War on Religion? President Obama, Catholics, and Everybody Else

It’s war.

At least according to some, President Obama has declared a war on religion.  This is the latest attack designed to make the President look like an infidel. In the last four years, the President’s opponents have branded him: 1) a liberal Christian; 2) a follower of liberation theology; 3) a secret Muslim; and now, 4) an anti-Christian bigot determined to destroy churches and freedom of religion.

The “war on religion” is interwoven, somewhat subtly in most cases, with an implicit charge of anti-Catholicism.  When the Obama administration released regulations insisting that religious institutions that serve the public and whose employees come from diverse (or no) religious backgrounds must include access to birth control for those who choose to use birth control, the Roman Catholic hierarchy responded angrily.  From their pulpits, prelates, priests, and pundits declared that the government has launched a war on the church and raised the specter of anti-Catholic bigotry urging the faithful to fight back.

American Catholics can rightly worry about anti-Catholicism.  In the 19th century, the Protestant majority discriminated against Catholics in often sensational, vile, or violent ways.  It is not, however, bigotry to point out that it isn’t the 19th century any more. Since 1960, Catholicism has become mainstream in every aspect in American life.  Indeed, Catholics make up the majority on the Supreme Court, Catholics hold a commanding number of seats in Congress, large numbers of Catholics teach at prestigious colleges and universities, whether they are religious schools or not. The media is chock-full of authors, professors, artists, filmmakers, analysts, and pundits who happen to be Catholic.

To be Catholic in 21st century America is to be part of one of the most successful immigrant communities in our nation’s religious history.

Crying persecution when a group reaches the height of cultural influence is unseemly and perhaps disingenuous.  Catholics are not a persecuted 19th century minority group now, and the Catholic Church is hardly an oppressed institution—Catholicism a massive social, economic, and political force.  And Catholics have a big stake in the common good for all Americans.

However in-artfully the Obama administration unveiled the regulations, everyone knows that we now live in a fully pluralistic society—and that religious pluralism raises some serious questions about the Catholic Church’s plea to be exempted from providing access to birth control at institutions employing and serving the larger public.  These questions go to the heart of what is means to be a faithful believer and a good citizen.

There are millions of religious Americans who pay taxes or follow government regulations that support something to which they morally object. Quakers and Mennonites pay taxes for the military and often serve in non-combat settings during war.  Jewish and Muslim taxes support subsidies for pork farmers and shrimp fisheries.  Mainline Protestants provide public funds to faith-based groups who convert people away from liberal Protestant churches.  Christian Scientist taxes go to Medicare and the National Institutes of Health.  Fundamentalists support student loan programs for future ministers at Harvard Divinity School.  Atheists fund military chaplains.  LGBT Christians and Jews pay the salaries of judges who rule against their desire to marry.  Is the government trampling upon the religious liberties of all these people, too?  No.  All these groups practice their faith in tension or tandem with ethical commitments without accusing others of bigotry.

Catholics might think that they are being singled out having their money go to something that offends them.  They are not.  The success of American Catholicism means that Catholics are not special and they get to be treated like everyone else.  We all pay for things we like; we all pay for things we don’t like. Everybody is offended by something, somewhere, by some program, somehow.  The American ethical conscience often bends like a reed in a complicated, diverse society.

Americans put up with the offense for a very good reason: The government is not a church.  The government attempts to represent the interests and well-being of the whole public by providing military defense, helping farmers, assisting those who serve prisoners and the poor, caring for the elderly, fostering scientific research, supporting students, and giving soldiers someone to talk to or pray with on the battlefield.  And yes, part of the public good is that women get to choose if and when they have babies.  The government funds all this with a common pool of tax money and a mix of public and private services without theological tests available to all Americans—no matter what Quakers, Mennonites, Jews, Muslims, Methodists and Episcopalians and Lutherans, Christian Scientists, Southern Baptists, atheists, or even Roman Catholics think, teach, and proclaim in their traditions and congregations.  Everybody participates.  And everybody works out the tensions in creative, faithful, and theologically rich ways.  Indeed, the tensions are the source of American religious vitality.

It is easy to accuse the government of violating religious freedom.  But what, exactly, is a secular government to do?  Set up the Governmental Office of Theological Ethics to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whose taxes go for what programs, develop a strategy for exemptions, determine which institutions serve the public and which do not, adjudicate between conflicting moral and religious systems, punish those who step on another’s ethical prohibition?  Do only the biggest religious groups get the government to assuage their ethical qualms?  Or, should we bag secular government altogether and become a theocracy?  Should government services be earmarked on a percentage basis toward the religious affiliation of taxpayers? Perhaps all religious groups should become sects and provide services for only those who share their theological views.

Or maybe we should keep working at the restless and ever-evolving tension between being religious freedom and separation of church and state in our wildly diverse nation.

This isn’t a war on religion.  It is just America.

  • http://jneiman.com Fr. Joseph Clayton Neiman

    If a Catholic university, which employs both Catholic and non-Catholics, offers birth control as part of health insurance, that does not mean that Catholics who support the traditional teaching of their Church need to use it. They have a choice.

    • Daniel Arevalo

      You do realize that the purchase of a plan that includes contraceptives means that you are paying for contraceptives right? So no, orthodox Catholics have no choice at all.

      • Bill

        The link is the legal response from many states. It makes the case and shows why the mandate is unconstitutional.
        http://www.foxnews.com/interactive/politics/2012/02/09/letter-from-attorneys-general-on-contraception-rule/

        • Chas

          In October you wrote this:
          “But we need to hear the howls of protests against bad government and cruel capitalism from the pulpits and pews of every mainline church in this nation.”

          How dare you judge protestants that have joined with Catholics in protesting against what we consider a much worse government. You want women to have the right to choose but want the government to mandate that all of us pay, therefore denying me my rights and leaving me without a choice. Since you support such a government, then you are not “pro-choice.” You are “pro-tyranny.”

      • Darla

        Every insurance policy or plan features items that I will never use. There is no “custom made” healthcare plan, except for paying for everything on a cash-and-carry basis. I am, for instance, unlikely to ever need to have my prostate checked, as I am female and don’t have one. But I pay for that in my health plan, with the understanding that the services I *do* need will be covered as they come up.

        Just for the record, contraceptives are often prescribed for reasons that have nothing to DO with birth control. Many women take the pill every day, not out of a desire to go fornicating in the bushes, but because it can help their bodies to regulate their menstrual cycle. This may sound like a “small problem,” but I’d like to see you try telling a woman who has been paying for that unneeded prostate check that she can’t have the birth control pill which could stop her from bleeding for 50 days or more at a time, or from bleeding so heavily that she sometimes can’t leave her house or have a normal life during her period… I imagine she will see tyranny and unfairness there. What do you think?

