Happy Religious Freedom Day!

The presidential proclamation would not have been enough. It took Facebook to make me aware of it.

  • Keen Reader

    I guess this is necessary in the U.S. In my country it’s religious freedom day every day . . .

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      The day is the anniversary of the passage, in 1786, of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. Which probably had at least some affect on the laws of your country. You’re welcome! :)

      • Keen Reader

        What effect would it have had?

        • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

          “The Constitution of the United States [including Religious Freedom contained in the 1st Amendment] was the first constitution of its kind, and has influenced the constitutions of other nations.”
          en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Constitution

          • Keen Reader

            So what has that got to do with the Virginia Statute thingy?

            And how would the US Constitution have influenced pre-existing countries with centuries older systems of government and laws?

            • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

              1. The 1786 Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom was a notable precursor of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_Statute_for_Religious_Freedom

              2. United States Constitution and worldwide influence
              en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Constitution_and_worldwide_influence

              • Keen Reader

                So what influence did your Constitution have on, say, the UK, which looks back to Magna Carta hundreds of years earlier?

                • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

                  You’re not speaking German, right? And then there’s that pursuit of happiness thing… ;)

                  “Brits love to bitch about America, and they love to hate America…In the UK when you order a mixed drink some scientist pops out of the floorboards in a lab coat, and he uses a system of weights and measures and a fucking stainless steel cylinder that assures that you will not get any more –– even the vapors –– of one measured ounce in your f**king $15 cocktail. ” ~Doug Stanhope

                  youtube.com/watch?v=olvYskSxdWI

                  • Keen Reader

                    You’re still not explaining what relevance your Constitution has had on “the laws of your [my] country.”

                    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

                      You still haven’t answered what language you’re still speaking.

                      “Twice in a single generation the catastrophe of world war has fallen upon us; twice in our lifetime has the long arm of fate reached across the ocean to bring the United States into the forefront of the battle.” ~Winston Churchill, Speech to a joint session of the United States Congress, December 26, 1941

                    • Keen Reader

                      You volunteered an assertion about your Constitution (not your nation or country in general, nor your military or whatever, but specifically your Constitution) without apparently needing to ask any questions first, so can you back it up please?

                    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

                      I did back it up.

                      United States Constitution and worldwide influence
                      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Constitution_and_worldwide_influence

                      Note the word I used above: “probably,” as the US Constitution hasn’t had “at least some affect” on some nations.

                      While it could be argued that the Arsenal of Democracy created under the U.S. Constitution has made possible for English law to survive intact, if you want to deny any influence, that’s fine, I’ll not push it and wound a tender pride, one evidence by the original snark in this thread.

                      I’d rather focus on our common legal heritage, as did Winston Churchill, in his 4-volume History of the English Speaking Peoples and his 6-volume The Second World War.

                    • Keen Reader

                      You seem to think I live in the U.K.

                    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

                      I have assumed so, since it was you who brought up the U.K.

                    • Keen Reader

                      I brought it up as an example, I gave no indication that I live there. But it explains why you leaped from the US Constitution to Winston Churchill and World War II, as if they had any relevance.

  • Jon Fermin

    Happy Religious freedom day! brought to you by a man who’s administration has over 90 lawsuits for encroaching religious freedoms.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I hope you are not referring to the attempts of some employers to impose their religious scruples on their employees and calling that defending their own “religious freedom.”

      • Jon Fermin

        if by employers you mean nuns like the little sisters of the poor and by employees you mean those who freely chose to work for a religious charity organization who had an understanding up front that the organization would be run according to religious principles, which include the existence of intrinsic and objective moral positions, and the right to defend them, then yes.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Are they petitioning not to have to pay employees their salaries in cash? Currency can be used to purchase all sorts of things these employers might not approve of…

          • Jon Fermin

            Dr McGrath, I’m sure they would be all for paying their salaries in cash. it’s a lot more morally responsible than paying part of it in cash and part of it on abortifacient subsidies.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Amusing, but not persuasive, since obviously cash is an aborifacent subsidy for someone who wants to get an abortion and whose health care does not cover it.

              But the more crucial issue is whether employers have a right to impose their mores on their employees in their own time, or whether the religious freedom of individuals trumps corporations in this sort of scenario.

