part of that insurance, in exactly the same way.

    Some of my examples are of course much much worse than others – I don’t claim that not paying for reproductive healthcare is anywhere near as bad as human sacrifice. But both acts are breaking laws, laws that were enacted for reasons not having to do with religion at all, and the first amendment does not prohibit such laws or give religions the right to break them.

    • Lyra

      I disagree. I think it is an excellent analogy.

      Let’s try it in a slightly different light. Let’s say I work at a Catholic Church. In exchange for my working there, they provide me with “money.” Because of government regulations, the “money” they pay me must be of a nature that allows me to purchase things that the Catholic Church disagrees with. For example, the Catholic Church may not pay me in gift cards that are only good at places that do not offer birth control. I take this “money” and use it to buy condoms. Who has paid for the condoms? Are we going to say the Catholic Church paid for the condoms because they gave me the “money”? That it is ultimately still their money, even after they have given it to me? Should they get to legally demand that I not use the “money” they provide me to purchase condoms?

      Now let’s abandon the analogy. Let’s say I work at a Catholic Church. In exchange for my working there, they provide me with “insurance.” Because of government regulations, the “insurance” they provide me must be of a nature that allows me to access things that the Catholic Church disagrees with. For example, the Catholic Church may not provide me with insurance that does not cover birth control. I take this “insurance” and use it to procure birth control pills. Who has paid for the birth control pills? Are we going to say the Catholic Church paid for the birth control pills because they gave me the “insurance”? That it is ultimately still their “insurance”, even after they have given it to me? Should they get to legally demand that I not use the “insurance” they provide me to purchase birth control pills?

      I do not see a difference between the first and the second situations. Either way, the Catholic Church is not being allowed to dictate how I use the benefits they give me. I get to use birth control, even if they don’t like it.

    • Echidna

      Well put.

    • Robert B.

      I’ll have to think about that. I notice that I’ve been treating money as if it had a different meaning than other forms of “payment” such as health insurance. It might be that money hasn’t actually earned that special ethical weight. Or it might be that the way our society uses money does in fact give it a special significance for members of our society.

    • kftrendy

      I feel like the two situations aren’t as similar as you claim. The difference: money can be used for purchasing anything, while health insurance can only be used to purchase a specific subset of things. The Church is arguing that it can limit what that subset contains.

      I think the real issue is that they are arguing specifically that they get to limit that subset for people who are not of their religion, simply because those people are working for them. While you can make the argument that those non-Catholic employees have made a choice to work for a Catholic institution, I’d argue that the cost they’d incur *not* working for the institution (i.e. having to find another job, which is non-trivial) is greater than the cost of taking the job (having to pay out of pocket for bith control). Which I feel means the Catholic church is exploiting them by forcing them to choose between the lesser of two evils.

      Putting it that way, I’m uncertain that the Church should be allowed to do this even for situations where they don’t hire non-Catholics. Ditto for any religion. The power that a religion holds shouldn’t be codified in state law (I think that sentiment needs some tweaking – not sure if it accidentally prevents religions from discriminating by religion when hiring, say, priests, for example).

  • http://qpr.ca/blogs Alan Cooper

    I don’t even want to understand how the US medical system works, but I do think there are some general principles which are relevant to this discussion. Make of them what you will.

    1. I think that there is a difference between paying someone with money which they may then use to buy pornography (or whatever) and being required to provide each employee with a paid subscription to such if they want it.

    2. An employer should have neither any right to restrict nor any obligation to support any particular activity of an employee that is outside the employment relationship (except perhaps by mutual agreement reached in the course of contract negotiation).

    3. There is no good reason to provide exemptions of conscience (to any legislation) which apply to some objectors (eg religions) but not others.

    • Forbidden Snowflake

      1. I think that there is a difference between paying someone with money which they may then use to buy pornography (or whatever) and being required to provide each employee with a paid subscription to such if they want it.

      And that difference is..?

    • Lyra

      1. I think that there is a difference between paying someone with money which they may then use to buy pornography (or whatever) and being required to provide each employee with a paid subscription to such if they want it.

      The Catholic Church is not being required to buy birth control; the Catholic Church is being required to buy Health Insurance which must cover birth control. There is a difference. In the first instance, the Catholic Church is buying birth control; in the second, the Catholic Church is paying for insurance which the patient may choose to use to buy birth control if he or she pleases.