    • Michael

      Father…being forced to pay for a plan that provides objectional services has no-co-pay then the institution is paying directly for objectionable services without even the pretense that it is some sort of “insured risk”. (Which the Church just might settle for.) But under this rule the instiution has no choice but to do so..pay and thus provide ..or pay a huge fine which could threaten its very existence. So people have a choice whether or not the use…but the institution has no choice whether or not to pay and thus provide.I don’t know what eaxctly YOU would call such an arrangement. Smells like some sort of tyranny to me…however you cut it. If the relationship was directly between the people and the government or the insurer, with the employing institution out of it there is no such issue. Another argumenet for a single-payer system ;-)

      • Katherine Harms

        Seems to me more like an argument for no government in our healthcare. Then each of us can buy the insurance we want for the coverages we believe in, and nobody is forced to do any of it.

    • Dolores

      I agree with this comment. Having the benefit available doesn’t mean you have to use it. Unless Catholic schools and hospitals hire only Catholics, I don’t see why they should be exempt. I am Catholic by the way, and do NOT see this as an attack on the church. Besides, women use birth control pills for other things beside birth control. Some use it to regulate cyles and control PMS.

    • Bob M

      Yes Father, but Catholics are paying the bill for the insurance. They are paying for someone’s contraception (which the Adminstration calls “preventative medicine” and the Catholic Church calls “wrong”) . The article, your response, and most of the commentaries posted are a sad commentary on the extent to which much of the Catholic Church has succumbed to the secular gods. You are so blinded by the secular culture and your desire to be politically correct, you cannot see that this is a direct assault on freedom of religion. I’m not Catholic and I’m not opposed to contraception, but this isn’t about Catholics or contraception. It is an attempt to force a religious institution to fund activity it believes to be sinful. It is part of an effort to reduce freedom of religion to freedom of worship. It is furthering the notion that you are free to worship, as long as you keep it in your church box on Sunday. Communist China allows that level of freedom, and to a certain extent so did Nazi Germany. WHAT IS THE POINT OF HAVING RELIGIOUS BELIEFS IF YOU AGREE TO VIOLATE THEM THE MOMENT YOU WALK OUT OF MASS?

      • Katherine Harms

        AMEN! I have been observing the encroachment on religious freedom ever since Obama’s inauguration. I have told people over and over that if we allow this administration to run roughshod over people’s right to express their faith in public, we will get to same place the Christian church enjoys in China. In China, nobody can even invite someone to his home to study the Bible together, because his home is not a registered place of worship. This current assault on religious freedom is the most public, and it is a wonderful time to draw the line and tell the administration to step back. In the USA, the First Amendment protects our right to express our religious faith in the way we live our lives. In fact, Christianity is a way of life, contrary to those who think it is a theological construct. If our relationship with Christ does not affect the way we live, we aren’t actually Christians. So I applaud everyone who is standing up for our freedom. We must protect the free expression of our faith.

      • Dolores

        Bob, I repeat: If Catholic institutions hire only Catholics to work for them, then maybe I could see them getting an exemption. But they don’t. Not everyone shares the Church’s belief. You might say, then they shouldn’t work for a church based organization. Now whose rights are being violated? This is not an easy choice for anyone, but government cannot be bound by religion in this country. I’m sure there will be some compromise struck here, but as to your other comments, I don’t think the government is restricting freedom of religion at all. I honestly don’t understand that comment, though I’ve heard it several times today. Everyone has choices. Everyone has free will. If you don’t make the church based institutions pay for those services, then the right to freedom of religion is denied to those who work at those places but aren’t Catholic. It’s a circuitous argument. Someone’s rights are no doubt being violated, but that happens everyday in many arenas as the author of this blog explained. I’m Catholic and I have used birth control. My mom, who is also Catholic urged me to do so after I had cancer and a third pregnancy. She said she thought I had a responsibility to stay alive for the children I already had and that another pregnancy could threaten that. As it turns out, the man I was married to and had children with was cheating on me through my entire 13 year marriage to him. If I had died having a fourth baby, he would have abandoned them. One of the reasons he claimed he left was because he no longer wanted the responsibility for kids. So then what? I haven’t succumbed to secular gods and I don’t think I have to mindlessly follow what a group of men have interpreted the Bible to say about my reproductive capabilities. It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and talk about China and religious freedom when it’s in the abstract isn’t it? I also used birth control to regulate my cycles so I didn’t go 6 weeks, then 4 weeks, then 8 weeks between periods. It also regulated my hormone levels so I didn’t go wacko every 4 weeks or so. Again, until you’ve been in that position, I don’t see how you have the right to judge me…nor do the church men.

        • Dona Mayo

          <—- **drops the tablet and runs around the room**

          BAM!! You just blew that up, sister! BTW, I hope your ex gets *everything* he deserves. :)

        • Bob M

          Dolores, sorry to learn about your husband leaving and about your cancer. As I stated, I’m NOT opposed to contraception. I don’t even care if the Government distributes it for free along with the cheese. The Catholic Church IS opposed to birth control, but I also stated that I’m NOT a Catholic. So, I’m confused as to why you think I’m judging you by stating my opposition to the Government telling the Church that it must provide to its employees that which the Church has opposed as morally wrong. At any rate, that wasn’t my intention and I apologize for any comments that personally offended you.

          We do have free wills and as Americans we have the right to “free exercise of religion.” I think it’s much more reasonable for individuals to reconsider their choice of employer than to ask a religious organization to compromise their beliefs by funding (directly or indirectly) any activity they deem to be sinful. If the Government can do that (because a majority of the citizens so desire) then religion, which is defined by beliefs and convictions, is rendered meaningless (or at best it means only what the state wants it to mean). The secular gods hold the rights of the individual in higher esteem then they hold the rights of religious organizations. That is what I mean when I say you have succumbed to the secular gods. I speak out on issues that do not directly impact me because I am mindful of what Martin Niemoeller said (more or less):

          “They came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist.

          They came for the trade unionist and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

          They came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew;

          They came for the Catholics and I did not speak out because I was not a Catholic;

          Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”

          The Nazi’s allowed freedom of worship, as long as the first god was Hitler. The Chinese allow freedom of worship, as prescribed by the state in state-sponsored churches. Rome allowed freedom of worship as long as the first god was Caesar.

          I’d much rather live in a society where a few individuals are inconvenienced (and have find another job or go to PP or a high school guidance counselor to get free contraception) than one where the Government gets to pragmatically redefine religious freedom to appease constituencies, even if the constituencies are in the majority. What the Administration tried to do is one small piece of a belief system that is tantamount to a state religion, the very thing the First Amendment was designed to protect us from.

          • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

            Hear, hear! Very well said. Thank you.

      • Tim

        If the Catholic-run health care facilities have an issue with providing contraception under the law, then they should not be receiving any federal dollars at all. If they receive no federal money, then I have no problem with them denying this type of healthcare.

        • PJ

          This has nothing to do with receiving federal dollars. So, now a charity that receives any kind of federal money is to toe the line, because of money? This is a first amendment Constitutional issue, and has NOTHING to do with health care.

    • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

      Fr. Joseph Clayton Neiman,
      You know darn well that most people will assume, given your title, that you are a Catholic priest. Shame on you. You are an Episcopalian and you are also not an idiot. You know that a Catholic university paying for contraception, sterlizations, and abortion is violating its very mission of promoting a Catholic vision of education. It has nothing to do whether employees of the university use contraception and you know it.

