How our government thinks of religion

Joseph Knippenberg at First Thoughts finds a telling quotation from Leondra Kruger, Assistant to the Solicitor General, arguing at the Supreme Court in the Hosanna-Tabor case:

The government’s interest extends in this case beyond the fact that this is a retaliation to the fact that this is not a church operating internally to promulgate and express religious belief internally. It is a church that has decided to open its doors to the public to provide the service, socially beneficial service, of educating children for a fee, in compliance with State compulsory education laws.

Mr. Knippenberg points out that this mindset helps explain why the government is requiring religious institutions except for churches to provide their employees free Morning After pills and birth control devices, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs:

The reasoning here is perfectly consistent with the thought animating the narrowly-drawn exemption to the widely reviled contraceptive mandate. Whenever a church or house of worship ceases to be simply inward-looking, when it in any way engages or serves the wider public, it becomes subject to much the same sort of government regulation as any secular entity. Relgious freedom is a purely private freedom. The moment you enter the public sphere, you’re subject to regulation. The public sphere is by definition secular, not pluralistic, with its tone, terms, and limits set by governmental authority. . . .

The logic of its argument in these two cases is that any religious institution that is public-serving has to behave in many instances (those determined by the state) like every other public-serving organization. The religious presence in the public square can’t be distinctive except in ways the government permits.

Pursued consistently across the board (and the Obama Administration hasn’t yet done this), this approach would gravely threaten religious freedom. It’s one thing to say (as some have, though I disagree with them), that if you take public dollars, you have to be thoroughly secular in your operation. Anyone can escape the secularizing effect of public money by refusing to accept it. It’s quite another to say that if you serve the public, your religiosity can’t permeate your efforts and your organization. This would require almost every religious organization I know of to choose between reaching out as a bearer of good news and a helper of widows and orphans and remaining faithful to the very understanding that inspired its outreach. Under these circumstances, a church can’t remain a church.

via The Obama Admininstration’s Crabbed Vision of Religious Liberty » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • fws

    observation 1. I think the author takes an extreme position that simply is not reality. she says that “your religiosity cannot permeate your efforts and or organization”.

    I work as a real estate broker. My religion entirely permeates both my efforts and the structure (organization) of my work. But at the same time my efforts appear, and completely so to my clients and firm as being completely and utterly secular.

    observation 2: For this reason I think I completely agree with the position that the author opposes! I think that the position this author opposes is against the Lutheran Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. It confuses therefore law and gospel. how?

    ALL we can see and do is earthly kingdom righteousness that is forced out of our old adam by the law. this fully includes ALL 3 ordos or earthly governments of family society and … the church!

    Then… there is that other heavenly kingdom that is where God rules alone by faith in Christ, aka through the invisible faith in the invisible gospel. And this, of course, would be impossible for anyone to regulate with any law. So we Lutherans feel no threat at all from government regulation.

  • fws

    observation 1. I think the author takes an extreme position that simply is not reality. she says that “your religiosity cannot permeate your efforts and or organization”.

    I work as a real estate broker. My religion entirely permeates both my efforts and the structure (organization) of my work. But at the same time my efforts appear, and completely so to my clients and firm as being completely and utterly secular.

    observation 2: For this reason I think I completely agree with the position that the author opposes! I think that the position this author opposes is against the Lutheran Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. It confuses therefore law and gospel. how?

    ALL we can see and do is earthly kingdom righteousness that is forced out of our old adam by the law. this fully includes ALL 3 ordos or earthly governments of family society and … the church!

    Then… there is that other heavenly kingdom that is where God rules alone by faith in Christ, aka through the invisible faith in the invisible gospel. And this, of course, would be impossible for anyone to regulate with any law. So we Lutherans feel no threat at all from government regulation.

  • Michael B.

    1) For people who would deny women contraceptives and the morning after pill: how do you feel about providing government support to the children that result?

    2) For people who would deny women contraceptives and the morning after pill: would you support a Muslim who was fighting for his or her religious beliefs?

    Hypocrites.

  • Michael B.

    1) For people who would deny women contraceptives and the morning after pill: how do you feel about providing government support to the children that result?

    2) For people who would deny women contraceptives and the morning after pill: would you support a Muslim who was fighting for his or her religious beliefs?

    Hypocrites.

  • trotk

    Michael, you seem to have manufactured a conservative strawman, as well as asked two leading and purposefully ignorant questions.

    A conservative thinks that government support is the worst way to care for a citizen, because it makes them dependent and more inclined to practice dependent behaviors, and thus the conservative answer to number one is that it should be familial and community support for the children, because government support hurts more than helps.

    A conservative answer to number two is of course, provided that the Muslim doesn’t seek to impose it on others.

  • trotk

    Michael, you seem to have manufactured a conservative strawman, as well as asked two leading and purposefully ignorant questions.

    A conservative thinks that government support is the worst way to care for a citizen, because it makes them dependent and more inclined to practice dependent behaviors, and thus the conservative answer to number one is that it should be familial and community support for the children, because government support hurts more than helps.

    A conservative answer to number two is of course, provided that the Muslim doesn’t seek to impose it on others.

  • Dennis Peskey

    We do have some consolation in that this opinion originates within the executive branch of our government. In the case of Hosanna-Tabor vs EEOC, the judicial branch obviously held a differing viewpoint. I’m not as confident religious organizations will fare as well when the subject changes to birth control or abortion. Our Supreme Court is burdened with a abomination called Roe vs Wade and inertia dictates they not trespass previous foolishness.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    We do have some consolation in that this opinion originates within the executive branch of our government. In the case of Hosanna-Tabor vs EEOC, the judicial branch obviously held a differing viewpoint. I’m not as confident religious organizations will fare as well when the subject changes to birth control or abortion. Our Supreme Court is burdened with a abomination called Roe vs Wade and inertia dictates they not trespass previous foolishness.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Steve Billingsley

    trotk@3
    If you haven’t noticed, that is Michael B’s MO – he pops on, offers up a strawman argument with no supporting facts and then goes his merry way.