      To use your analogy, the employer is not being required to buy porn; the employer is simply not being allowed to dictate the reading material of its employees outside of working hours. The government is saying, “People have the right to pick their own magazines.”

    • Lyra

      Oops, I meant for that reply to be at Alan Cooper, not at Forbidden Snowflake . . .

    • echidna

      2. An employer should have neither any right to restrict nor any obligation to support any particular activity of an employee that is outside the employment relationship (except perhaps by mutual agreement reached in the course of contract negotiation).

      Except that the employee is pretty much stuck with the health insurance offered by the employer. The government has set a standard for health insurance, consider this as a given in the contract negotiation.

      Health Insurance is a means of paying for health care, it is not the health care itself. The Catholic church is not being forced to provide contraception, or even to support it. It’s just insurance.

  • Keljopy

    I agree completely with Daniel in this. I don’t really see much difference from the situations of being forced to provide employees one specific type of benefit (money) with which they may choose to purchase food, clothing, housing, or things you oppose like pornography or birth control and being forced to provide another type of benefit (basic health insurance) which they may use for preventative doctor visits, surgery, illness treatment, or things which you oppose like birth control.

    In either case you are providing a benefit which can be used in a variety of ways and the employee can choose to use it how they wish. Just as “money” in our economic system can be used any way the holder wants, we now consider “basic” health insurance to include certain things like a yearly preventative physical and birth control. The employer must provide money and basic health insurance, and it is none of the employer’s business what the employee does with them.

  • Forbidden Snowflake

    But this merely says that if you want to control reproduction, which almost everyone does, then you have to do it with your own money because we won’t pay for it.

    I was stunned when I read this sentence, and the huge flaming false dichotomy at the end of it. It seems to hinge on the claim that the money with which the church pays for the employee’s work (in the form of insurance payments or paycheck) is somehow distinct from the employee’s own money.

    • Lyra

      Clearly, the Catholic Church should demand that it’s employees not be allowed to purchase birth control with the money that the Catholic Church pays them; those employees can still get birth control, but they’ll have to do it with their own money, not the Catholic Church’s money.

      To this end, we need to push through a new form of money, ReligionBucks(TM). This will be exactly the same as regular money, but it will not be good for purchases that the issuing religion doesn’t approve of (for example, the CatholicBucks couldn’t be used to buy condoms). Each religion can have it’s own money. This will allow religions like the Christian Scientists to pay their janitors in CSBucks(TM) that cannot be used for things like medical care. After all, it is just unacceptable that any church be force to pay for something that is contrary to their beliefs; why should the Christian Scientists be forced to pay their non-church members in money that can be used to buy things in line with the non-church member’s own beliefs?

      Remember, kids: when your employer decides to compensate you for work you have done, whatever they give you isn’t really yours; it’s still theirs. Hell, maybe we can expand on that, allowing Walmart to pay its employees with WalmartBucks, which the employees could only use at Walmart! That way, Walmart won’t be forced to pay money to Target if one of the employees decides s/he prefers the selection over there! It’s just evil to force Walmart to give money to Target . . .

    • karmakin

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truck_system

      Don’t give them any ideas. (Actually, I strongly believe that’s the desired end result for the authoritarian Right)

    • karmakin

      Yeah, if you ask economists and health care wonks, they make it pretty clear that pretty much all of the pot should be thought of as direct remuneration for services, and that if the health care benefits were not there, then whatever the employer was paying would be paid out in benefits anyway.

      However, I actually disagree with that whole concept to a point, as I think that actual take-home wages are much more vulnerable to downward forces than benefits, especially health care, are. The big difference being that generally health care benefits are done as part of a pool, and as such, adding an additional person may not be as expensive as not adding an additional person and having a smaller pool to bargain with. Also, it’s difficult to just not offer new employees (after a period I guess) the same benefits that long-standing employees gain.

      Not that this changes the core point any, that health care benefits are part of a worker’s compensation.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      They are, but note that health care benefits are restricted as to what you spend it on, unlike actual salary. Thus, anything on the list of what you can spend those benefits on is provided by the employer, and so in this case employers are being forced by the government to provide birth control. That’s a little shaky, it seems to me.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      It absolutely is. I have a benefits package and it is not, in fact, counted as part of my overall compensation (salary). I can use it or not use it, and if I don’t use it I don’t get anything at the end of the year to reflect that.

