The Right Not to Do Wrong and the Politics of Ruse: Matthew Franck on the HHS “accommodation”

Over at Public Discourse, Matthew J. Franck, the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution of the Witherspoon Institute, has published a clear and informative account of why President Obama’s HHS accommodation is deeply flawed. What I like about Franck’s essay is that he addresses some of the objections raised by some defenders of the accommodations on this blog and elsewhere.  Here’s an excerpt:

As I say, non-religious Americans will not be able to claim the protection of our constitutional principles of religious liberty in this matter. But they, no less than their religious fellow citizens, have consciences at stake—which are under assault by the Obama administration, if they happen to have moral scruples about abortion. For no one can be rightly coerced by the state to be directly complicit himself in the commission of a wrong. This goes for any businessman, employer, insurance company, or individual implicated in this complex web of coercion.

This is not, by the way, anything like the argument sometimes heard that “I should be able to withhold the share of my tax dollars that goes to” some purpose the speaker strongly disapproves on some moral ground. Our representative government collects taxes, and spends the public fisc, on those purposes that are deemed, by the processes of majoritarian democracy and the rule of law, to be part of the common good. When Caesar spends his coin, even though much of it is raised by taxing the faithful, the taxpayers are not individually ensnared in the commission of any wrongful acts from which they may claim a right to disengage themselves. Their responsibility as citizens, in such a case, is to try to turn Caesar toward doing right instead of wrong. This is the principle involved in consistent federal refusals to fund abortion directly (the Hyde Amendment) or to fund the destruction of embryos for research (the Dickey-Wicker Amendment).

Please do read the whole thing.


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