    Mr. Knippenberg’s argument (and the position of the Catholic Church and others who oppose this ruling) has nothing to do with whether denying anyone contraceptives. They are readily available to anyone who wishes to obtain them. The argument is to whether the government can compel an organization to pay for contraceptives (and morning after pills, etc.) against their religious teachings. As to the other part of his argument (regarding supporting children and supporting the rights of free expression for Muslims) – I have nothing against tax dollars going to provide needed support to children (and very few people do). It has everything to do with how those dollars are allocated and if they are effective in accomplishing the intended result. Often the programs that intend to support children aren’t particularly effective.
    Finally, what exactly does Michael B have in mind when he speaks of supporting a Muslim’s rights? Muslim organizations are likely in agreement with the Catholic Church on this issue. I wouldn’t be in favor of the government forcing a Muslim organization (such as a school or hospital) to serve alcohol or pork in their cafeteria or to provide financing in a way that goes against Muslim teaching. Does Michael B have an example that he thinks proves his point?

    Again, strawmen, name-calling and no supporting facts. Same as it ever was.

  • Steve Billingsley

    trotk@3
    If you haven’t noticed, that is Michael B’s MO – he pops on, offers up a strawman argument with no supporting facts and then goes his merry way.

    Mr. Knippenberg’s argument (and the position of the Catholic Church and others who oppose this ruling) has nothing to do with whether denying anyone contraceptives. They are readily available to anyone who wishes to obtain them. The argument is to whether the government can compel an organization to pay for contraceptives (and morning after pills, etc.) against their religious teachings. As to the other part of his argument (regarding supporting children and supporting the rights of free expression for Muslims) – I have nothing against tax dollars going to provide needed support to children (and very few people do). It has everything to do with how those dollars are allocated and if they are effective in accomplishing the intended result. Often the programs that intend to support children aren’t particularly effective.
    Finally, what exactly does Michael B have in mind when he speaks of supporting a Muslim’s rights? Muslim organizations are likely in agreement with the Catholic Church on this issue. I wouldn’t be in favor of the government forcing a Muslim organization (such as a school or hospital) to serve alcohol or pork in their cafeteria or to provide financing in a way that goes against Muslim teaching. Does Michael B have an example that he thinks proves his point?

    Again, strawmen, name-calling and no supporting facts. Same as it ever was.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Excuse the grammatical errors (and there a few) – morning after the Super Bowl…..:)

  • Steve Billingsley

    Excuse the grammatical errors (and there a few) – morning after the Super Bowl…..:)

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    “Relgious freedom is a purely private freedom.”
    This is the kind of bull-hooey that is eroding our nation.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    “Relgious freedom is a purely private freedom.”
    This is the kind of bull-hooey that is eroding our nation.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Michael B. is little more than a troll. Best to just ignore and move on.

    @#1 fws, I beg to differ. We, Lutherans do fear the encroachment of the government on our religious freedom. We fear the encroachment because the left hand kingdom is seeking authority over the right hand by defining what is and what isn’t religious activity and therefore what is protected by the First Amendment. What is occurring is a gradual erosion of our rights that will lead to an attempt to control what we proclaim and will force us to take a stand against the left hand kingdom. This is not an idea I am all that thrilled with as I don’t cherish the idea of going underground.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Michael B. is little more than a troll. Best to just ignore and move on.

    @#1 fws, I beg to differ. We, Lutherans do fear the encroachment of the government on our religious freedom. We fear the encroachment because the left hand kingdom is seeking authority over the right hand by defining what is and what isn’t religious activity and therefore what is protected by the First Amendment. What is occurring is a gradual erosion of our rights that will lead to an attempt to control what we proclaim and will force us to take a stand against the left hand kingdom. This is not an idea I am all that thrilled with as I don’t cherish the idea of going underground.

  • Jonatha

    Now we know how the Mormons felt when our government turned against religion and outlawed polygamy. If plural wives are outlawed, they said, only outlaws will have plural wives. But many Mormons, not wanting to face prosecution as outlaws, left the US for Mexico. Among them was Romney’s grandfather. Now Romney, a Mormon, is the only hope for the Christian right, who believe our government has turned against religion. Only in America.

  • Jonatha

    Now we know how the Mormons felt when our government turned against religion and outlawed polygamy. If plural wives are outlawed, they said, only outlaws will have plural wives. But many Mormons, not wanting to face prosecution as outlaws, left the US for Mexico. Among them was Romney’s grandfather. Now Romney, a Mormon, is the only hope for the Christian right, who believe our government has turned against religion. Only in America.

  • Jerry

    John, @7, correct, that is the critical issue! The WA state legislature in defiance of God (Psalms 2) has chosen to re-define marriage, as if they really had the power to do so, God might have a say or two in this, and has voted down amendments to allow any religious exceptions.

  • Jerry

    John, @7, correct, that is the critical issue! The WA state legislature in defiance of God (Psalms 2) has chosen to re-define marriage, as if they really had the power to do so, God might have a say or two in this, and has voted down amendments to allow any religious exceptions.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Wow…apparently this post was a troll magnet. At least Jonatha (forget the n?) mixed in a bit of sarcasm to lighten up the trolling.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Wow…apparently this post was a troll magnet. At least Jonatha (forget the n?) mixed in a bit of sarcasm to lighten up the trolling.