      Vacation days are part of my benefits as well, but in general if I don’t use them in a year I don’t get them paid back to me as additional salary. Benefits are not salary and are not directly compensation for my work.

    • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

      Are you a moron?

      “Money” cannot be used for anything you want.

      You can’t spend “money” on marijuana in most places in the world. Doing so is strictly illegal and the fact that you hand over money for the marijuana is illegal even if you never receive the marijuana.

      In even more places the above is true about heroin.

      In the US spending money on scholarships to University for kids of families who had a breadwinning relative die while killing others in a suicide attack is very much illegal and can send you to prison effectively for life. This is true even if every surviving member of the family abhors suicide attacks or even if every surviving member abhors any violence no matter how small.

      You simply are not allowed to purchase education for pacifist relatives of those who participated in certain types of crimes, even when those crimes were not crimes under US law because all action took place far outside US jurisdiction.

      “Money” cannot be used for anything you want.

      Period.

      It is more fungible than health insurance. It is not infinitely fungible.

      More over, if you make the argument that, well, you **could** use money for that, it’s just illegal, the fact is that you could use your prescription coverage for pills that you trade to get something else you want – a bus pass, a chocolate cake, anything that anyone who wants your pills is willing to trade for those pills. So you can use your insurance for anything – it’s just illegal.

      Now, tell me why if you compensate me with “insurance” the insurance is not now mine to use as I see fit?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Please don’t call people morons here. It adds nothing to your argument.

  • Forbidden Snowflake

    Also, this:

    Whereas, while it is assumed a professor is going to spend his salary on food, shelter, entertainment, the truth is that you may have been born a millionaire and that you could spend all of that money on booze and hookers. The money paid to an insurance provider definitely goes to healthcare. The money paid to to an employee doesn’t definitely go anywhere.

    Is a faulty analogy. The money paid to an insurance provider goes to healthcare, but it does not necessarily go towards birth control. The analogy between insurance and salary does not break down at this hand-waving.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      The problem is precisely that birth control is specifically specified as being part of the health care provided, with other things excluded. If the Catholic employer, as stated, wanted to not provide that but provide other things they felt did not violate their own principles, the law says you can’t. It’s not like this money goes into a general pool like money does. If a plan provides dental the plan PROVIDES DENTAL. Which in this case would mean that the Catholic is paying for a plan that PROVIDES BIRTH CONTROL. Nothing even remotely like that occurs for money; the job PROVIDES MONEY, but not food or shelter or clothing.

      That, then, is the real difference. This sets up a situation where that “benefit” can go towards birth control, but not something else. Thus, it is their money being spent to provide birth control and not other things, and thus it is their money being spent to provide a service that they do not feel it appropriate to provide at the expense of other services. It, then, is the GOVERNMENT that’s trying to impose morality on people, not the Catholic Church.

  • crowepps

    @ Robert B.

    Actually, it is accurate to say “they’re not buying the contraception, they’re buying the insurance which may include the contraception” because health insurance policies which include no copay birth control are *cheaper* than those which do not. The employer is not “down money on the deal”, but actually able to pay lower premiums.

    If this sounds illogical, remember the secular reason for the policy, the known improvement in public health consequent to planned and optimally spaced pregnancies. No copay birth control lowers the rates of maternal mortality (and the pregnancy complications which cause them), lowers the rate of infant mortality, decreases the number of premature births, the incidence of birth defects and the extremely expensive stays in neonatal intensive care likely to result from both.

    To be fair, the question shouldn’t be ‘is it moral for the Church to have to pay’ but instead ‘when the Church decides to stand on principle, is it moral for the cost of their doing so to be paid by non-Catholic women and infants who die or are crippled unnecessarily?

  • Sigmund

    “No law can be passed that prohibits the free exercise of religion. This law prohibits the free exercise of religion.”
    She seems to be taking a rather perverse interpretation of that law – that it is should be unconstitutional to restrict someone from carrying out a religious teaching.
    She fails to see that lots of religious teachings are restricted (stonings, beheadings, hand chopping, slavery etc) by the state because they impose a restrictions on others rights. Whats the difference in this case?

