On Monday, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington D.C. joined other Catholic organizations to sue the U.S. Government over a new healthcare law mandating them to provide employees with access to contraception as part of their health insurance. The lawsuit cites the First Amendment guaranteeing protection of religion.
There are already provisions in the law which bend over backwards to accommodate religious organizations, but the plaintiffs argue that these provisions don’t go far enough. The argument hinges on what can and cannot be deemed a religious organization. The law states that any institution that’s main purpose is religious in nature, such as a church or religious counseling service is exempt. It’s a complicated exemption clause, but the basic rule is that if the institution does not hire ONLY members of that religion, then it is not considered by the law to be religious.
Everything else must obey the law. This includes institutions run by religious groups but whose main purpose is not religious. This is a little easier to define: Schools, hospitals, various types of charities, and social outreach programs all fall into this category.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, thinks this is wrong.
For us, here in the District of Columbia, what would that mean? We operate schools. We’ve been operating schools decades and decades, caring for some of the neediest children in this community, and we’ve been very successful in educating them. The vast majority of these kids in our center city schools are not Catholic.
To be told we don’t count, they don’t count as religious, we don’t accept that. That’s why we’re going into court. Rather than have some sort of confusion as we move into the future, why don’t we get this settled in a very objective, dispassionate, non-political forum? The courts exist for that and that’s why Americans turn to the courts. We have always turned to our courts as citizens of this great country when there has been some confusion, some challenge, some attack on our constitutional rights, so that’s why we have joined institutions all across America in saying this is un-American and we need to get it cleaned up.
It would be good to get some kind of idea just how many people work for the institutions affected and ask them what they want in their insurance. There must be a decent proportion of employees who disagree with the Church’s stance on contraception. Hell, I bet a good chunk of those are Catholic. I think the Cardinal might just see how out of touch with society the church’s stance on contraception really is.
A Gallup poll published today only confirms these suspicions. The poll is across the population as a whole, and not just employees at Catholic institutions, but the numbers are remarkable.
90% of the population considers the use of birth control to be morally acceptable. When you consider only Catholics, the percentage drops… but only to 82%. In other words 82% of Catholics think their church is wrong on this issue.
In the short term, actions such as this are damaging the lives of people across the country. Sandra Fluke’s harrowing testimony to House Democrats in February offers a shocking glimpse of the suffering involved. In the long term, clinging to outdated dogma such as this is driving a wedge between the Catholic hierarchy and its followers — especially the younger generation. Clinging to it will only drive people away. Not that that’s a problem.
It’s difficult for me to really appreciate the ramifications of religiously mandated healthcare. My experience is very different from what you experience in the U.S.; I have access to free healthcare through the superb NHS (National Health Service). This also gets me amazing free treatment in countries with reciprocal agreements with the U.K. This includes anywhere in the European Union, as well as about 30 non-EU countries, including Russia, Australia, and New Zealand (an agreement I have had to call upon myself when in Australia). The state provides high-quality care, and I don’t have some crazy cult restricting my access to any of these services. In the U.K., objection to aspects of healthcare is a personal choice — don’t agree with contraception? Then don’t use it. Although given our high teenage pregnancy rates, it would be nice if people did…
In the U.K. press, any objection is often portrayed as the stuff of Tea Party rhetoric; Obama haters; or people stuck in the McCarthy era, terrified of communism.
It would be nice for me to get some kind of idea how popular or unpopular socialized healthcare is. Is there strong support for health care reform among left leaning voters? And if not, why not?