  • DonS

    Should the state be defining marriage, Jonatha @ 9? I think I’ve seen your counterpart, Jonathan, on other threads, argue that defining marriage, such as by limiting it to between a man and a woman, is not a state function, so why should it be limited to two people? Maybe the Mormons were right, eh?

  • DonS

    Should the state be defining marriage, Jonatha @ 9? I think I’ve seen your counterpart, Jonathan, on other threads, argue that defining marriage, such as by limiting it to between a man and a woman, is not a state function, so why should it be limited to two people? Maybe the Mormons were right, eh?

  • DonS

    I’ll feed the troll @ 2, just for the purpose of pointing out the silliness of his comment.

    1:

    For people who would deny women contraceptives and the morning after pill: how do you feel about providing government support to the children that result?

    In the context of this discussion, we are only talking about the conscience rights of Christians not to have to fund contraceptives and the morning after pill as part of a mandated health insurance package. No one is denying women the right to pay for their own contraceptives. Talk about a strawman.

    2:

    For people who would deny women contraceptives and the morning after pill: would you support a Muslim who was fighting for his or her religious beliefs?

    Most of us on here would certainly support a Muslim fighting for the reasonable practice of his own religious beliefs. We’re not going to support his asserted right to oppress or mistreat others in the name of his faith, just as we wouldn’t support a Christian misapplying his faith in such a way. But as far as protecting his right from government interference with his faith practices and compelling him to act against conscience, of course. You have fallen for the cultural establishment’s portrayal of conservative Christian views, rather than seeking an actual understanding of them. That’s unfortunate.

  • DonS

    I’ll feed the troll @ 2, just for the purpose of pointing out the silliness of his comment.

    1:

    For people who would deny women contraceptives and the morning after pill: how do you feel about providing government support to the children that result?

    In the context of this discussion, we are only talking about the conscience rights of Christians not to have to fund contraceptives and the morning after pill as part of a mandated health insurance package. No one is denying women the right to pay for their own contraceptives. Talk about a strawman.

    2:

    For people who would deny women contraceptives and the morning after pill: would you support a Muslim who was fighting for his or her religious beliefs?

    Most of us on here would certainly support a Muslim fighting for the reasonable practice of his own religious beliefs. We’re not going to support his asserted right to oppress or mistreat others in the name of his faith, just as we wouldn’t support a Christian misapplying his faith in such a way. But as far as protecting his right from government interference with his faith practices and compelling him to act against conscience, of course. You have fallen for the cultural establishment’s portrayal of conservative Christian views, rather than seeking an actual understanding of them. That’s unfortunate.

  • formerly just steve

    Religion-based or not, whatever happened to the notion that if people don’t like the kind of healthcare their employer offers they go to another employer? This is pure activism and, as I’ve said before, it serves the dual-purpose of highlighting the negative side of employer-based insurance. The only option: government run universal healthcare.

  • formerly just steve

    Religion-based or not, whatever happened to the notion that if people don’t like the kind of healthcare their employer offers they go to another employer? This is pure activism and, as I’ve said before, it serves the dual-purpose of highlighting the negative side of employer-based insurance. The only option: government run universal healthcare.

  • Gary

    @Steve (11) “troll mangnet”

    Jonathon’s comment didn’t strike me at first as trollish; Michael’s, perhaps more so, since it did have a hit-and-run feel.

    I don’t want to be considered a troll, even though I comment rather infrequently here, and even though by nature I’m a bit contrarian. But to be honest, I don’t think the Roman Catholic side has a case here. Let me make a case for the contrary, keeping in mind I’m being serious and I’m not stupid (despite the fact that tODD skewered me as such the last time I broached this topic.)

    1. Even IF someone believes _taking_ birth control pills is a sin, and therefore by extension, a sin as well to get such a prescription filled (but it actually wouldn’t be a “sin” to get the prescription filled, only in most cases a sin to take the pills), what is being mandated is that plans with prescription drug coverage cannot be tailored to EXCLUDE those drugs. It is not a sin, even given assumptions about procreation, to pay for insurance coverage, no matter what the insurance might potentially cover. Therefore, it is only a matter of conscience in a very diluted form–”I don’t want to have any part of my insurance premium going toward something that seemingly _supports_ a behavior I disagree with.” To me, that’s one tender conscience indeed.

    2. Some Baptists are really wound around the axle about smoking. Anything having to do with tobacco is stigmatized. It’s a sin to smoke. It would probably be considered a serious sin to own stock in Philip Morris. A store might conceivably be boycotted for selling tobacco products, and so on. Now suppose a Baptist institution (church, school, other) wanted to offer a plan for its employees, and it’s known they employ non-Baptists. According to most of the reasoning on this thread, there would be nothing wrong with them EXCLUDING the NicoDerm “quit smoking” patch from the plan on the grounds that acknowledging the existence of smokers is shameful, and if medicine can make it less painful to quit smoking, someone might be tempted to actually try smoking in the first place.

    I think the government position is that a religious institution can hold any beliefs it wants to, but employees (who may not believe the dogma) are not being treated right when their employment benefits get worked over so as not to _appear_ to support one thing or another.

    Now without name-calling, does anyone want to address this? Isn’t this the real issue (something that also should have figured into the Hossana-Tabor decision): People employed by religious institutions have, as Americans and workers, rights and reasonable expectations, which the official dogma may rather want to see undermined, and yet the worker still retains said rights, EVEN IF the employer expects him to give up his rights as a condition for employment. Is this fair? Or perhaps better, does anyone else see that there’s two sides to this issue?

  • Gary

    @Steve (11) “troll mangnet”

    Jonathon’s comment didn’t strike me at first as trollish; Michael’s, perhaps more so, since it did have a hit-and-run feel.