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      I always see this argument and in my opinion it’s always a monumentally bad one because it ignores one thing:

      No rights are absolute.

      So, she’s absolutely right that this does impact the free exercise of religion. For things like stonings and slavery, we can definitely point to a right that conflicts with it, and can quite reasonably argue that in that case those rights take precedence. Here I’m having a hard time coming up with a competing right, let alone one that in this case should take precedence.

    • http://whatloveteaches.blogspot.com/ Slow Learner

      Not having access to contraception is injurious to the health of women.

      Many women cannot afford to pay for contraception.

      As such, any policy which places responsibility for buying contraception on individual women perforce damages the health of many women.

      So, you are saying it is an essential part of practicing the Catholic religion to damage the health of women, including non-Catholics?
      I am sorry, but as troubling as it is to permit a religious hierarchy to make decisions like that for all its followers, permitting a religious hierarchy to impose on non-adherents is well beyond the pale.
      If it were up to me I wouldn’t allow a conscience exception at all; I do not think the pretended conscience of a bishop should allow him to impair the health of diocesan employees. However, just as I can accept an explicit rule that (for instance) a Reform Synagogue need not consider a Christian for the role of rabbi [I would leave it down to the fact that implicitly, very few Christians would apply for such a role], I can accept the idea that the employees of a church be constrained by the public policy of that church. There’s a common-sense boundary to that though, and it is drawn along those engaged in primarily religious functions. If you’re a hospital porter in a Catholic-run hospital, yours is not a religious function, and claiming that it is a religious function is sufficiently ridiculous that it is transparently a power-grab.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      “Not having access to contraception is injurious to the health of women.”

      Actually, it MAY BE injurious to the health of women, and only if they decide to engage in sexual activity and don’t deem getting contraception important enough to spend the money on. Remember, they aren’t banning it or even asking to be allowed to fire people who use it. They’re simply asking not to be forced to provide it.

      So I still fail to see what competing right is in play here. Presumably, the “jury to her health” is a pregnancy, and you’ll forgive me if I’m totally unsympathetic to the idea that something that thousands if not millions of people choose to engage in and consider a blessing ought to be considered as only something that harms women.

      “So, you are saying it is an essential part of practicing the Catholic religion to damage the health of women, including non-Catholics?”

      Considering that their official line is that you should only have sex when you want to have a child, taken as a whole it would achieve the same end if people really did control their urges and didn’t engage in it. At most, then, you can take them to task for having too much faith in the willpower of the average person.

    • http://whatloveteaches.blogspot.com/ Slow Learner

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/dec/07/catholic-church-allow-nuns-contraceptive

      There is evidence to suggest the use of the hormonal contraceptive pill is beneficial to the health even of women who are not sexually active. The money quote from that article:

      “The oral contraceptive pill has been shown to have a protective effect. It reduces the overall mortality rates of women who have ever taken it by 12% compared with non-users. The risk of developing ovarian and endometrial cancers falls by 50%-60% in pill users compared with never-users, protection that persists for 20 years. There is an increased risk of blood clots, however.”

      As such, denying it as an option because you think it’s wrong is making a ‘moral’ choice whose consequences are solely borne by others, simply for being born with one arrangement of reproductive organs. I put it to you that choice is somewhat unethical.

      And it’s all very well sitting in your ivory cathedral saying “If only those silly plebs would stop having sex, they wouldn’t need that yucky contraception,” but, without wanting to be rude, there is a very clear logical link between teaching celibacy and certain scandals surrounding the Catholic Church in recent years; as well as the fact that ‘abstinence’ sexual education has no effect on how likely people are to have sex, just how likely they are to do it safely. Some of us know that when your ‘solution’ fails crashingly, the right answer isn’t “DO IT BIGGER!” With the honourable exception of asexuals, most people don’t handle celibacy too well, and the sensible thing to do is give people the tools to manage their sexuality. Having the number of children you choose to, so we get closer to every child being wanted; there being a need for many fewer abortions – those are things the Catholic Church should be wholeheartedly in favour of, and yet they stand up against the cheap, simple and effective way to do it?
      That shows either stupidity, or a deeper motive; and the deeper motive seems to be that the celibate old men in bishops hats want to control what women everywhere do with their vaginas and uteri.
      What warped sense of freedom of religion allows my religion to dictate what you will do? Or a Cardinal’s religion to dictate whether a woman employed by an institution that happens to have the word ‘Catholic’ or a Saint in the name should be able to control her own reproductive organs?