              • Jon Fermin

                cash is only an abortifacient subsidy if the spender wants it to be, the spender is the primary moral agent, not the payor unless the cash was intended for such a purpose such as the subsidies provided under the group plans. at no time is anyone being denied the ability to purchase abortifacients, the employee’s rights remain unchanged.

                no amount of dancing around the issue changes this. employers are just as much moral agents as the employees and as such their religious rights as private organizations should be protected.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  I am not following your logic at all here. Why is paying people in cash that can be used for all sorts of immoral things an issue, but providing people with the same standard of health care that others get so that they can make appropriate decisions in consultation with their physician an issue? Health insurance is only an “abortifacent subsidy” if the spender wants it to be.

                  I will say one thing: if we had socialized health care like the rest of the developed world, this issue would no longer present itself.

                  • Jon Fermin

                    You are changing the goalposts here Dr Mcgrath. if you can’t seem to tell the moral difference between giving someone cash for their wages that they earned to do with what they freely will or subsidizing cash ahead of time to cover the cost of an immoral act you must either be facetious or I give your education and training more credit than it deserves.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Not at all. You are talking about two different elements of an employee’s compensation. I realize that for some reason you would like to skew this in a different direction, and that your inability to do so has led you to resort to insults. But if you can set aside your instincts of team allegiance and look at what is actually being claimed, you will see that there has been no shifting of goalposts, other than by employers who have shifted the goalpost of religious freedom to try to make it mean their freedom to impose their religious scruples on their employees.

                    • Jon Fermin

                      Dr Mcgrath, again you paint this as if the employee is the only one making a moral decision here. there are typically two to three parties involved, the employer, the insurer and the employee and all of them share a degree of moral responsibility in how the funding is spent.

                      I’m not sure to what extent Dr, you are aware of how the funding of insurance plans work. To your credit most people don’t think about it and they generally don’t care where the money comes from so long as it comes and helps to pay for whatever. most people tend to think the payouts come the insurance company. this is not always true. in self-insured plans and many group plans, the bulk of payouts come directly from the employer, in situations like this, the insurance companies act as a middleman and an administrator in exchange for lower rates to the company. this option is usually favored by small businesses because it allows them to provide coverage for a healthy workforce at a reasonable cost. here because the employer is funding the majority share of costs for that which is being funded, they are not just passive agents in the actions of their employees they are their investors in a sense.

                      the employer offers benefits as an investment in their employees in the hopes that the employee will return the favor in continued employee loyalty and service. this is the perspective of a small business owner. to take it one caveat further lets also view it from the perspective of the nuns, not only is this an investment in their employees but also an act of social justice. now, whether we view this as a matter of investment or of social justice, the investor or benefactor acting as a moral agent has a moral responsibility in the subject of their funding.

                      at no point have the nuns said they like or desire having to cut benefits from the employees who assist them, in fact as it was before they had no problem providing benefits, their money went into pools which were then spent on health coverage, and because they were self insured and acting through an insurance trust which shared their values, they could provide coverage while ensuring their funding did not go to acts which violated their conscience as per not only their personal conscience demands, but also in accordance with their profession of vows before the church. the government by way of the HHS mandate has placed demands on them and their insurer in such a way that they were forced by the state and not the employee to set aside funds for products and services they cannot under any circumstances condone. it has placed a burden on them which did not previously exist. this is not the same as an employee who wanted to buy contraceptives. at no time has an employee been prevented from using their own funds to buy their own contraceptives either then or now. the only thing that has changed is that these nuns are being asked to pay for it for them, and their insurer who holds the same religious standards has been asked to do the same.

                      As such this places a burden on the sisters and the insurers which is in violation of their first amendment protections against the state encroachment of the practice of their religion. so to put it simply doctor this is not merely a matter of an individual making decisions for themselves to buy a product or service, it is a moral decision which involves everyone who makes a direct contribution to paying for that product or service. if the employee wants no part of this they can self-insure or pay cash, and work it out through their own conscience, but the price of doing business in this country, or even running a religious non-profit should not have to be the willingness to sacrifice one’s religious scruples. if not for the former, then certainly not in the case of the latter.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You are trying to make something straightforward unnecessarily complicated. Employers provide employees with compensation, sometimes in cash, sometimes in other ways. They do not get to control all the ways that employees may use that compensation in their own time.