    I don’t want to be considered a troll, even though I comment rather infrequently here, and even though by nature I’m a bit contrarian. But to be honest, I don’t think the Roman Catholic side has a case here. Let me make a case for the contrary, keeping in mind I’m being serious and I’m not stupid (despite the fact that tODD skewered me as such the last time I broached this topic.)

    1. Even IF someone believes _taking_ birth control pills is a sin, and therefore by extension, a sin as well to get such a prescription filled (but it actually wouldn’t be a “sin” to get the prescription filled, only in most cases a sin to take the pills), what is being mandated is that plans with prescription drug coverage cannot be tailored to EXCLUDE those drugs. It is not a sin, even given assumptions about procreation, to pay for insurance coverage, no matter what the insurance might potentially cover. Therefore, it is only a matter of conscience in a very diluted form–”I don’t want to have any part of my insurance premium going toward something that seemingly _supports_ a behavior I disagree with.” To me, that’s one tender conscience indeed.

    2. Some Baptists are really wound around the axle about smoking. Anything having to do with tobacco is stigmatized. It’s a sin to smoke. It would probably be considered a serious sin to own stock in Philip Morris. A store might conceivably be boycotted for selling tobacco products, and so on. Now suppose a Baptist institution (church, school, other) wanted to offer a plan for its employees, and it’s known they employ non-Baptists. According to most of the reasoning on this thread, there would be nothing wrong with them EXCLUDING the NicoDerm “quit smoking” patch from the plan on the grounds that acknowledging the existence of smokers is shameful, and if medicine can make it less painful to quit smoking, someone might be tempted to actually try smoking in the first place.

    I think the government position is that a religious institution can hold any beliefs it wants to, but employees (who may not believe the dogma) are not being treated right when their employment benefits get worked over so as not to _appear_ to support one thing or another.

    Now without name-calling, does anyone want to address this? Isn’t this the real issue (something that also should have figured into the Hossana-Tabor decision): People employed by religious institutions have, as Americans and workers, rights and reasonable expectations, which the official dogma may rather want to see undermined, and yet the worker still retains said rights, EVEN IF the employer expects him to give up his rights as a condition for employment. Is this fair? Or perhaps better, does anyone else see that there’s two sides to this issue?

  • kenneth

    fws 1st post.. I believe you are the one that is confused about the two kingdoms. The left hand is about private as much as it is about the right hand as the Kingdom of God on earth. There is no reason anyone couldn’t protest the damning of both the right and the left hands. The government ought to keep it’s tax picking hands of both; considering the severity of abortion as murder!!!!!!!!!!!

  • kenneth

    fws 1st post.. I believe you are the one that is confused about the two kingdoms. The left hand is about private as much as it is about the right hand as the Kingdom of God on earth. There is no reason anyone couldn’t protest the damning of both the right and the left hands. The government ought to keep it’s tax picking hands of both; considering the severity of abortion as murder!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Steve Billingsley

    Gary @ 15
    Here’s where I think people have gotten on the wrong track on this issue. To me, getting in the weeds over contraception or (smoking to use your other example) isn’t the point at all. The issue is the role of government and free exercise of religion. The issue is that whenever the government wanders into the ground of religious beliefs and exercise of those beliefs it needs to tread very carefully. The First Amendment was not addressed to individuals, but to the government itself, “Congress shall make no law….”. So if the government legislates (or in this case makes an executive ruling) regarding ANYTHING that touches on religious beliefs and free exercise it has to have a compelling reason for doing so. For example, if a religious organization or adherent to a particular set of religious beliefs wants to perform a human sacrifice, the government has a compelling reason to intervene (in this hypothetical, to save a human life). What is the compelling reason for government to intervene here? The onus is not on the religious organization or believer to prove their case that they should be able to exercise their religious beliefs. It is on the government to prove that it has a compelling reason to interfere or limit that exercise. Has the government proved that at all here? What is the compelling reason to compel Catholic schools or hospitals to provide coverage that covers contraception (or elective abortion)? The government hasn’t even attempted to make that case. In Hosanna-Tabor it attempted to make a case regarding worker rights, but the Supreme Court (including 2 Obama appointees) was entirely unimpressed.

    Can you address why the government should be able to compel religious institutions in these matters? What reason would you give?

  • Steve Billingsley

    Gary @ 15
    Here’s where I think people have gotten on the wrong track on this issue. To me, getting in the weeds over contraception or (smoking to use your other example) isn’t the point at all. The issue is the role of government and free exercise of religion. The issue is that whenever the government wanders into the ground of religious beliefs and exercise of those beliefs it needs to tread very carefully. The First Amendment was not addressed to individuals, but to the government itself, “Congress shall make no law….”. So if the government legislates (or in this case makes an executive ruling) regarding ANYTHING that touches on religious beliefs and free exercise it has to have a compelling reason for doing so. For example, if a religious organization or adherent to a particular set of religious beliefs wants to perform a human sacrifice, the government has a compelling reason to intervene (in this hypothetical, to save a human life). What is the compelling reason for government to intervene here? The onus is not on the religious organization or believer to prove their case that they should be able to exercise their religious beliefs. It is on the government to prove that it has a compelling reason to interfere or limit that exercise. Has the government proved that at all here? What is the compelling reason to compel Catholic schools or hospitals to provide coverage that covers contraception (or elective abortion)? The government hasn’t even attempted to make that case. In Hosanna-Tabor it attempted to make a case regarding worker rights, but the Supreme Court (including 2 Obama appointees) was entirely unimpressed.

    Can you address why the government should be able to compel religious institutions in these matters? What reason would you give?

  • mikeb

    Gary @ 15

    I post somewhat infrequently, too. But like you, I am no troll.