  • Kristin Zeller

    Thank you for your thoughtful article. Well said!

  • Fran Soule

    Well said, Fr. Neiman; thank you. And as always, thank you, dear Diana.

  • Joyce

    Thank you Diana and Fr. Neiman – well stated.

  • Revruthucc

    Beautifully written, Diana. I keep making the point about the distinction between the CHURCH, which is exempt from the ruling, and Church sponsored institutions, which are not, but to little avail amongst those who see this issue as one more shot in the war against Christianity (not just Catholicism). And thank you, Fr. Neiman, for emphasizing the choice that employees will now have.

  • Dave Rigato

    Taxes are fundamentally different from having to pay the premiums that directly pay for things that are viewed as immoral. What your taxes go to is fundamentally remote, and no person knows what exactly their tax money pays for, if taxes can even be thought of in that way. But there’s a pretty direct link between the premiums and the insurance coverage being obtained. Huge difference.

    • http://collationes.wordpress.com Joshua Brockway

      I have to disagree. What about the Komen controversy- your argument applied to that debate would mean that donations given to Komen who then allocates some funds to Planned Parenthood which then performs only a small percentage of abortions were actually not traceable to the actual actions, too far removed that is.

      If we apply the federal budget percentages to our paid taxes each of us carries the burden for military expenditures. Plain and simple.

      • Daniel Arevalo

        Uhhh, no. Our tax dollars represent a 2.1 trillion dollar pot being spent on thousands of projects some of which we find morally objectionable but can only change via legislation or litigation. The purchase of a plan that includes contraceptives pays a company to provide those contraceptives. There is no difference between that and paying for the contraceptives yourself and then leaving them in a bowl for any to use.

        Look at it this way:

        A person who is a vegetarian by religion runs a grocery store selling all sorts of non-meats. He, with the approval of his religious community calls his grocery store a grocery store for those of his religion but of course, like any business, allows everybody else to come shop there if they want.

        Well one day, the government decides that meat is part of every good diet and decides that all grocery stores need to carry meat to sell to their customers. If the store does not comply, they have to pay fines that will eventually cause them to shut down.

        The store owner’s religious rights are being trampled on because now he has to go to a meat supplier and pay him to ship meat to his grocery store. He, despite his non consumption of the meat, is now being forced to contribute directly to the purchase of the meat. This is clearly against the free exercise clause of the 1st Amendment. We do not draft the Amish, so too should we not force good Catholics to pay for contraceptives. After all, any one already has the choice to go to a store and buy them for about $50 per month.

        • Kent

          If the US had a single-payer health care system, we wouldn’t be having this debate. The system we have crushes the poor. Which leads me to my comment on your last sentence: “After all, any one already has the choice to go to a store and buy them for about $50 per month.” Your lack of awareness of the reality facing those struggling financially is astonishing. Thus you seem to assume that a freedom available to you is available to others as well. It isn’t. Thus the point of the proposed regulations. Real freedom in the area of family planning requires those regulations.

          The meat analogy fails because it doesn’t fit the situation. The issue has to do with what one regards as a fundamental right that ought to be protected for everyone. Either we say this is NOT a fundamental right, so sorry for all you poor people who can’t afford it (which is basically what we do now with our health care system), or we do what is necessary as a society to guarantee that freedom to choose among options is a REAL freedom and not a phantom freedom.

          To those who see a threat to religious freedom in the proposed regulations, I simply point out that there is precedent for the Obama administration’s position — contained interestingly enough in an opinion written by Supreme Court justice Scalia. Here is a quote from Employment Division vs. Smith (1990): “It is a permissible reading of the text [the free exercise clause of the First Amendment]…to say that, if prohibiting the exercise of religion…is not the object of [a general] tax, but merely the incidental effect of a generally applicable and otherwise valid provision, the First Amendment has not been offended.”

  • Alix

    “Catholics might think that they are being singled out having their money go to something that offends them. ”

    No, Catholics think their institutions are being forced to pay for murder and actions that definitively violate the Natural Law. And we’re right. It’s not ‘offensive.’ It’s absolutely unjust and unconstitutional.

    • http://www.wayfarers-church.co.nr Fr.Ray

      We all pay for things we do not like. If you wish to hire non-catholics then you cannot expect to treat those who do not follow the teachings of your faith-community as if they did. The only way around this would be fr you to (a) hire only catholics and (b) police what they believe to ensure that they never challenge the church’s teachings.

      • PJ

        Sorry, Fr. Ray, but the people who get hired should be well aware of the stances that are taken by the Catholic church, before they get hired. Don’t go work for a company and expect them to change their rules to suit you.

  • Cathy

    Diana and Fr. Joseph miss the point entirely. We are not simply “offended” by this ruling. The church will now be forced to pay for not just birth control, but sterilization and abortifacients as well. These practices are contrary to Church teaching. Having to pay for them makes the Church complicit in these activities. Doesn’t it bother you that the Government will tell you how you are allowed to practice your faith? Do not hold the Catholic Church responsible if other religions choose not to fight for their own beliefs.
    Believe me, it is not just the Catholic hierarchy that is alarmed by this overreach of the Obama administration, but the Catholics in the pews are as well.
    Apparently, as the bill is written, we will have to have religious tests to determine which Catholic institutions meet the criteria for the only exemption allowed.
    This is not an America that I recognize.

    • DZ

      You are incorrect. Contraceptives prevent pregnancies. They do not end them. That is the difference between abortifacients and contraception. This rule is about contraceptives, not abortifacients. That is just untrue and (presumably purposefully). Here is a gynecologist explaining the difference, since you are probably hearing your bad information from the bishops:

      http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/sarahposner/5654/ob_gyn_corrects_bishop%27s_false_claim_about_how_contraceptives_work/

      • Cathy

        Again, you miss the point. The Obama administration has arbitrarily decided that it can impose mandates upon religious organizations and their affiliated institutions. Our First Amendment rights are being abridged.
        Secondly, I resent your presumption. I write in good faith, and I am well aware of the difference between contraceptives and abortifacients. Contraception means conception is prevented. The morning after and week after (Ella) pills prevent implantation after conception has occurred thus it is accurate to call them abortifacient.

      • klh57

        And, in response to that, you will notice that even on the WebMD site, the “morning after pill” – is called emergency contraception. I think the doctor needs to be educated about “abortifacients”. If fertilization occurred, but implantation is prevented – that’s an abortifacient. http://women.webmd.com/tc/emergency-contraception-topic-overview

    • http://www.wayfarers-church.co.nr Fr.Ray

      Then having Quakers and Mennonites pay taxes part of which goes to the military, by your reasoning, makes them complicit in every death that the military commit.

      • PJ

        Why would you compare 1st Amendment infringements to taxes?

  • http://collationes.wordpress.com Joshua Brockway

    Great commentary. I still find it really hard to swallow cries of “persecution” in one of the richest nations in the world. If this is persecution, then I hate to see what happens when more things are required! But then again, I study the early church when persecution was the euphemism for martyrdom.