                    • Jon Fermin

                      if you disagree with the position the nuns may have when it comes to systematic moral theology and how it’s complicating their purchasing habits, that’s your opinion. I think Jewish dietary laws complicate how they go about ordering lunch, but that’s just my opinion.either way it does not change that it is still protected by the first amendment.

                      you are right in saying they do not get control all the ways that employees may use that compensation in their own time. they do not want to control what employees buy. that’s a red herring. what really is at issue its that they do not want be a knowing participant in employees purchasing something they find sinful by buying it for them ahead of time through subsidies. remove the forced subsidies of the HHS mandate and you remove the problem, but what we have here is an administration with a joke of a religious exemption so narrow nuns can’t even qualify for it. If the administration cared for religious freedom half as much as it claimed to, it would have no problem widening exemptions, but clearly it has shown nothing but contempt for this case as it has worked it’s way up the courts, just look at the administration’s reaction to the temporary injunction Justice Sotomayor granted to the little sisters. face the facts, this is just another photo op for the president and he’ll say whatever sounds good on the news with that colgate grin of his while throwing the nuns under the bus, and we as a nation are poorer off for it,

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      The red herring is that you missed a wonderful opoortunity to make an insightful contrast, pretending that it is a comparison. People are free to not order non-kosher food for lunch. But with the Catholic and Evangelical approach to the health care mandate, it is like an employer trying to insist that the compensation they give their employees cannot be used to buy non-kosher food, because the employer is Jewish. The difference is between the freedom of an individual to practice their religion, and the “freedom” of an employer to curtail the freedom of their employees based on their religion.

                      You are free to disagree with me, but this is how the situation looks to those of us in religious traditions which highly prize individual liberty and religious freedom.

                    • Jon Fermin

                      If a Jewish employer wants to only serve kosher food in their corporate cafeteria (corporate cafeterias of course are considered a form of benefit) they are free to do so. in a way yes they can tell an employee, you can only buy kosher food here with your money. it does not stop the employee from bringing their own lunch from home. or going out to a nearby restaurant for lunch.

                      if you value the religious liberty you must also value the principle of conscientious objection, which is what the nuns are doing. And in a world where anyone can go down to the health department, drugstore, hospital and gas station and get contraceptives for less than the cost of a snickers bar and a bottle of coke, why should it be considered an undue burden to buy it on your own? if the convictions of these nuns is not to buy it for you, then at what great loss do you suffer? your individual liberty is not at stake, only theirs. your religious freedom is not at stake, only theirs, for they are citizens too with every right you and I should have, including the right to make moral decisions on the basis of their conscience. indeed, value liberty and religious freedom, but do not be so selfish as to forget that all citizens equally posses these rights, and with the right to freely assemble, all private organizations, yes including private business, have the right to exercise their affairs according to the dictates of their conscience. if you value that liberty for the individual you must value it for every individual that is capable of exercising it, even if you disagree with them.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Since when does conscientious objector mean imposing your conscience upon another, rather than following the dictates of your own conscience? Someone who objects to war in principle on the grounds of their Christian faith may be exempted from service. It would be a natural extension of that, from one perspective, for them to try to prevent others from enlisting in the military. But we do not normally consider that to have the same status.

                    • Jon Fermin

                      you have yet to prove the case that the nuns ARE preventing anyone from practicing the dictates of their conscience. prove that and then we’ll talk.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      ?!?!

                    • Jon Fermin

                      well the case being made against these nuns is that by imposing the standards of their faith upon the practices of their work that they are infringing on the employees via conscientious objection. tell me then, if the nuns may practice according to the dictates of their conscience as protected by the first amendment, in what way are they effectively preventing anyone from buying their own contraceptives or securing their own abortions. much stronger cases like hosanna-tabor have come up on the grounds of fair hiring and firing practices and the supreme court fell on the favor of the first amendment, why should this case fall in the favor of the administration? what defense could they offer to trump the nun’s constitutional rights? if there is no case to be made, then the administration has by their action demonstrated a distinct insincerity when it comes to their language applauding religious freedom. if they were sincere in their avowed open-mindedness why not offer more than a token exemption that religious orders cannot qualify for?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You brought up conscientious objectors. But the goal post can only move so far. Can Christian Scientists claim that they need not provide insurance at all, since they disapprove of seeking medical help altogether? Should Jehovah Witness employers have to fund blood transfusions? Why should Catholic scruples get a dubious free pass but not others?

