In recent weeks I've regularly heard Catholic bloggers and commentators complain that the new healthcare legislation infringes on their religious liberty, since it will require them to pay for coverage which will allow their employees to get contraception and other things that are against Catholic teaching.
Something didn't sit quite right with me. Today I realized what is wrong with this sort of claim – and as so often happens, the secret to spotting the problem was simply to insert some other religious group into the equation.
Should Christian Scientist employers have to pay for employees' healthcare at all? Should Jehovah's Witness employers have to provide insurance that covers blood transfusion?
The problem with the argument that some Catholics and even Evangelicals have made against the Affordable Care Act is that it is trying to make religious freedom regarding healthcare a matter for the employer to decide rather than the individual.
If a Catholic employee chooses not to use healthcare provisions which are available to them under law but which they disagree with on religious grounds, and is free to do so, that is religious freedom being protected.
To allow a Catholic (or Evangelical, or Christian Scientist, or Jehovah's Witness, or Atheist) employer to refuse to give you coverage that you are entitled to by law because of their beliefs about religion is giving employers the right to infringe on your religious freedom.
One of the blogs I linked to at the beginning of this post compares the HHS mandate to requiring a vegetarian to buy a hamburger. But that gets it precisely backwards. The closer analogy would be to say that the mandate actually prevents employers from debying you the right to buy a hamburger based on their own vegetarianism.
It seemed to me at one point that this matter was a difficult issue. But now it seems to me quite clear-cut. Have I missed something important? Or am I finally seeing the issue clearly?
See also a recent article on whether White House employees would have access to coffee and other beverages prohibited by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints if Romney were to win the election.