    I think part of what’s so intrusive about the mandate to fund birth control for Catholics (& some Lutherans, like myself) is that in the case of large employers they rarely purchase health insurance. They generally contract with companies like BlueCross & BlueShield, Aetna, or United HealthCare to manage a plan that serves the employee as if it were insurance, but the benefits are essentially paid out of the treasury of the company or organization. The “insurance company” gets a fee to handle the paperwork. Smaller employers and companies that must form a group don’t fit this model, but my guess is that many if not most of the Catholic charities are self insured.

  • mikeb

    Gary @ 15

    I post somewhat infrequently, too. But like you, I am no troll.

    I think part of what’s so intrusive about the mandate to fund birth control for Catholics (& some Lutherans, like myself) is that in the case of large employers they rarely purchase health insurance. They generally contract with companies like BlueCross & BlueShield, Aetna, or United HealthCare to manage a plan that serves the employee as if it were insurance, but the benefits are essentially paid out of the treasury of the company or organization. The “insurance company” gets a fee to handle the paperwork. Smaller employers and companies that must form a group don’t fit this model, but my guess is that many if not most of the Catholic charities are self insured.

  • mikeb

    Steve Billingsley @17

    The issue is the role of government and free exercise of religion.

    I agree that more is at stake but it’s not just the free exercise of religion. It’s about what kind of freedom we cherish; whether we’ll seek life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Or whatever gimme a politician thinks will get him or her reelected.

    A government that is powerful enough to tell me I must provide free contraceptives to my employees is too powerful. Period.

  • mikeb

    Steve Billingsley @17

    The issue is the role of government and free exercise of religion.

    I agree that more is at stake but it’s not just the free exercise of religion. It’s about what kind of freedom we cherish; whether we’ll seek life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Or whatever gimme a politician thinks will get him or her reelected.

    A government that is powerful enough to tell me I must provide free contraceptives to my employees is too powerful. Period.

  • Jonathan

    @17
    Everything you wrote, except where you mention Catholic schools, which you initially said was not the issue, could have been (and undoubtedly was) said by the LDS church when the government cracked down on their polygamy. To frame this as a ‘war on religion’ is fine but only if you define religion as something people other than you practice. You’re on much safer and more logical sound if you address the issue as thoughtful Catholics are doing and not as Fox News headline.

  • Jonathan

    @17
    Everything you wrote, except where you mention Catholic schools, which you initially said was not the issue, could have been (and undoubtedly was) said by the LDS church when the government cracked down on their polygamy. To frame this as a ‘war on religion’ is fine but only if you define religion as something people other than you practice. You’re on much safer and more logical sound if you address the issue as thoughtful Catholics are doing and not as Fox News headline.

  • Gary

    Steve @17

    To finish out the quote a few words longer: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

    You are correct the First Amendment is addressed to Congress, and therefore aims to limit what government can do. It is ONLY because the employers are (or hypothetically are) religious institutions that this “No Establishment” clause comes into play. No one would think twice if these regulations were aimed at a different sector, no matter who was being made to pay for what. It is simply understood that laws governing employment, workplace safety, worker’s rights, discrimination, equal pay for equal work, etc., are things which will need to be accepted as part of the cost of doing business in America. Obviously, if Congress passes laws that are ill-conceived, people are going to advocate for changing the regulations.

    But here’s what typically doesn’t happen: No business or sector tries to claim a rightful exemption from the regulations, and certainly not on the basis of how it might _appear_ they supported a social trend. Accordingly, if we take equal pay for equal work as an example, the government will not let a religious institution claim: Here are two workers, both with the same seniority, and both doing the same job. But we are justified in paying the male worker more on the basis of the Order of Creation, and also so as not to appear supportive of women choosing career over hearth and home.

    In other words, quite unlike other employers, the Church _does_ stand on the First Amendment to exempt itself from some laws which regulate others, but there must be justification. It should therefore be expected to answer coherently how the application of the regulation would “prohibit the free exercise thereof,” keeping in mind it supposed to touch on the exercise of _religion_, not just aspects of Christian business.

    So instead of you asking me to address “why the government should be able to compel religious institutions in these matters?,” I think it more fitting to ask, what compelling reason can religious employers give for this being yet another “justified” exemption? Again, the premium is paid to an insurance company to pay for a plan which includes a benefit to offset the cost of a prescription, not to tell anyone it’s a good prescription to take. The current administration would like every American to have some kind of heath coverage, and the coverage won’t be much good if it has a bunch of holes in it. Refusal to cover prescription contraceptives is just such a hole to the government.

    And also, really, how is there a problem of conscience involved here that isn’t extremely far-fetched? LC-MS workers have a plan that covers prescription drugs…it makes me wonder whether a drug/therapy derived from stem cell research would be excluded on the basis that some worker, somewhere, might have a prescription filled that could reflect positively on the original research that may have been done years before. And–Oh Woe!–My premiums might pay for that potentiality!!! (*face palm*)

  • Gary

    Steve @17

    To finish out the quote a few words longer: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

    You are correct the First Amendment is addressed to Congress, and therefore aims to limit what government can do. It is ONLY because the employers are (or hypothetically are) religious institutions that this “No Establishment” clause comes into play. No one would think twice if these regulations were aimed at a different sector, no matter who was being made to pay for what. It is simply understood that laws governing employment, workplace safety, worker’s rights, discrimination, equal pay for equal work, etc., are things which will need to be accepted as part of the cost of doing business in America. Obviously, if Congress passes laws that are ill-conceived, people are going to advocate for changing the regulations.

    But here’s what typically doesn’t happen: No business or sector tries to claim a rightful exemption from the regulations, and certainly not on the basis of how it might _appear_ they supported a social trend. Accordingly, if we take equal pay for equal work as an example, the government will not let a religious institution claim: Here are two workers, both with the same seniority, and both doing the same job. But we are justified in paying the male worker more on the basis of the Order of Creation, and also so as not to appear supportive of women choosing career over hearth and home.