                    • Jon Fermin

                      the teaching of the Jehova’s Witnesses is as such that such purity laws only apply to them, and are not universal in the same way that the nuns argue purchasing contraceptives for others to use is an intrinsic wrong per the catholic position. in addition to that, JW’s are quite aware that commonly blood transfusions happen in cases of emergency. per their own teachings it would be the responsibility of the JW to make their affiliation known either verbally or through some written form (like a medic alert bracelet or prepared statement kept on their person) so that the doctor would take his religious beliefs into consideration. if the Jehova’s witnesses (hypothetically) wish to offer a plan that provides coverage for bloodless surgeries and cell-savers for patients as a viable alternative for blood transfusions in surgery and provide no coverage for the transfusions in their group plan, I see no problem with them doing so as a matter of propriety. this does not prevent the patient from receiving blood transfusions, or requesting them, merely that the employer would not pay for them. so long as the employer at a point in the hiring process is up front with the prospective employee about all of this and they agree to the terms of participation in such a group plan, there should be no issue, merely a set of terms like any other contract. the employee and the employer reach a mutual agreement to which both freely consent. if the prospective employee does not agree with this in applying for the company, they are free to seek employment elsewhere.

                      as to the issue of Christian scientists to my knowledge while they themselves do not make use of hospitals, there is nothing in their theology which prevents them from offering insurance to their employees. like the JW’s their position is one which is internal.

                      even in cases as extreme as the ones mentioned, at no time is an individual prohibited from acting according to the dictates of their constitutionally defended consciences. It is only in the case of the HHS mandate and it’s measures that an imposition is being made. this mandate is an imposition against the rights of those who are protected by the first amendment from being able to refuse that which they find a sin, thus interfering with the free exercise clause. those who are on the side of the mandate can make no such comparable claim and thus the demands of our constitutional rights holds the greater weight. therefore I repeat to you. prove the case for why the first amendment rights of these individuals should not be respected if they force no obstacle to the rights and wellbeing of others.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You must be very privileged to have so much disposable income that it doesn’t matter to you in the slightest whether your employer provides coverage for something or not.

                      Oh how I wish we could simply have nationalized health care like the rest of the developed world, and not have to deal with people complaining that their freedom of conscience is violated if they are not allowed to impose their conscience on their employees in the way you advocate.

                    • Jon Fermin

                      a personal attack does not an argument make. nor is the possible merits of a nationalized system the topic at hand. The people you bemoan may have the demands of decency to tolerate the existence of what they see in the world as a sin, but they are under no obligation to affirm it by their financial support, nor should they be forced to by federal mandate.

                      once more, prove the case for why the first amendment rights of these individuals should not be respected if they force no obstacle to the rights and wellbeing of others,

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You have yet to demonstrate that the first amendment protects the right of the employer to dictate how employees use the compensation they recieve, rather than protecting the freedom of individuals. If you do that, then the question you asked becomes relevant, but even then, the use of hormonal treatments is prescribed at times for reasons other than birth control, and how you can consider denying employees coverage in such cases to have no bearing on their wellbeing is hard for me to fathom – and presumably any attempt by me to do so would simply be construed as though it were a personal attack.

                    • Jon Fermin

                      an employer, as a citizen has the same rights as any individual, including the right to conscientiously object to being forced by the state to participate in what they deem sinful. for this reason quakers can’t be sent off to war, Mennonites are exempt from swearing oaths in court, and Catholic nuns should not have to spend their money to cover the cost of sterilizations. the issue here is not what the person does with their benefits, but the kind of benefits the mandate tells people they CAN buy. and here at the point of the employer purchasing plans for the organization, they are making a moral decision and here the mandate is forcing them into a situation that not only goes against their order’s constitutions but also their beliefs. before any hypothetical employee has even come to be, before said hypothetical employee can even register for benefits the sisters are faced with a challenge to their constitutional rights.

                      now, you had mentioned something about hormonal treatments, having spent several years working in a pharmacy, I can tell you I agree there is a place for hormonal treatments and hormonal treatments with a label use of say for example prostate cancer treatment are perfectly ok. but a treatment with a label use for birth control being used for any use other than it’s stated function is called off label use, and while it is legal, it’s also unregulated and a grey area most insurance companies religious or not, generally wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. because of this I wish someone wanting to get a drug to be used off label the best of luck. if they get denied its most likely not going to be for first amendment reasons, its going to be for off label usage.

                      now having addressed your questions I hope that the question I posed, once more will become relevant for you,

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      But again, what gives employers the right to decide that something that a patient and physician and insurance company deem an appropriate course of treatment ought not to be covered? You still are not explaining how you justify the imposition of the employer’s conscience on the employee.