    I can’t help but see this as a debate about Christendom. (Some of my Anabaptist friends and colleagues might call it Constantinianism). Not only Churches expect to have protections for their religious perspectives and practices, they assume that means legislating just what it is they believe and do for the rest of the population. In short, it means requiring the least from the actual community of faith and its practices and putting the burden on legalism.

  • Hari

    just wondering your opinion on those quakers/pacifists who refused to pay taxes to Bush administration during the Iraq war because they didn’t want their money used to pay a war that they believed was immoral.

    I understand the ponts you raised in your article and I actually agree with most of your points. But there is a big gray area here. Until what point can we tolerate a government that forces people to pay taxes while they disagree with a lot of what the government does?

  • Robert

    A prime example of both sides talking past each other. The regulation in question have to do with insurance coverage, not taxes. Competing definitions of conception also complicate the conversation. Why should anyone try to discuss the issue when the issue itself is not agreed upon?

    • http://collationes.wordpress.com Joshua Brockway

      True- at least regarding the terms of conception. Yet, I am curious why Taxes and Insurance are distinct categories?

  • http://emirateseconomist.blogspot.com John B. Chilton

    Yes. I concur this is on topic.

    But. It has long been settled that you don’t get to nullify the taxes you pay based on your religious beliefs, or to get to say how your taxes are spent. Not on lawyer, but I presume this has been litigated and isn’t just something like common law. If the government was paying for contraception for everyone there wouldn’t be an argument.

    I don’t know if anyone else has said it (surely someone has), but I think the Obama administration played hardball (and reneged on a promise) because they realized they were getting on a slippery slope (although I usually don’t like arguments based on slippery slopes). This contraception provision is a MANDATE. And the broader mandate (to have insurance) is the glue that holds together the Health Plan. The administration doesn’t want to concede on the contraception mandate, b/c the broader mandate is the heart of the constitutional challenges.

    And I understand public accommodations law and the reason we have it: to prevent discrimination based on race, if not on other grounds. (Can I deny stay in my motel to a couple that I believe is unmarried or gay? Not sure.)

    We do allow pharmacies and doctors to refuse to provide contraceptive care and the day after pill. The reason, I believe, is that they are not a public accommodation. (A lame argument if there are not alternatives nearby for the customer.)

    Within these parameters of allowing for religious conscience exceptions does the contraception mandate fall? Pharmacies aren’t forced to sell contraception. Why should a hospital be forced to give its employee free contraception? If we use the public accommodations logic there’s not a defense for the mandate which is contrary to religious beliefs. The reason is contraception is readily available.

    There was already an agreement that administration backed away from. Give the employee a monthly fund to spend no strings attached. Employees who wanted to spend it on contraception could do so. Or they could use it to pay the mobile phone bill. Whatever.

    I’m more open to an argument based along the lines, if you get federal money for your institutions, the federal government attach strings to getting that money. But that’s not the Obama position.

  • C. Kane

    I think many are missing the point. The Government is delving into an area where it does not belong. They are making rules for the public based on the idea that one size fits all, insensitive to the values and customs of the various groups that make up our society. Every time the Government makes a law or rule we lose some of our freedom. We Americans declared our independence and created our Constitution to insure freedom from the very kind of mandates the present administration is imposing.

    • Cathy

      Yes, you are right. That is the issue!

    • http://www.ellenpainterdollar.com Ellen Painter Dollar

      “Every time the Government makes a law or rule we lose some of our freedom.” — What??!

      I for one am glad to live in a country governed by laws and rules. Last I checked, living in a lawless society was pretty bad for one’s health.

      I appreciate the debate here and the largely respectful tone of disagreement.

  • Rosemary

    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned what would happen if the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ businesses (like their publication, Watchtower) decided they would not cover blood transfusions for their employees (whether JH or not) since that is “against their religion.” I think there would be a major uproar as the “majority” of Americans have not problem with this often life saving treatment. We live in a pluralistic society and if you do business in a pluralistic society you must obey all its laws, even the ones that might be “against your religion.” Of course, a national health plan would solve all these problems, as the employer would not be in the equation……we can only hope…….

  • http://bobcornwall.com Bob Cornwall

    I think it’s important to note that 28 states have similar or more severe requirements. Why are the RCC bishops not protesting these requirements.

    I think it’s important to ask where the money comes from that supports these hospitals and universities. How much money is coming from the Church and how much from other sources, including the Federal Government. Since a majority of users of Catholic Hospitals likely aren’t Catholics, and Medicare and Medicaid aren’t Catholic programs, how much money is actually coming from the church?

    In many communities these church related hospitals are the only hospitals available, they serve a very broad community and employ a broad community. Where are their rights?

    Oh, and a majority of Catholics support the offering of birth control.

  • J L

    Seems a bit ironic to accuse Obama of being anti-Catholic when his vice-president is Catholic.

  • Martin Davis

    Bravo. This business of pluralism is a challenge for many. But it is among the most important religious challenges of our age. We are moving in new directions, and the solution is not to cry foul, but to realize that this is part of the evolutionary process of being America.

  • Mick

    “I for one am glad to live in a country governed by laws and rules. Last I checked, living in a lawless society was pretty bad for one’s health. ”

    Ellen I guess it depends if your are speaking from the health point of an unborn child or not ? Laws in most states at one time reflected Common Law , that has been replaced with statues and laws that do have a different basis . Common Law was based on Bibical perceptions of right and wrong . Maybe they did not always get them right , but they tried . ;o) I really think the liberal view point and supporters of the President are not seeing the bigger picture here . Almost like they are circling the wagons and defending their guy . This is one of those times that go beyond political loyaltly . I am not Catholic , I do respect their positive input upon our culture and the support they give to inner city kids with education , their hospitals and doing the work of the Lord helping the least of these . The issue is not so much if you agree with their views on abortion and birth control , its if the state can now mandate them to go against their consciencece and provide services that go against their religious doctrines . I think this is monumental, and am somewhat concerned about those liberal Christian brothers and sisters I have being so out of touch with the bigger picture here , what is next , the state telling the church it can not feed the hungry if their green card is out of date ? We should all be Catholics on this one , we are a church first , a democrat or republican is way down the list of importance .

    This violates Church and State . If you are a liberal believer and have problems with Catholic doctrines you have a obligation to your conscienceence not to be a Catholic , support another denomination . But this is the state telling a religious denomination , a big one to boot , that it has to adhere to your liberal Christian beliefs , which so happens match up with the secular government beliefs on this issue . What if the government told you that you that your church could not support the health care needs of the people of your denomination based on your understanding of scripture conscience. Do you really expect the Catholic Church just to ignore their conscience and provide the ability for its employees to have abortion services and then continue on is reaching out to help the least of these . The least of these are the unborn getting aborted . We are all catholics on this one , and the church should not be divided on this . I don’t believe it is .

    • LibraryWitch

      Priest, Pastors and other religious leaders encouraging their congregations to vote for certain politicians, also violates separation of church and state.