      And before you claim that isn’t what this is about – given the economic circumstances of many employees of Catholic institutions, it’s a certainty that many women will be able to access contraception only if it is covered on their insurance. So that is what you are advising – putting the control of a woman’s reproductive organs in the hands of a religious hierarchy. That might be your idea of freedom of religion, but it sure as hell isn’t freedom from religion!

      Also, I thought even Catholic doctrine recognised a ‘uniting’ purpose of sex in helping to improve the bond between a couple, in addition to the procreative purpose? So I think your statement here “Considering that their official line is that you should only have sex when you want to have a child” is incorrect; they don’t rule out sex for married couples who are infertile. Not that Catholic doctrine should really matter – I still fail to see the justification for imposing Catholic doctrine on non-Catholics.

    • MCY

      “but, without wanting to be rude, there is a very clear logical link between teaching celibacy and certain scandals surrounding the Catholic Church in recent years”

      If only Jerry Sandusky and all of the administrators at Penn State had been allowed to get married and had been taught about how to have healthy sex – that sex scandal never would have happened!

      It’s not a “logical” link, it’s a false common sense link. The reason why that scandal happened is that authoritarian structures that are concerned about preserving reputation above morality (see Penn State) are very likely to ignore victims and create structures of secrecy that permit more harm to be done. For a great insight into that, see this article http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/a-priests-view-of-penn-state/2011/11/13/gIQAcevnHN_blog.html. I think the striking similarities between the Penn State case – a case involving all married men EXCEPT the one man who tried to tell – and the Catholic Church should show that the link has nothing to do with the unmarried state of Catholic priests.

    • Anat

      While many women choose to get pregnant, and while in western countries pregnancy and childbirth are much, much safer than they used to be a century ago, but it still carries some mortality (and in the US more than in Europe, because of reduced access to prenatal care among the poor and higher incidence of obesity, among other things) and morbidity. Pregnancy can be the trigger to conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes which once developed can have a life-long impact on a person’s health. A woman can decide she is willing to take the risk for the sake of the desired outcome of having a child, but she shouldn’t be forced to take these risks when she doesn’t want to have a child.

  • F

    The Church has no authority in the public sphere.

    Otherwise, this has been all very interesting.

  • jesse

    To Verbose Stoic — and to expand on something Slow Learner brought up. Many ‘contraceptive’ methods, hormonal birth control being one, have more than one use. I knew at least one person who was a virgin when she was on the pill, she was prescribed it in order to regularize her menstrual cycle and reduce the horrific pain she had every time.

    And take a typical D&C. That is done as a procedure to perform abortions, it is also done for a bevy of other medical reasons. Is the Church going to look for insurance plans that don’t pay for that either? What about hysterectomies? Tubal ligations? Are they about to let a woman die of uterine cancer? “Hey. we won’t pay for that, it might be birth control.”

    So many medical procedures are “dual use” that the Church’s position is simply ridiculous on a medical basis.

    The idea of a clergyman and a person who can make medical decisions is something the Catholic Church has pretty much demonstrated is mutually exclusive.

    I mean, if they didn’t believe in vaccinations, what then? Does the Christian Scientist employer get to deny health coverage of any kind?

    The Catholic Church wants to find ways to opt out of living in anything we can describe as a civilized society. After all, they used to keep slaves, too (See “The Magdalene Sisters.” — if that wasn’t slavery I don’t know what is). I am sure they’d love to go back to that. Paying employees is so 20th century! Let’s go back to the 15th!

    More seriously, the argument that insurance might pay for something they don’t like — when the employee is free not to use it — is simply silly.

  • MCY

    Most Catholic universities and hospitals already provide the pill for medical reasons (this Jezebel article, while bitingly hostile to Church’s position, proves that you can be prescribed birth control on Catholic university insurance although with what success you get it is another story http://jezebel.com/5848813/catholic-universities-vow-to-smite-provision-requiring-them-to-give-students-birth-control) there are also many procedures that are used in abortions that are used for other purposes that are also covered by Catholic insurance providers and performed in hospitals.