                    • Jon Fermin

                      simple, because the employer is the one paying for it. roughly over 50% or more on the monthly premiums in most cases. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and in this case having to cover the majority of the costs, the employer has a say on how much and even where spending can cover, often working out custom plans with the insurer based on the company’s budget. not every plan is the same, some offer better dental some offer vision, some offer tiered plans that are designed to fit a variety of budgets, generally the aim is to shoot a balance between being attractive to employees and affordability. add to that the caveat of a religious organization their own concerns and you’ll see that the employer as the majority purchaser has quite a bit of latitude to say what they can afford either financially or morally. plans you may like now may be downgraded in the future due to costs. the only way to really ensure that everything you want in a plan is provided is to purchase your own coverage. an employer is at no time obligated to offer you all the coverage you want if the company cannot itself afford it financially or in the case of religious employers, morally. you may not like it, but that’s how it is, and while I agree with you there are many issues at play here and resolving health care in this country is a complex matter, strong-arming the sisters into breaking their vows is not the solution to the problem.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Once compensation is in the hands of employees, in my opinion, the moral questions related to its use lie with the employee and not the employer. I would feel regret if an employee of mine used the salary I paid them in ways that I considered immoral. But I would probably not view myself as in any respect culpable.

                      But again, the root of the debate is the fact that employers are being required to mediate the insurance and health care process, instead of nationalizing it. Making health care dependent on corporations concerned with prophet ought to be at least as objectionable to Christians as covering treatments one does not approve of.

                    • Jon Fermin

                      insurance though is not the same as cash. I keep telling you this. insurance is a kind of subsidization, cash set aside for a particular purpose.

                      let’s say it’s your birthday and I buy you a gift.

                      let’s say I bought you a card with cash in it and no indication on the greeting card what I wanted you to spend the money on. having not subsidized your gift ( IE, a gift certificate) and made no desires known for the intent of the funds, I have no culpability for what you spend it on.

                      lets say instead of cash I got you a gift certificate. In Las Vegas, Brothels offer gift certificates for the sale of their “services”. lets assume for the sake of argument you are a married man and have a spouse who doesn’t condone adultery. by giving you this gift, should you chose to use it, I have directly enabled your act of adultery by way of subsidization. and therefore share a degree of culpability.

                      let’s say I decided to give you cash again, but this time instead of a regular greeting on the card, I had made my wishes known to you that I wanted you to spend it at the brothel. even though in this case, though I have not subsidized your cost, and you are free to spend the money anywhere my suggestion on how the money should be spent (should you choose to use it for that reason) is considered culpability in sin by way of counsel, command, or consent based on our relationship to each other.

                      see how in all three cases you are free to use the gift or not use it, your moral decision making remains free at all times. but for the one giving the gift, by way of how and what gift is given, have tied themselves by their actions to whatever act they have enabled the recipient to do.

                      therefore, the solution to this problem is granting exemptions to religious-minded companies to allow removal of the offending benefits and the ability to pass off those savings as pure income with no demands or strings attatched. thus, these organizations avoid the moral problem of subsidization and individuals can as they always have, use their own funds according to the dictates of their consciences. It has worked in the past, and I think it’s a fair and respectful common sense compromise that allows everyone invested to maintain a clear conscience. it is with regret that it seems the current administration is so loathe to consider it. whether or not you want a nationalized plan is a matter of politics. again my concern here is not to be a cheerleader for some kind of nationalized plan or to castigate it. whichever way you wish to slice it, in the current situation the moral and constitutional issue at hand right now remains unchanged. My prime concern in this dialogue is now, and remains as to discuss the problems of the mandate as it stands now and what can be done now to resolve it.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I do not find the comparison at all apt. If employers give their employees cash, which I presume can be used at a brothel, and health coverage, which can only be used in ways that are deemed medically appropriate in consultation with one’s physician and cannot be used to pay for prostitution, I do not see how the latter is like a gift certificate for a brothel but the former is not. Your argument would seem to lead naturally to Catholic employers paying employees in gift cards to stores where one can buy groceries but not condoms. But again, why stop there? Many groceries have come to us through unjust means and so paying salaries in fairtrade produce would be even more appropriate from a Christian perspective. Catholic values are not only relevant to sex and reproduction.