      • PJ

        LibraryWitch: Where do you read that in the first amendment? Where does it say that people have to give up the right to free speech because of their job description? The so-called separation of church and state does not mean what you think it means. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; “

  • Elizabeth Scalia

    It is true that many on the far right have made some scurrilous accusations against Obama, but that he seems determined to put religion under the power of government is not one of them. People who carried on about the birth certificate or the “secret Muslim” stuff can now see what happens when one cries wolf too often. This matter is genuinely serious, and yet some are instinctively rolling their eyes and saying, “there they go again.”

    But the writer should note that among the voices crying out against this ruling are so-called “progressive” Catholics with sterling credentials as Obama supporters, including Michael Sean Winters, former Ambassador Doug Kmiec, Sister Carol Keeshan , former Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper and many others. These are the Catholics who helped deliver 54% of the Catholic vote to Obama and one can hardly lump them in with “infidel-callers”. In fact, this decision by the administration has managed to do what no bishops or popes could: it has united the Catholic “left” and “right” (how I hate these labels) in opposition to the mandate. If one is not even aware of this, I am not sure how one expects to write fairly and cogently about this issue, at all. It is really not enough to dismissively sigh, “oh, look at the reactionaries, at it again.”

    To argue this from a taxation point of view is to miss the point, entirely. This is not about Catholics not wanting to pay taxes for contraception, no matter how much the press and the administration would like to frame it as such. To be very clear: the HHS mandate declares that any and all church-related institutions (with a very narrow exemption for which not even Jesus and his apostles would qualify for) WILL pay for coverage (without co-pay or deductible) yes, contraception in the form of the pill or condoms, but also tubal ligations and vasectomies and yes, abortifacients or, as NPR euphemistically called them, “uterine lining thinners.” If these church-related entities (hospitals, schools and charities — many of which were serving the poor in their community before local or state governments had anything in place or had even thought to do so) do not comply, their choices are to either offer NO insurance at all, which both violates Catholic social teaching, or to close up shop, altogether, which goes against the mission of the church since the time of the Apostles. This is the government telling the church to knuckle under or cease to be who and what she has been for 2,000 years, as mandated by Christ himself.

    You bet it’s war, and the reason you know it’s war is because this was entirely unnecessary. If the government really wants to make tubal-ligations, vasectomies and pills and condoms available for everyone, they did not need to go after the churches to do it. Or, they could have extended an exemption (God knows, over a thousand have been extended to businesses via Mrs. Pelosi when she was speaker) based on what Hawaii has in place, or allowed self-insured entities to work something out. That the administration refused to do so tells me this isn’t about “women’s health and equality” or (to quote Carney) “striking a balance between a church’s rights and a woman’s” but a direct push against the church, her conscience and her right to the free exercise of religion in the public square. It is, as Michael Gerson (hardly an “infidel caller”) the government deciding what is the mission of the church, and what is not.

    It is also a naked power grab; if the church-related entities decide to close up shop, the government will likely acquire the hospitals, schools, charities, etc. As Christ wishes to gather us all unto himself, the government will gather all things unto itself.

    Finally, it must be recalled that this same administration, through OSHA recently argued before the SCOTUS that the Lutheran Church had no right to decide who it could or could not name and employ as a minister (Hosanna-Tabor vs OSHA) – it was an argument so broadly intrusive, and so clearly meant to set a precedent by which the government would control the ministry of the churches that Obama’s own recently appointed Justices voted against it, as did the entire court, 9-0.

    It’s very easy to roll the eyes and say “there they go again,” but in this case, it is better to open the eyes a little wider, put aside the idol of ideology (and believe me, I know all too well how easy those are to create) and take a look at how committed this administration is to telling the churches what to do, in direct contradiction to the first amendment.

    Rights lost are rarely if ever restored. I know there is a huge divide between “left” and “right” in this country, and I write all of this as someone who was raised in a blue-collar, union-loving home and who spent the first forty years of her life as a politically involved “liberal Democrat”. I was raised as a “classical liberal” and it stuns me to see people who call themselves “liberal” today endorsing this most illiberal of ideas…seemingly because of a simple tribalism.

    As to, “oh, and a majority of Catholics support birth control”… no, really? You know what else? It doesn’t matter if every Catholic in the world “supports birth control” — the church teaches against it. This is not about whether or not Catholics dissent; many of the “progressive” Catholics who are decrying this mandate openly dissent from the teaching. They are liberal-minded enough, however, to understand that whether they agree or not, the church has the right to its teaching; it has the right to be who she is.

  • Mick

    “Within these parameters of allowing for religious conscience exceptions does the contraception mandate fall? Pharmacies aren’t forced to sell contraception. Why should a hospital be forced to give its employee free contraception?”

    John you are making good points , but in my very liberal state of washington they have come out against allowing pharmacies opting out of providing contraceptions . Also this year the legislature mandated all insurance companies that do business in this state provide coverage for abortions . The legislature is about to vote in favor of gay marriage also , the governor stated she will sign it . Interesting she made a speech about the conflict with her Catholic Faith ,” she has no conflict with mandating abortions however ” but she compared not allowing gay marriage to the days when slavery and racism ruled the country . Their is a strong view dominating certain institutions in this country that see religion as evil , belief in a deity in the public square as unaceptable , and faith itself is intellectually dishonest . The liberal Christistians perhaps are missing this because they support some of the political views of the anti religious view points , and have not dealt with the issues or people that promote ther anti religious views . or they think it is ONLY targeted against the religious right because of their tactics , even though some of that is true . But like the saying first they came for jews and no one complained , well this is over the pay grade I believe for Ms Butler to understand .

    The real answer from my perspective is the church start reaching out to the poor and the least of these . One Church helping one family at a time .

  • Elizabeth Scalia

    “most Catholics support Obama on this one” Yes, polls are convenient to whip out instead of actual engagement, but that poll — which is being used to cement a narrative that this is “all about contraception and those damned out of touch bishops” is pointless for a few reasons:

    1) As I said earlier, it doesn’t matter how much Catholics dissent, the church is entitled to its teaching.

    2) The poll was framed from the “this is all about contraception” narrative, which is a false (or at least an incomplete and hedged) framework. Ask Catholics if they are aware a) that this bill also orders the church to pay for sterilization and abortifacients and b) can result in the church being prevented from serving out its mission as a free expression of itself under the first amendment

    Then see what the poll will say. I guarantee you it would be markedly different.

    Polls can me made to say anything you want them to say and they are not an argument in good faith.

    • Pdub

      The question from the survey DOES mention “contraception OR birth control” (emphasis mine) Both abortifacients and sterilization are covered by “birth control” so yes, those polled were aware of what they were talking about. Please do research before posting.

  • Pdub

    Just in case people are too lazy to click on DZ’s link:

    “A majority of U.S. Catholics support President Obama’s decision to require religious institutions to include birth control in health insurance plans, according to two new polls.
    A poll by the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, D.C., found that support among Catholics (58 percent) is higher than that of the American public overall (55 percent).
    Likewise, a Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by Planned Parenthood found that Obama’s position enjoys support from 56 percent of American voters. Of the Catholics polled, 53 percent agreed with the president.”

    looks like a majority of Catholics agree that contraception should be covered.
    Read the entire poll here (if you actually care about facts, crazy, I know) http://publicreligion.org/research/2012/02/january-tracking-poll-2012/

  • Mick

    Amen , as I recall they took a poll about 2000 years ago and our Lord ended up hanging on a Tree . Not that you have to agree or disagree with Catholics religious doctrines to be a Christian , but to be a Christian be sure that you realize sooner or later the state will rather have you up on that Tree if we allow the state to mandate to us what our rights are . The state is suppose to defend them according to the First Amendment .