    The issue with this is whether or not these institutions are going to be providing the pill *for contraceptive purposes.* When I was in high school I knew tons of virgins on the pill because some girls would literally miss three days of school per month without it. I have a friend on birth control to control the growth of ovarian cysts. These are all indicated in prescriptions given by doctors. It’s no different than an insurance company that won’t pay for a breast enhancement – but will pay for an enhancement and reconstruction if they’re destroyed in a car accident.

    And finally – these institutions are NOT stopping their employees from using birth control, they are refusing to pay for the following things through medical insurance: oral birth control, intrauterine devices, optional sterilization services and the morning after pill. Oral birth control can be received discounted at places like Planned Parenthood – assuming if you are on an employer-based insurance policy that you have a job, you can make oral birth control work. Or perhaps you can’t afford it, walk into Planned Parenthood, clinics, any sorts of HIV/AIDS outreach place and take FREE condoms. Or buy a bulk pack from Sam’s Club. Practice coitus interruptus (which actually IS effective if the man manages to pull out. Pre-ejaculatory seminal fluid has the same risks of pregnancy as birth control and a condom). Take a class on NFP. The employers here are not asking for confessions from their employees that they will swear not to use birth control, they aren’t providing the birth control FOR birth control purposes.

    I think one of the things people are overlooking, that Verbose Stoic brought up, is “what have employees of Catholic institutions been doing for birth control?” If there were some statistic that employees at these institutions conceived unwanted children more often or sought abortions more often than other women employed by other institutions, I could understand this outrage. But presumably the employees of Catholic institutions have been getting around their employers not providing optional birth control services for some time. All of the professors at Georgetown aren’t dropping dead from exhausted wombs. The women at Catholic charities aren’t dying from uterine cancer at a rate greater than an employee of Wal-Mart. If women of Catholic employers have been controlling birth despite insurance policies that, until now, have not provided birth control, what is the great risk to human health that will come as a result of a greater conscience clause? Where is the evidence that this will be actually *harmful* to the real women – not the hypothetical woman – who are employed/insured by these employers? In the Jezebel article quoted above, a girl was harmed by her health center’s reluctance to prescribe her birth control – but it actually wasn’t banned by her insurance. She could have gone to another doctor and gotten it! That health center deserves, in reality, to be sued for utter incompetence in understanding its own policies. But the incompetence of one health center in dealing with medically-necessary birth control does not a wide-spread epidemic make.

    Because, something Verbose Stoic brought up, not all civil rights are absolute, but the onus is always on the government to prove that a right deserves to be violated. So if a religion required human sacrifice, the government would have an easy time proving why they deserve to interfere in that particular ritual. In this instance the government is violating a Church-related institutions right to perform its services *as* a Church-related institution and has not sufficiently proven that the health status of women in these institutions was in such DIRE peril that it needed immediately to be remedied. It hasn’t proven that birth control is completely unavailable through other means (a friend of mine receives BC from Planned Parenthood every month for $25).

    We live in a pluralistic society with pluralistic values. Religious institutions are permitted by our society to operate within it *as* religious institutions without harassment just as the KKK is allowed to exist without harassment. There is no “book of secular values” which we can consult to tell every employer and person how they must act in the world because some nameless, faceless “consensus” has decided that these values exist. We can only, through civil rights legislation and court rulings, limit blatant discrimination and harm and make our society one in which everyone is safe to live *as they are* in it.

    • jesse

      @MCY — you missed a key point. How the heck would the employing institution know that the pill was for contraceptive purposes or not? That would be really, really invasive. So, do you tell the personnel director where you work about your sex life?

      Absent that, you have to deny the service entirely. And since many, many contraceptive procedures and drugs are dual use, you run into an immediate problem.

      A woman needs a D&C or she will get really sick. (I can think of a few conditions where this kind of thing happens). What does the Church say? “We won’t pay for it, even indirectly” so the woman gets sick, maybe dies, if she can’t afford it. It is that simple.

      As for the “what do they do now for birth control” (or presumably any of the other things you might need the pill for) they pay for it — sometimes at considerable personal sacrifice. And that’s the problem: they have to basically forego insurance for medicine because the Church has a problem with providing it, even if the employee isn’t Catholic.