    In other words, quite unlike other employers, the Church _does_ stand on the First Amendment to exempt itself from some laws which regulate others, but there must be justification. It should therefore be expected to answer coherently how the application of the regulation would “prohibit the free exercise thereof,” keeping in mind it supposed to touch on the exercise of _religion_, not just aspects of Christian business.

    So instead of you asking me to address “why the government should be able to compel religious institutions in these matters?,” I think it more fitting to ask, what compelling reason can religious employers give for this being yet another “justified” exemption? Again, the premium is paid to an insurance company to pay for a plan which includes a benefit to offset the cost of a prescription, not to tell anyone it’s a good prescription to take. The current administration would like every American to have some kind of heath coverage, and the coverage won’t be much good if it has a bunch of holes in it. Refusal to cover prescription contraceptives is just such a hole to the government.

    And also, really, how is there a problem of conscience involved here that isn’t extremely far-fetched? LC-MS workers have a plan that covers prescription drugs…it makes me wonder whether a drug/therapy derived from stem cell research would be excluded on the basis that some worker, somewhere, might have a prescription filled that could reflect positively on the original research that may have been done years before. And–Oh Woe!–My premiums might pay for that potentiality!!! (*face palm*)

  • Steve Billingsley

    Gary @ 15
    So instead of you asking me to address “why the government should be able to compel religious institutions in these matters?,” I think it more fitting to ask, what compelling reason can religious employers give for this being yet another “justified” exemption?

    That is exactly backward. The rights listed in the First Amendment (freedom of religion, the press and peaceful assembly) are not granted by the government. According to the Declaration of Independence these rights (“among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – note that isn’t an exhaustive list, but merely examples) are given by God. The government does not grant rights and can only infringe upon them with cause. If the religious employer has to prove why they have an “exemption” to a law that requires them to do something which is expressly contrary to their religious teachings then the government becomes, in effect, God.

    You or I don’t have to be members of any religious group or work for any specific employer. That is our right. If the government can compel groups to do things that directly contradict their values/beliefs/religious teaching – then where does it stop? What if the government requires a business that you own to purchase war bonds to support a war that you believe is immoral? Or to purchase products that were made with slave labor? What would be your recourse to such a requirement?

    Catholic hospitals and schools only represent a relatively small portion of the health care and education fields and serve only a small portion of the population. They cannot impose their beliefs and values upon you, they simply do not have the power and resources to do so. The government is much more powerful and has resources, weapons, the ability to tax and print money, policing powers and a whole host of abilities that no other institution in society has. If any institution in society needs to have clear limits drawn on what it can and cannot do – it is the government. The HHS ruling is a clear overstep of appropriate boundaries. I don’t know how it could be more clear.

  • Steve Billingsley

    Gary @ 15
    So instead of you asking me to address “why the government should be able to compel religious institutions in these matters?,” I think it more fitting to ask, what compelling reason can religious employers give for this being yet another “justified” exemption?

    That is exactly backward. The rights listed in the First Amendment (freedom of religion, the press and peaceful assembly) are not granted by the government. According to the Declaration of Independence these rights (“among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – note that isn’t an exhaustive list, but merely examples) are given by God. The government does not grant rights and can only infringe upon them with cause. If the religious employer has to prove why they have an “exemption” to a law that requires them to do something which is expressly contrary to their religious teachings then the government becomes, in effect, God.

    You or I don’t have to be members of any religious group or work for any specific employer. That is our right. If the government can compel groups to do things that directly contradict their values/beliefs/religious teaching – then where does it stop? What if the government requires a business that you own to purchase war bonds to support a war that you believe is immoral? Or to purchase products that were made with slave labor? What would be your recourse to such a requirement?

    Catholic hospitals and schools only represent a relatively small portion of the health care and education fields and serve only a small portion of the population. They cannot impose their beliefs and values upon you, they simply do not have the power and resources to do so. The government is much more powerful and has resources, weapons, the ability to tax and print money, policing powers and a whole host of abilities that no other institution in society has. If any institution in society needs to have clear limits drawn on what it can and cannot do – it is the government. The HHS ruling is a clear overstep of appropriate boundaries. I don’t know how it could be more clear.

  • DonS

    Gary @ 15 and 21: A troll is one who swoops in on a thread, makes some unsupported, inflammatory comment, typically involving strawmen and/or ad hominems, and then disappears again, refusing to engage and have a genuine discussion about the topic at hand, only to re-appear on another thread. Trolls can be conservative or liberal, Christian or non, that’s not the point. Being a contrarian does not make you a troll — most of us are contrarian in one way or another. By engaging with thoughtful comments, you are evidencing yourself as not being one.

    So with that out of the way ;-), on to the substance. As a threshold issue, the basic problem we have is that the government is expanding into more and more areas of our lives, making interference with our respective rights to free exercise of religion almost inevitable, eventually. For example, why does the government mandate the nature of employer health benefits at all? Employers are not required to offer health insurance coverage. If they choose to do so, should they not be free to design the coverage they are willing to provide? Then the employee can purchase or find additional coverage if they want to. Or, if the government thinks there is something missing in the coverage available in private markets, it can, if there is enough political support, provide that missing coverage itself. But making private entities include certain features in their voluntarily provided coverage is the first wrong here.

    Of course, this first wrong leads to the second one, which is mandating that people or organizations holding to certain sincere religious values must provide free coverage for certain benefits which are in direct contradiction to those values. Your first point @ 15 is that the government is only mandating that employer-provided policies cannot be tailored to exclude certain benefits, namely contraceptives and abortifacients. My first response to that is if you are being forced to not exclude certain benefits, you are in fact being forced to provide them. Any other interpretation is pure semantics. However, more to the point, the HHS regulations actually require that those particular benefits be provided absolutely free of charge. No deductibles, no co-payments. That is FAR more than a mere mandate not to exclude.