                    • Jon Fermin

                      the comparison was only intended to illustrate the difference between cash which could be used for any purpose and a subsidization which can pay for an immoral act ahead of time and the effect it has on the one who purchases a subsidy. nothing more, nothing less. you are jumping to conclusions which are not at all part of the illustration I made. you say my argument leads towards a gift card model of some kind when the argument I made says no such thing. I argued against over subsidization, but you make the claim I am for it. you argue I am for control over the employer, I am calling for freedom. please refrain from distorting my position. I am calling for freedom not just in the sense of being able to what one wants, but for freedom do to as one ought. the freedom of the employee has never been abrogated, they are responsible for their own moral decisions, what I call for is a removal of the chain which prevents the nuns from having the same freedom to make their own moral decisions, namely the freedom they once had to provide coverage for their employees and avoid having to spend money on acts that violate their consciences. a freedom which has been taken away by the mandate.

                      let me make it simple for you: if it is moral (here defined as moral to the nuns in accordance with their catholic teachings) it can be subsidized by the nuns, if it is not, then either let the employee refrain from it or pay for it with their own money.

                      let’s remember what is being done here is that for no reason other than government fiat, the insurance the nuns once provided is no longer considered acceptable, and by what measure? because it does not pay for contraceptives, sterilizations, sex changes and chemical abortion? all of these things are intrinsically opposed to the sisters’ protected values and it is a national standard that says any plan they buy must add this in or they will be fined into non-existence. that’s the real situation. the nuns don’t want control over the employee’s purchasing decisions. they only wish to once more have control over their own. why is it they should not be granted the reasonable extension of a religious exemption?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You cannot sidestep the issue simply by lengthening your comments. Cash salary can also be used for the things you list and for many others. As long as we have the unfortunate system of having employers be the means that health insurance is provided to the populace, it makes no sense to allow employers to pick and choose what coverage they will provide, appealing to religious scruples that could legitimately guide their own health care choices, but should not be imposed upon those who may not share their views. You have not made an adequate case for allowing employers to choose to not offer standard health care coverage for their employees because they disapprove of the ways that those employees might use it, any more than the ways they can use the cash part of their compensation package.

                    • Jon Fermin

                      I think I have said enough to demonstrate the difference Doctor, you only choose to ignore it. I have told you despite your insistence the nuns offer no such imposition. the absence of approval and support of another’s decision is not the same as obstruction. and no amount of insisting otherwise will change that.

                      as to what defines standard healthcare, people use that word as a euphemism. standard health care 5 years ago did not necessarily mean elective procedures like abortion, sex changes and sterilization coverage. this is why an exemption is being asked for. the exemption like any other would ask for reasonable proof that a religion has certain prohibitions and they would need to offer that proof, it is not a blanket ability to veto whatever a person does not like. give me an actual scenario where a religious organization or business wants to cut out all health insurance on the basis of religious grounds who would not also be satisfied with an exemption that only cuts out the objectionable portions the coverage which only constitute a minority of the benefits. name one, you can’t. therefore for the benefit of both sides why not offer that exemption?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You have not show why employers ought to be allowed to cut the benefits in the first place. Healthcare decisions are matters for the conscience of the patient, not their employer, in my view.

                    • Jon Fermin

                      healthcare decisions are a matter of the patient. health insurance is A PRODUCT. health insurance is NOT healthcare, it is a subsidy for that is used in healthcare. It’s a product the employee buys and pays for and continues to pay for through administrative costs. In the case of self-insured employers it also means direct payment of claims (so that if an employee makes a purchase, the employer makes a direct reimbursement) so long as we understand health insurance as a subsidy and not actually healthcare (after all it is the doctor and the medicine that treat the patient, not the claims adjuster) then it can be understandable that a company can treat a benefit like any other part of it’s budget.