    • Pdub

      I thought He was supposed to end up there? So how is that bad?

  • Elizabeth Scalia

    Really, you can assume that people immediately relate “contraception” to include sterilization and abortifacients? That’s amazing. Most Catholics don’t even understand that the Holy Eucharist is believed to be the True Presence of Christ, so that seems quite an assumption to make.

  • KelliNelson

    I read this article have been a little troubled frankly. I understand the point you are making but I disagree with the basis for her argument. Your base argument is- no one is gunnin for the catholic church, and that in America we all support something we dont agree with. What has been troubling me is, why do we need a measure stating that birth control has to be mandated. I have never had a problem accessing birth control or reproductive care, both when I had insurance and when I was a poor missionary without insurance. That includes the foreign countries I resided in. The USA gives it away at the drop of a hat. Has anyone else? Then I thought, who doesnt provide reproductive care muslims? No they believe in it, Jews, no they believe in it too. Oh it really narrows down to the Catholics and probably a few fringe evangelical groups. So im sorry, they were gunnin for the catholics. And the real issue is not just the birth control pill, it is an abortive measure, the morning after pill. That is why it has to be mandated, because of the prolife stance of the Catholic Church. I also think if we took your advise, the tea would never have been dumped in the harbor and we would all be speaking a different kind of English. Our great country is about freedoms that are quickly disappearing. Just because someone else lost their battle doesnt mean the catholics should lose theirs, and for that matter everyones religious rights, because that train wont just stop there.

  • Liz

    Maybe they should do a poll of Catholics that attend church weekly, and not of people who just say they are Catholic but don’t follow church teaching. Like Biden. This IS flat out war by Odama on religious freedom, and he has greatly overstepped his boundaries trying to mandate their church provide bc services to its employees, and control who they hire. If this is what he’ll try to pull in an election year, God only knows what he’ll try if he’s reelected and has nothing to lose. I’m not Catholic, but I’ll stand behind them any day.

    • Barbara

      The administration is not demanding that churches provide bc to their employees. It is about institutions such as universities, colleges and hospitals that both employ non-Catholics but serve non-Catholics and that they must provide health insurance that covers contraception.

  • Eric Lampe

    True, it is just America — where separation of church and state means the church must stay out of state business and the state can force churches to deny the basic tenets of their faith. You’re right. Its not persecution. Its business as usual. Liberty is just another meaningless word in the pledge of allegiance.

  • http://www.patheos.com Dave

    The federal government has become enmeshed in almost every aspect of our lives. That’s a fundamental part of the problem: education, medical care, agriculture, alternative fuels, etc., etc., and, most recently, the banking business and the automotive industry. The list is endless. We have become a nation of sheep. We pay our taxes under duress and pay for many things that we would never think of spending a dime on if we had a choice. That our freedoms and choices have become ever more restricted should be no surprise. The current extremist administration has only highlighted and exacerbated the many dangerous trends in federal control of our lives that we have permitted to continue over the past decades. The time is very likely coming that Christians will have to make great sacrifices to remain true to their faith.

  • The Reverend Mother

    Not to be glib, but the RC bishops seem to be forgetting another available option: get out of the business of running hospitals and other insititutions that don’t qualify as religious entities. Our right as faithful followers of any faith tradition is protected legally, our right to run billion dollar industries is not.

  • PJ

    The First Amendment :”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Note that it doesn’t say that pastors or priests or church hierarchy are denied commentary on government. Therefore this is purely a Constitutional issue. This is not about women’s rights. No one is saying that women can’t go out and buy any birth control method that they want. The administration has crossed the line by telling religious groups that they have to do something against their stated beliefs. If Quakers were no longer allowed to be conscientious objectors based on their faith but were required to go to war and kill others, it would be a denial of their First Amendment rights.

    Paying attention to polls is inane as no one is required to take a lie detector test when answering a pollster, so why would you trust a stranger to tell you the truth when it might not be in their personal interest to do so?

    In case no one has noticed, our rights are being whittled away by our government. The fourth amendment is being ignored by the Department of Homeland security and it’s very intrusive arm; the TSA. The sixth amendment is under direct attack in that now American citizens can be held indefinitely without charge or trial if they are deemed a “threat”. You really should look at who they (our oh so protective government) consider threats. I don’t care what you might think of the Occupy movement but their rights of free speech and assembly have been routinely squashed. There are too many cases to list of the ever increasing erosion of our Constitutional rights, and no one seems to take much notice. As long as it happens to someone else, it’s ok. That’s what happened in Nazi Germany.

  • nnmns

    At last, a post here on this topic that makes sense. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • A Theist

    I must admit surprise at finding such a thoughtful, reasoned column on this issue in a religious newsletter. There’s also the fact that currently many states require health insurance companies to include birth control in their plans which employers offer and from which employees chose.
    The hysteria being whipped up by the Catholic hierarchy and their rightwing political allies is based on political objectives and power-seeking by that hierarchy. Nothing more. Why should women of any or no religion be treated as second or third class citizens, discriminated against their right to make choices affecting their personal lives? Isn’t that the claim against “Sharia” law? Why is it that the institutional Catholic Church remains mired in rules, doctrines and attitudes, including celibacy, made up by men…men… in the Middle Ages? This same hierarchy overlooked, covered up and denied wide-spread pedophilia by its clerics. Remember, part of their “defense” was and continues to be that those crimes and behavior reflected another “war” and “attack” on the Church. This is the same Church, long intertwined with the State in Europe beginning with Constantine, that used to burn and torture non-believers. If the Administration caves on this, it will be another sign that the US is becoming more of a plutocratic theocracy than the democratic republic it was intended to become.

    • Bill

      There is nothing plutocratic about Obama. Perhaps autocratic would be a better term. You and others continue to miss the point. This is not about the RC Church. This is about the US Constitution and our tradition of law in America. Religious freedom demands that the government respect religious faith. Even if you do not agree with RC doctrine, it is their doctrine. Respect their right to be different and to hold a faith perspective that is different than yours. More importantly, support them in their faith. In recent times, liberals have had a fine tradition of tearing down religious traditions as they attempt to impose their faith and practices on others. Hardly does this qualify as goodwill and tolerance.

  • Bill

    You miss the point. Roman Catholic institutions that exist for religious purposes and do not pay taxes are being “required” to act in ways that are contrary to their faith. It is like requiring a Mosque to serve pork on a Friday menu. The federal gov’t has no moral authority to force religious institutions to violate their tenants. The other examples of individuals who pay taxes for things for which they are morally opposed is a very different scenario. I think you already know this and decided that it does not fit the purpose of this blog. “A War on Religion?” You bet. Six years ago the democrats determined that the religious vote went to the GOP. Since then, they have worked hard to dismantle that voting block. Freedom of religion is at stake. Stand up and tell the president to make his points and push his agenda without using the federal gov’t as a tool to target and harass people of faith.