      Medical care means ALL medical care. If the Church were against vaccines would you say that’s ok? No, I hope. The Church is employing people in a non-clerical setting. They play by the same rules as every other employer. End. Employees may not want to use birth control, and that’s fine. But the Church can’t directly or indirectly dictate to people, and that’s what happens with employee pay and benefits.

      I did a calculation recently as to what insurance costs would be if I bought it. Minimum is $6,000 per year. So, if the Church has such a big issue with providing certain things in its plans, it can always just up the salaries by the requisite amount. Unless they are going to dictate what people buy at home, too.

      (The Church seems remarkably willing to discard beliefs when it is convenient, too. But I suppose there’s that ancient dictum of aiding and abetting child rapists I missed, maybe).

    • Gwynnyd

      I wish there was some way to sort out how many of the 98% of Catholic women who use birth control are already lying about it’s purpose, getting it for some religiously approved reason, and having the Catholic institutions’ insurance paying for it. “Oh, doctor, I have such terrible pain with my periods. Isn’t there *anything* that I could take that would help?” or “I have such awful acne, doctor, and I know taking low-dose antibiotics long term is bad for me. Isn’t there *anything* else I could take that would be better?”

      And it seems so hypocritical. If some Catholic worked for an institution supported by another religion that denied them something they considered necessary and normal under a competing religious prohibition, wouldn’t they be just as incensed and angry about their religious right to do something being trampled?

      By what possible legal criteria could they claim that Catholics and only Catholics (or possibly only institutions that have their stance on birth control) have the right to get an exemption from federal law? Are they claiming that they get this exemption because they are “right” in this contentious area and so their view necessarily trumps the obvious “wrong” of any other position? To add to the dissonance, the “wrong” position in this case is the one held by the majority of their members, based on the data that 98% of Catholics use/d the birth control they’d like to deny access to. If they are allowed this exemption, to me that sure looks like an illegal endorsement of a religiously held position.

      They seem unable to extrapolate this to anything beyond their own parochial interests. If Catholics get exemptions from public policy on religious grounds, in order not to show them preferential treatment under the law, doesn’t *every* religious sect have to be allowed unlimited exemptions from any public policy that violates any religious sensibility, no matter how outré it may seem to people outside the sect? Why? Because Catholics got their exemption from a public policy by invoking the “religious grounds” get-out-of-doing-this-free card and *set the legal precedent*. It can’t just apply to them. Even Catholics can see that that way lies madness and chaos, can’t they?

  • Lill O’Lady

    While y’all are deep in the philosophical weeds here, I see it in much simpler terms, so here’s an analogy; Amish bus driver!

    If a bus driver converts to the Amish faith, and refuses to drive a bus, is he/she entitled to continue drawing a bus driver’s paycheck because his/her decision is an expression of religious belief protected by a right to conscience?

    No! The person chose to be a bus driver. The person chose to convert to the Amish faith. The bus company has every right to deprive him/her of employment and seek someone able and willing to drive their buses. Therefore:

    The Church chose to engage in activities in the secular sphere, providing services to the general public, employing members of the general public, drawing on secular tax money to pay for (and profit from) secular activities. In doing so, the Church chose to abide by secular law. If the church has religions objections to secular law, the church has the right (and religious duty?) to withdraw from secular activities.

    If the bus driver tried to claim religious discrimination after being fired for refusing to drive a bus, the laughter would echo from coast to coast. The Catholic Church’s argument deserves the same derision.

    This is far more than an academic debate. Here in Kentucky, the Church and it’s fundamentalist allies have aggressively moved to expand its domination of health care services over most of West Kentucky. The previous governor tried to build a state supported school of pharmacy at a private religious institution. The poison of religious fundamentalism has driven most doctors from the area. The quality of heath care for anyone who can’t access health care out of state is tragic.

    People are dying.

    Bottom line; engage in secular business, abide by secular law.

    It’s really very simple!

    • kraut

      Agreed. If you engage in doing business in the public sphere, you abide by the rules that apply.
      No institution operating in that sphere has the right to discriminate based on religious grounds.Their right to discriminate ends there.
      If they want to discriminate based on those grounds, they have to refuse to accept any public funds and become a strictly private institution paid through private contributions only.