                      This is a generalization, but companies can adjust benefits up or down for a number of reasons: expense, under/over-utilization, rate changes, a better offer from a competing product, labor contract negotiations, and in the case of the nuns, objection to subsidizing immoral acts/products. a patient is responsible for being aware of the limitations of his/her coverage. generally speaking, It can be considered moral for an employer to provide some sort of coverage for the employee but it is not a moral or even practical imperative that the coverage in question should cover EVERYTHING a patient may want or a doctor may demand. sometimes to be able to cover all employees (or in the case of the nuns cover any employee) prudential measures must be made either for cost (which is in itself a morally neutral act who’s morality depends on the circumstances surrounding it) or for the purposes of conscientious objections in which case for the nuns, the inability to support someone’s sin by financial support (here sin as defined by the nuns who are making the purchase either through reimbursement or product subsidization.).

                      an everyday example of these limitations is in the coverage of medications. often as a cost-saving measure brand name drugs are not covered while generics are, this encourages lower costs on the part of the employee who purchases the drug and the employer who may need to reimburse a claim. sometimes a doctor may recommend a brand name version of a drug and write an RX for it specifying no generic substitution. sometimes this may be done because the patient requests it and the doctor agrees with the patient or vice versa. per the terms and limitations of the insurance PRODUCT which the employer purchases and the employee utilizes, if the drug is not covered neither the employer or the insurer is obligated to cover the cost of the brand name drug even if the doctor and the patient want it and have a medical reason for it (this is a generalization, some policies may have medical necessity clauses which may apply, there are at times medical differences which occur in brand vs generics but the specifics of claim adjudication varies from plan to plan). this DOES NOT mean the employee is necessarily prevented from obtaining the drug. what WOULD necessarily prevent the employee from obtaining the drug is if the doctor would refuse to write an RX, this is an important distinction to make. what has happened is the employer and the insurer has denied their approval or support, it DOES NOT mean the employee has been necessarily denied healthcare. the patient is still able to obtain the drug utilizing their own funds. here it is clearly illustrated in a common example where a healthcare decision remains always in the hands of the patient but runs into a limitation of the insurance product they are utilizing, whether it is a group or personal plan. In the case of a group plan, it’s a product which is paid mostly by the employee. it is the employee that sets the terms for what limitations in coverage exist in accordance with the needs/circumstances of their organization, budget and and workforce. likewise, when an individual purchases an individual policy, they may cut out things they can’t afford or need (such as maternity care for single males or vision coverage for a young person with 20/20 vision) employers in a group policy as the purchasers of a product ought be allowed to determine the characteristics of the product they buy and consider how best these characteristics best suit them in the same way that an individual seeking an individual plan makes similar considerations for their own circumstances.

                      P.S.
                      ****As an aside, I find it important to note that the sisters’ case has shown, that this legislation has immediate and directly tangible consequences. They are immediate and measurable. The case for the mandate on the side of the state and their defense has been built upon hypothetical scenarios which do not have real world examples to demonstrate them. this is not to say that this does not create room for reasonable doubt (by a generous definition of the term) for the position of the sisters, what it does demonstrate is an important consideration for our prediction of the outcome of the trial when it comes. Civil suits like this are adjudicated not on the basis of reasonable doubt like in a criminal trial, but typically upon the greater weight of evidence. in this case, actual tangible damages and consequences like the financial damages the sisters would incur as a consequence of retaining their first amendment rights, are weighed differently than the hypothetical scenario of a hypothetical patient which may or may not exist. because of this, though we may disagree on this matter personally, having heard arguments from both sides I have confidence that the Little sisters of the poor have a much stronger judicial case than that of Sebelius or the administration. I believe that when it comes time for this case to come before the supreme court, the ruling will reflect this.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Well, once again, I think that the root problem is having health care coverage be provided through employers, with employers covering part of the costs. If we moved to a government-run system, as would make more sense, then we could avoid having to decide between the scruples of the employer and those of the employee. But as I have already indicated, employees are paid with cash, which can be applied to many more objectionable things than health insurance can, and yet we are not seeing religious objections to that.