    • nnmns

      If there were people eating at the Mosque who need pork it would be a good thing for the Mosque to serve it. In fact it would not be a bad thing to require the Mosque to serve it. It would be a bad thing to require Muslims to eat it. No one is requiring anyone to use real birth control but it’s great that it will be available to those women and families, and affordable.

      And it will no doubt prevent some abortions.

      • Bill

        A true liberal speaks. In order to accommodate those who act in ways that are contrary to our faith, you would requires churches, mosques and other taxed exempt religious organizations to pay for their activities. If a person who enters the mosque wants to eat pork, let the person leave the mosque and buy it at a store that sells it. Do not require the mosque to contaminate itself. In the same way, do not force the RC Church to become a partner to sin as it defines it by making them to pay for services that destroy life and run contrary to their purposes. If employees want those things, they may buy them or buy a supplemental insurance plan.

  • joe

    Great article. It is a real shame a compliance issue is being framed as an attack on religion issue. Some of us do not like scarce public funds being diverted from government programs so religious organizations can provide similar services. We were led to believe churches and charities were going to elleviate some of the fincial burdens of government by providing these services. Now we find out they are creating extra financial burdens, because tax payers are financing multiple beaurocracies, multiple facilities. multiple work forces. Something that should also be noted is that the Catholic Church will close a Church, School, Hospital or any other facility if it cannot support itself.

    • Bill

      Learn the meaning of religious liberty and stop thinking in utilitarian terms. Religious institutions are a good end in and of themselves even if they do not provide any services to the federal gov’t. Charitable organizations are not forcing anything on the federal government. Nor are they a financial burden. They help to alleviate poverty as they serve humankind. Not paying for abortive services or birth control is not a burden to anyone. The power to tax and regulate is the power to control. The feds should have a hands off policy and the Obama administration should not use the power of the executive to force religious organizations to do things that are clearly contrary to their tenants and their consciences. This is the very meaning of “A War on Religion” and it is the reason that no other administration has done this. “For freedom Christ has made us free. Stand firm in that freedom.” If Obama makes people pick between his unjust laws and our religious freedom principles, he will lose and we will engage in massive civil disobedience. The OWS movement will not even compare to what you will see.

    • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

      “Some of us do not like scarce public funds being diverted from government programs so religious organizations can provide similar services.”
      Are you kidding? You’ve clearly not done any reading about this topic. The Churches – any and all of them – are VASTLY more efficient (considering every metric – cost, man-hours, effectiveness) than ANY government agency when performing comparable tasks. Consumer Reports does a top-charities list every year and consistently finds the religious charities provide the most service for the most people and at the least cost with the least overhead.
      “Something that should also be noted is that the Catholic Church will close a Church, School, Hospital or any other facility if it cannot support itself.” You’re kind of making my point for me – if what you’ve said is true, then all the churches, schools, and hospitals still run by the Catholic Church are supporting themselves. Good grief.
      In fact, though, they are not. Catholics in wealthier parishes routinely support poorer parishes directly and through central diocesan coordination; parish schools are pretty much always subsidized by the parish general collection; hospitals are subsidized by their dioceses, and poor people near them know that they will always be treated with questions of payment coming up later, if at all.
      Get past your bigotry and learn a fact or two, or at least listen to yourself.

  • nnmns

    This guy clears it all up.

  • http://lordofcompassion.org Nina Paul

    And this is why the Scots came up with the “Free Church” … one that is not incorporated. If the Church wants to be exempt from all of this, then the Church must become an unincorporated free church. Of course, that will result in a loss of many contributions from foundations and other such entities. Bottom line: the Church has been in bed with secular government since Constantine’s dream. And what do we get, boys and girls, from laying down with dogs? The Church can’t have it both ways – it can’t be “in the body of” the State and Fed and play the “special and exempt” card, too.

    • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

      Your comment is ridiculous. It shows a total lack of comprehension of the legal system of our country, to say nothing of the “contributions from foundations” that you think it receives.
      A corporation is just a legal person created to represent a group of people collectively, to prevent any individual from having liability in the group beyond his investment, for the purpose of serving the common good. And group that fits the bill can incorporate. The various dioceses and churches and congregations all incorporate so that their members can collectively own things and reduce the risk of any one person – who would otherwise have to be the legal owner – just walking off with common property. That’s all. It has nothing to do with getting some kind of donation from some kind of entity. That’s all nonsense you just made up. Who are these entities that you think are funding the Catholic Church, for instance?
      The Church does receive contracts from the government to provide services the government is held responsible for but incapable of doing very well – like hospitals and schools. The Church used to do these things entirely privately, but as the government has gobbled up more of the Church’s donation base through outrageous taxes, fewer and fewer people can afford to do very much any more at all – let alone go around funding hospitals. But as for the running of parishes and such, the Church’s fundamental community life – the government is entirely uninvolved. Your nonprofit entities are not involved. It’s just grandma in the pew with her pocketbook, friend.

  • Catinca

    They can’t get Obama with the economy issue so now they are going after his morals please. This is supported by a majority of Americans, yes including Catholics. Stop messing with womens health we have the right to birth control whether the Pope thinks so or not. It’s 2012 not 1912.

    • Bill

      If you want birth control, buy it. Do not tell the church it has to buy it for you. Why do you think the church should violate its doctrines and conscience by buying BC for you? It seems quite arrogant and self-serving on your part. Regardless, religious freedom demands that the gov’t not tell churches what they have to do or force church’s to violate the basic tenants of their faith. Once again, your right to BC and abortion does not mean the church has to provide it or pay for it.

      • nnmns

        Yes, and if you want a heart transplant buy it. Do not tell the church it has to buy it for you.

        • Bill

          You are a bitter person. Obama saw the error of his way. I hope you will do likewise. Getting medical care for a disease or injury is not against our tenants. That is what Catholic Hospitals do. Forcing us to violate our basic doctrines so you can push a partisan political agenda at the expense of people of faith is bad form and the worst type of political tyranny. Learn the lesson and support religious rights.

        • PJ

          A heart transplant? Really? That’s the best you can come up with? You obviously aren’t reading any of the posts that tell you that this is a Constitutional issue….period. It doesn’t make any difference what you believe. The first Amendment guarantees religious freedoms. Maybe you would like the government to stop a different part of the first amendment…the one for free speech and the right of assembly. This has NOTHING to do with health care, or who receives federal monies.

          • nnmns

            People are objecting to paying for health services for other people. Heart transplants are health services as are contraceptives. And some religions object to unnatural health care.

          • Kent

            Stating that the issue is not about who receives health care and the kind of health care they are entitled to receive or that it has nothing to do with who receives federal dollars does not make it so. Saying that the issue is about the Constitution doesn’t make your interpretation of it accurate. See my post above.