    Your second point @ 15 was a stereotypical slam on Baptists, but why couldn’t an organization exclude the nicotine patch from its offered coverage if it wanted to? Does everyone have a right to a free nicotine patch, provided by their private employer? Is it better to force the employer to instead offer NO coverage to the employee? Because that’s what the regulations require — all or nothing. That is crazy.

    Your comment @ 21 builds on this notion that it is perfectly legitimate for our federal government to be intruding into this arena by mandating specific coverages and benefits in voluntary coverage. To many of us, that is a false premise. It is not legitimate. And, if the government is going to become so intrusive, then it is the one with the burden to ensure that it does not infringe on the constitutional rights of citizens to free exercise of their religious beliefs, not the other way around. Certainly, it is not the government’s right to define legitimate free exercise as being limited to what happens in the sanctuary on Sunday morning, as the Obama administration seems to be arguing.

  • DonS

    Gary @ 15 and 21: A troll is one who swoops in on a thread, makes some unsupported, inflammatory comment, typically involving strawmen and/or ad hominems, and then disappears again, refusing to engage and have a genuine discussion about the topic at hand, only to re-appear on another thread. Trolls can be conservative or liberal, Christian or non, that’s not the point. Being a contrarian does not make you a troll — most of us are contrarian in one way or another. By engaging with thoughtful comments, you are evidencing yourself as not being one.

    So with that out of the way ;-), on to the substance. As a threshold issue, the basic problem we have is that the government is expanding into more and more areas of our lives, making interference with our respective rights to free exercise of religion almost inevitable, eventually. For example, why does the government mandate the nature of employer health benefits at all? Employers are not required to offer health insurance coverage. If they choose to do so, should they not be free to design the coverage they are willing to provide? Then the employee can purchase or find additional coverage if they want to. Or, if the government thinks there is something missing in the coverage available in private markets, it can, if there is enough political support, provide that missing coverage itself. But making private entities include certain features in their voluntarily provided coverage is the first wrong here.

    Of course, this first wrong leads to the second one, which is mandating that people or organizations holding to certain sincere religious values must provide free coverage for certain benefits which are in direct contradiction to those values. Your first point @ 15 is that the government is only mandating that employer-provided policies cannot be tailored to exclude certain benefits, namely contraceptives and abortifacients. My first response to that is if you are being forced to not exclude certain benefits, you are in fact being forced to provide them. Any other interpretation is pure semantics. However, more to the point, the HHS regulations actually require that those particular benefits be provided absolutely free of charge. No deductibles, no co-payments. That is FAR more than a mere mandate not to exclude.

    Your second point @ 15 was a stereotypical slam on Baptists, but why couldn’t an organization exclude the nicotine patch from its offered coverage if it wanted to? Does everyone have a right to a free nicotine patch, provided by their private employer? Is it better to force the employer to instead offer NO coverage to the employee? Because that’s what the regulations require — all or nothing. That is crazy.

    Your comment @ 21 builds on this notion that it is perfectly legitimate for our federal government to be intruding into this arena by mandating specific coverages and benefits in voluntary coverage. To many of us, that is a false premise. It is not legitimate. And, if the government is going to become so intrusive, then it is the one with the burden to ensure that it does not infringe on the constitutional rights of citizens to free exercise of their religious beliefs, not the other way around. Certainly, it is not the government’s right to define legitimate free exercise as being limited to what happens in the sanctuary on Sunday morning, as the Obama administration seems to be arguing.

  • Michael B.

    You use the term “strawman”. I don’t think that term means what you think it means. Look it up, and try to explain how my post commits this accused logical fallacy. You’re using the term without understanding what it even means.

    Jonathan @20 makes an interesting point. How come it’s not a war on religion if you want to deny fundamentalists Mormons their right to practice consensual polygamy?

  • Michael B.

    You use the term “strawman”. I don’t think that term means what you think it means. Look it up, and try to explain how my post commits this accused logical fallacy. You’re using the term without understanding what it even means.

    Jonathan @20 makes an interesting point. How come it’s not a war on religion if you want to deny fundamentalists Mormons their right to practice consensual polygamy?

  • DonS

    Michael B. @ 24:

    From Wikipedia:

    A straw man is a component of an argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

    I’m not sure to whom you were directing your comment @ 24, but the term “Straw Man” means exactly what I thought it means. It is the logical fallacy of creating an argument that is not the one actually being forwarded by your opponent, and then attacking that false argument as if it were. @ 2, you presented two questions. Now, if they were just random questions, not directed to anyone on this blog, but just thrown out there for “anyone” who might hold those actual views, then fine. Pointless, but fine. But, if your questions were an effort to characterize the actual views of those of us who oppose the administration’s regulations, then they are straw men, for the reasons I already stated @ 13.

    As for the polygamy question, it’s not clear to me how someone who wishes to practice polygamy is in any way circumvented from doing so by law. No law is going to prevent a man from living with multiple women and having children by those women. The only issue is whether the state will recognize multiple marriages simultaneously. I don’t see any right for Mormon polygamists to force the government to recognize their multiple marriages civilly, any more than I see a right for gays to force the government to recognize their marriages. But, the important thing is that Mormon polygamists are not being compelled by the government to do an affirmative act against conscience, as is the case with these health regulations.

  • DonS

    Michael B. @ 24:

    From Wikipedia:

    A straw man is a component of an argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent’s position. To “attack a straw man” is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.