                    • Jon Fermin

                      Your paen to single payer healthcare, while i’m sure well intended means absolutely nothing to the outcome or deliberation of this case. Single payer care is not on trial, the administration and the allegations of unconstitutional legislation and offenses against religious freedom are what this trial is about. If the administration wins this case, the supreme court will not award the president a centralized healthcare system. for all intents and purposes, centralized health care is a red herring in this conversation.

                      on your second point, once again James, allow me to remind you cash is a resource, not a product or service or (by itself) a subsidy. as straight income, it’s morally neutral. for the last time you can’t compare income to a subsidy or product or service because there is not necessarily a human will attached to the funds in the same way that a product or service furthers a will or desire or a subsidy which is cash with a certain will or desire attached to them by which they may be judged. because cash as income possesses no necessary will other than the just compensation of an employee, there is no other way to judge the morality of an income except by how that income was earned. and once earned, assuming that it was earned justly, it becomes the sole property and moral responsibility of the employee who earns it because it belongs entirely to him/her. again this is unlike an insurance policy which is the moral responsibility of the ones who pay into it.

                      now i’ve been patient here answering and re-answering your questions, you may not like my answers, but you cannot deny that I have gone to the effort to offer what I believe to be a reasonable response. you however, have yet to respond to a relevant question I have addressed.

                      Give me an actual scenario where a religious organization or business wants to cut out all health insurance on the basis of religious grounds who would not also be satisfied with an exemption that only cuts out the objectionable portions the coverage which only constitute a minority of the benefits. name one. if one cannot be named, what concrete example can one provide to deny the necessity and propriety of a more robust and comprehensive religious exemption clause?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      It is not a service so much as an insurance which potentially provides the resource to pay for the service. You can insist that they are fundamentally different, but just saying that again doesn’t make it seem more persuasive to me.

                      I do not need to give you another actual scenario in which a religious business might make the case that they want to cut all healthcare coverage on religious grounds. There are religions which eschew what we might call Western medicine. I’ve offered hypotheticals. We cannot know whether such lawsuits would arise. But the judges thinking about this case ought to consider the precedent that their decision would set. I don’t think that Catholics or any other group ought to be shown favoritism simply because they are more numerous and so can create more disruption through litigation. The same laws need to apply to small minorities as to large groups.

                    • Jon Fermin

                      Dr. Mcgrath at this point I feel that If I told you the sky were blue, you’d take up a contrary position purely for sport. for one thing I am unclear as to what “it” you are referring to in your last post. are you referring to the fundamental difference between income and insurance? if so what is there to question? by definition these two things are different on a fundamental level. income has one owner, insurance can have multiple, each with their own stake in decision making. cash has no intrinsic intent save for the will of the one who spends it. insurance is intrinsically directed funds aimed towards a particular purpose, therefore in terms of evaluating the moral decision surrounding them they are like apples and oranges. I fail to see why this is so difficult. if this is an ungraspable concept I’d hate to see what would happen if you found the law of gravity “unpersuasive”. at the end of the day, this is not about simply giving special treatments to catholics or mormons or whoever, this is about a question of whether or not the fullness of our first amendment rights ends on sunday when we walk outside of church and lose the freedom to make ethical and moral decisions with our purchases, particularly purchases which we are obligated to make. the risk religious organizations and organizations of conscience face is a very real financial collapse due to fines from this mandate which is impossible for them to abide by. all your argument once again has offered is unproven problems with unknown religious organizations denying supposed claims for imaginary employees of a fictional business for a vaguely defined reason. it is weak, and quite frankly my tolerance for it grows weaker with each hearing of it. if it is the last word you want, by all means, go right ahead. at this point it makes no difference.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      And I fail to see why it is so difficult for you to understand that your stance does not appear as self-evident to others as it does to you. We actually discussed some analogies that I thought would have clarified things for you. Whether someone is paid in cash, or in something that has a more restricted use akin to a store gift card, it scarcely makes sense to say that employers ought to be able to refuse to provide compensation if there is even the possibility that it can be used for something they object to on religious grounds. That is an issue for the conscience of the one who makes use of their compensation for that purpose, not the one who pays them.

                      If you wish to end the conversation, you are under no obligation to continue. Some of the things you said were helpful in thinking through the issue. If you think that I ought to have changed my mind as a result of what you have said, however, then you are clearly not putting yourself in the shoes of someone who does not share your assumptions.


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