    • Lill O’Lady

      And then they can freely discriminate by hiring only RC staff, treating only RC patients, and doing business only with corporations that meet their tests of moral purity. I think they would be restricted to dispensing generic aspirin and antacids, but their precious consciences would be clear.

  • Lill O’Lady

    OOOPs! “…the Church and it’s..” should be “…the Church and its …) I guess those knuckle-rapping nuns should have used the ruler more often! :-)

  • crowepps

    What are Catholic employees doing now? Well, in the 28 states that *already* require health insurance policies to include birth control, and where Catholic employers have been doing exactly that for *years*, those employees are getting prescriptions that are covered by their medical plan. All this drama over an Outrageous Attack on Religious Freedom (of bishops to dictate what women can do) is occurring in a war where 28 battles have already been fought over exactly this same ground and lost.

  • mas528

    As F said, they have no authority in the public sphere. None.

    They have no rights to impose their unethical stances on non-catholic employees.

    If they are doing a secular job, like a soup kitchen, for which they receive money from the government, they don’t even have the right to impose it on catholic employees or the people that are using the service.

    So sorry, but them’s the breaks.

  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    At a non-relgious institution owned by the Catholic Church, symbols of religious devotion are allowed to be worn outside clothing, otherwise the many Catholic staff wouldn’t be able to wear their prayer beads or their crucifixes.

    They hire someone who is, unbeknownst to them, a Satanist. The employee wears some symbol which is quite obviously antithetical to Christianity, though not repulsive in its imagery (someone with a better design background than mine can imagine the details).

    The church asks for an exemption to the laws that require an employer to not discriminate amongst employees on the basis of religion. They assert that having an employee who (we’ll assume) has done excellent work and is not inappropriately proselytizing but by virtue of this symbol is presenting a message antithetical to the Catholic Church’s teachings.

    Since the person wouldn’t be able to meet all the people encountered in a normal day’s work without this job, the church is being forced to act in ways that are directly contrary to its mission as a church. Indeed, by allowing the employee to both remain employed and to wear the symbol, the church itself has been spreading Satanism by bringing people into contact with this employee (and vice versa).

    The church wants an exception to the anti-discrimination rules to either
    a) fire the employee
    or
    b) restrict the wearing of religious symbols to Roman Catholics wearing Catholic-approved crucifixes or prayer beads.

    Should this waver be granted? Why or why not?

    If the church can be forced not to discriminate based on religion here, to the point of introducing people to Satanism (or at least its symbology, which, for this example, is wonderfully effective in portraying Satanism as a good and true religion and Catholicism as a distorted, unproductive, and undesirable religion), how is regulation of employee compensation different/the same?

    Second:
    The church through a secular institution it owns wants to hire 13 year old children. It specifically argues that at confirmation a person becomes an adult in the eyes of the church. That’s the whole point of confirmation. The church, by all accounts, is a good employer, paying good wages and being reasonable about hours. The church claims that child labor laws make a mockery of its long-held beliefs about when a person is an adult and what makes a person so.

    Again:
    Should a waiver be granted? Why or why not? Church teaching is clearly being taught to be wrong by the very existence of so-called “child labor” laws that don’t recognize confirmation.

    Finally:
    Church of Christ, Scientist opens a secular institution (say, a hospital). This employer which is required to abide by religious non-descrimination agrees that it should be forced to hire Satanists and Hindus and Atheist war-mongers. However, it wants an exemption to laws regulating employee compensation so that any medical insurance it provides will NOT cover blood transfusions and/or organ transplants.

    The church has a long standing objection that is **religious** not, as in the case of the Catholic Church on contraception merely philosophical. There is no doubt that the church has been firm on this for quite some time. Indeed this is the reason it set up hospitals, so that there might be centers of medical care that know how to treat people without transfusions. This is clearly a much bigger commitment to this religious tenet than Catholics have to the birth control taboo. After all, when have the Catholics ever set up a hospital solely to have a place where one could get treatment without birth control? Never.

    Should the waiver be granted and all employees of this hospital – Christian Scientist and not – be refused insurance that has the potential to cover transfusions and/or organ transplants? After all, few of us require transfusions. More of us go our lives without transfusions than go our lives without birth control. This seems very reasonable – employees can still have these things, they just have to pay for it with their own money!

    How is this waiver different from the one sought by the Catholic Church (Hint: it’s not because birth control doesn’t save lives)


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