    I’m not sure to whom you were directing your comment @ 24, but the term “Straw Man” means exactly what I thought it means. It is the logical fallacy of creating an argument that is not the one actually being forwarded by your opponent, and then attacking that false argument as if it were. @ 2, you presented two questions. Now, if they were just random questions, not directed to anyone on this blog, but just thrown out there for “anyone” who might hold those actual views, then fine. Pointless, but fine. But, if your questions were an effort to characterize the actual views of those of us who oppose the administration’s regulations, then they are straw men, for the reasons I already stated @ 13.

    As for the polygamy question, it’s not clear to me how someone who wishes to practice polygamy is in any way circumvented from doing so by law. No law is going to prevent a man from living with multiple women and having children by those women. The only issue is whether the state will recognize multiple marriages simultaneously. I don’t see any right for Mormon polygamists to force the government to recognize their multiple marriages civilly, any more than I see a right for gays to force the government to recognize their marriages. But, the important thing is that Mormon polygamists are not being compelled by the government to do an affirmative act against conscience, as is the case with these health regulations.

  • Michael B.

    @DonS

    But I didn’t claim the argument was invalid; I only claimed the proponents were hypocrites. You can be a hypocrite and still be right. If I smoked 2 packs a day and told my children not to smoke, although I would be a hypocrite, that doesn’t mean smoking isn’t a bad thing.

  • Michael B.

    @DonS

    But I didn’t claim the argument was invalid; I only claimed the proponents were hypocrites. You can be a hypocrite and still be right. If I smoked 2 packs a day and told my children not to smoke, although I would be a hypocrite, that doesn’t mean smoking isn’t a bad thing.

  • DonS

    Michael B. @ 26: You missed the point. Re-read my comment @ 13. The arguments, as you expressed them in your formulated questions, are not the ones being made. They are ones you made up.

  • DonS

    Michael B. @ 26: You missed the point. Re-read my comment @ 13. The arguments, as you expressed them in your formulated questions, are not the ones being made. They are ones you made up.

  • Grace

    Catholic League Poised To Go To War With Obama Over Mandatory Birth Control Payments

    Donohue Says 70 Million Of His Voters Ready To Alter Presidential Election
    February 6, 2012 7:44 PM

    “NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Catholic leaders upped the ante Monday, threatening to challenge the Obama administration over a provision of the new health care law that would require all employers, including religious institutions, to pay for birth control.

    As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reports, it could affect the presidential elections.

    Catholic leaders are furious and determined to harness the voting power of the nation’s 70 million Catholic voters to stop a provision of President Barack Obama’s new heath car reform bill that will force Catholic schools, hospitals and charities to buy birth control pills, abortion-producing drugs and sterilization coverage for their employees.

    “Never before, unprecedented in American history, for the federal government to line up against the Roman Catholic Church,” said Catholic League head Bill Donohue.

    Already Archbishop Timothy Dolan has spoken out against the law and priests around the country have mobilized, reading letters from the pulpit. Donohue said Catholic officials will stop at nothing to put a stop to it.

    “This is going to be fought out with lawsuits, with court decisions, and, dare I say it, maybe even in the streets,” Donohue said.

    http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/02/06/catholic-league-poised-to-go-to-war-with-obama-over-mandatory-birth-control-payments/

  • Grace

    Catholic League Poised To Go To War With Obama Over Mandatory Birth Control Payments

    Donohue Says 70 Million Of His Voters Ready To Alter Presidential Election
    February 6, 2012 7:44 PM

    “NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Catholic leaders upped the ante Monday, threatening to challenge the Obama administration over a provision of the new health care law that would require all employers, including religious institutions, to pay for birth control.

    As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reports, it could affect the presidential elections.

    Catholic leaders are furious and determined to harness the voting power of the nation’s 70 million Catholic voters to stop a provision of President Barack Obama’s new heath car reform bill that will force Catholic schools, hospitals and charities to buy birth control pills, abortion-producing drugs and sterilization coverage for their employees.

    “Never before, unprecedented in American history, for the federal government to line up against the Roman Catholic Church,” said Catholic League head Bill Donohue.

    Already Archbishop Timothy Dolan has spoken out against the law and priests around the country have mobilized, reading letters from the pulpit. Donohue said Catholic officials will stop at nothing to put a stop to it.

    “This is going to be fought out with lawsuits, with court decisions, and, dare I say it, maybe even in the streets,” Donohue said.

    http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/02/06/catholic-league-poised-to-go-to-war-with-obama-over-mandatory-birth-control-payments/

  • formerly just steve

    Michael B, #26, telling your kids not to smoke is a command, not an argument. Furthermore, a proposition may be correct even though the logic to get there is faulty. Further furthermore, a hypocrite isn’t simply a person who tells others to do something that they themselves do, as in your case of a smoker. Many smokers may want to quit and may believe smoking is bad but they are addicted.

    Just thought you should know.

  • formerly just steve

    Michael B, #26, telling your kids not to smoke is a command, not an argument. Furthermore, a proposition may be correct even though the logic to get there is faulty. Further furthermore, a hypocrite isn’t simply a person who tells others to do something that they themselves do, as in your case of a smoker. Many smokers may want to quit and may believe smoking is bad but they are addicted.

    Just thought you should know.

  • –helen

    LCMS President Matt Harrison has issued a statement for religious freedom and against the HHS mandate.
    [Unfortunately, half our people won't read it; being more aligned with elca and willowcreek than they are willing to admit publicly.]

  • –helen

    LCMS President Matt Harrison has issued a statement for religious freedom and against the HHS mandate.
    [Unfortunately, half our people won't read it; being more aligned with elca and willowcreek than they are willing to admit publicly.]

  • Pingback: The HHS Mandate – More “Political” Issues | Daring Lutheran

  • Pingback: The HHS Mandate – More “Political” Issues | Daring Lutheran


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X