            This issue generates passionate responses precisely because it is complicated and multifaceted. There is no “us” vs. “them” here. Caring people, rational people, Christians, Catholics, etc. fall on different sides of this issue, and for different reasons. More helpful posts are those that clarify the sources of disagreement or point out fallacies of argumentation. Some of the posts are nothing more than appeals to fear. They tend to use poor analogies and distort reality (e.g., comparisons to China or Nazi Germany).
            Many of the posts here have been sensitive and open-hearted. In general, I’ve appreciated reading the variety of perspectives presented here! If we’re going to make progress on this or any other issue, I think we have to keep in mind that the purpose of our conversation is not to “win” an argument or squash our “opponents,” but rather to find ways to live together respectfully and caringly in a pluralistic society.

    • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

      Who cares what year it is? And who said you can’t have birth control? Why in God’s name do you think that I or my church should have to pay for it for you. You want birth control or abortions? Great. Pay for them yourself.

  • Sam

    Actually, I thought your argument was largely a Red Herring (and Tu Quoque Ad Hominem). Even if it WERE true that every complaint made toward the Obama administration by the Church (at large) was unfairly couched in “War on Religion” rhetoric, it would not mean that the church’s latest grievance with the president concerning the contraception issue is invalid, unfair, or inappropriate.

    If this article’s only purpose it to complain about the church doing this, then I stand corrected (and I’m aware of the article’s title); however, it sounds like you are actually attempting to make an argument against the church’s latest grievance. You show this when you state, “And yes, part of the public good is that women get to choose if and when they have babies.” Well, this is THE issue in question and you offer no argument other than saying it is for the “public good” (which is not much of an argument because this is largely the reasoning for ALL laws). So, this is tantamount to saying, “Nuh huh.”

    You also leave out the most important part of this issue (especially for Protestants), which is that the law would force all private insurance plans to cover early abortion-inducing contraceptives. This would mean churches that provide insurance to their employees would be paying for these contraceptives.

    Furthermore, you miss/undermine the point of the opposing viewpoint when you use language of the fact that we all get “offended.” This is not about offense. Respectfully, you are simply not interested in properly representing the pro-life viewpoint, which believes it’s much more important than that. For example, I would NEVER tell someone who opposes the death penalty because they believe it is murder (i.e. always a “wrongful” killing) that they should just “stop being offended.”

    I found it ironic how you ended the article, too. You states, “Or maybe we should keep working at the restless and ever-evolving tension between being religious freedom and separation of church and state in our wildly diverse nation.” And you italicized the “and” before separation of church and state (as if you were making a point for YOUR side). Actually, we agree! Due to the fact that this is an issue of the state imposing on the church, we would like to remind the Obama administration, “Don’t forget separation of church and state.”

  • Kate B.

    I’ve been thinking all week how Catholic taxes pay for a criminal justice system that includes the death penalty. I think of all these things people have to help pay for, this should be one that gets the most outrage.

    BTW, because of the fragmented nature of Protestantism, Roman Catholics have actually made up the single largest Christian denomination in the U.S. since the 1860 census.

    • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

      Paying taxes is not the same thing as executing criminals or buying contraceptives, even if some middleman down the road decides to use the tax money for that purpose.
      This shouldn’t be that complicated. You pay taxes. Is that the same thing as you buying sweets for your diabetic child just because the school nurse has some on her desk in a nice little bowl? Nope. You wouldn’t give your diabetic child sweets because you believe that is bad for your child. In like manner, I won’t buy someone else a condom because I believe they are harmful to the human soul. I won’t buy them, even if the school nurse already has some on her desk in a nice little bowl. I won’t buy them, I won’t buy them, and I swear to you before God Himself that no force on earth can make me buy them, God so help me. Even the government. Even the crowd.

  • Guillaume

    Thanks to all for this lively discussion!
    Diana, I am unconvinced by your initial post. Most people of faith understand that the secular government cannot conform to each religion’s particular demands or commandments. To use your examples, Quarkers and Jews understand that some of their taxes will be used to finance the defence budget and subsidies to pork farming. These are reasonable consequences of living in a liberal society governed by majority rule. Living in any country means accepting that some of your taxes will be put to a use that you dislike or hate : you may seek change through the electoral process. What is at stake here is quite different : Catholic institutions are being forced to directly provide and pay for policies which they hold evil. To get back to your Quaker/Jew analogy, this is forcing Quakers to build guns if not go to war, forcing Jews to slaughter pigs if not eat them.
    Best regards

    • http://www.withouthavingseen.com Ryan Haber

      Just so. And Diana, has it not occurred to you that we have conscientious objector privileges for people who object to military service on principle? Do you object to that? Do you want to see Jehovah’s Witnesses beaten in prisons for refusing to fight, as they were during World War I?

      I do not think you or the media or the President hate Catholics. I think you guys love the pill. You loooove your condoms. You’ve built your lifestyle around them even though you know on some level that using them means that you don’t really quite trust God allllll the way. And you know that contraception is a tidy rationalization for abortion, the final solution to the problem child you don’t want born.

      And here is a group of people, riddled with sin, sinners, and hypocrites, but for some strange reason, its leadership and a fraction of its membership just refuse to do that thing. Instead, we preserve the attitude we have inherited since the ancient Jews commented that sons are like arrows in a quiver – happy the man who has many. We, like Abraham, are grateful to have descendents multiply like the stars. We continue to obey the first commandment in the Garden – the only positive law given by God before the Fall: “Be fruitful and multiply.” We heed the voice of the prophets who insisted that the Israelites, unlike the heathen around them, should not “make their children go into the fire.” We accept the teaching of the Didache, which forbade the very earliest Christians from using “potions” against conceiving children. We stand with every Christian denomination, all of which up until 1930 condemned contraception as unsuited for Christian family life, corrosive of morals, the traffic of prostitutes and their clientele. We trust God just that little bit more, on that one teensy weensy thing about sex and marriage and children and financial burdens and the future and all that stuff – and goddamn if it doesn’t piss you off.

      That’s what all this is about.

      Mark my words – if we were talking about forcing Vegans to sell beef at their veggie stores because some of their customers or employees might want some – well, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, would we.

      Abstaining from meat just doesn’t have the same countercultural challenge built into it that abstaining from contraception does, does it?

  • Heather

    In this economy it’s not so easy to “choose” where you will work. Some church-related organizations (not just Catholic) are relatively rich, have powerful lobbies, and pay good salaries. If you don’t follow that religion, are you supposed to turn your back on a well paying job and go work for McDonalds?

  • Barbie D’Ercole

    Fr. Joseph:
    If you are a priest in the Catholic Church, my question would be “Why”, when you do not care to follow or teach (as you are teaching in your response) that the teachings are the Church can be relative. I think you would do yourself and the Church a better service to find another calling in life.
    Darla, I am appalled that you would consider the HHS mandate and forcing a religious organization to purchase insurance that mandates an employer to ultimately pay for a drug that will cause an abortion, to be an acceptable mandate by the Obama administration. Paying for a woman to kill her unborn child has absolutely no comparison to prostate healthcare. Killing an unborn child, by sucking out the child’s skull and brains, while that unborn child is feeling pain, is barbaric. And I do believe that those who choose to continue propagating this horrific behavior as acceptable, will have blood on their hands on Judgement day.


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