In recent weeks the President of the United States and his Administration announced that all employers would be required to provide health coverage that included coverage for birth control and abortifacients regardless of the employer’s religious affiliation. What this means is that religious institutions will be required by law to provide the means to do something that the parent religion considers to be a violation of conscience. The federal government has told the Catholic Church that its hospitals, its adoption services, and its other outreach branches, as well as Methodist Hospitals, Baptist Hospitals and Jewish and Muslim charity and community centers, that they must all provide this benefit to their employees regardless of whether or not this is a violation of the teachings of their religion. I want to be clear, I am not a Catholic but this is serious stuff and it is important for all of us regardless of religion.
I have heard friends say that the complaints against the government are just a power play by entrenched male power interests in the church to oppose necessary health provisions for women but I don’t think so. It was the Catholic Church (and a few other churches) who built charity hospitals to provide care to the poor when medical care was something only the wealthy could afford (did you ever wonder why so many hospitals have Saint something in their name or end in Methodist, Baptist, or Catholic Hospital?) It was the Catholic Church who built one of the biggest AIDS clinics in San Francisco when many hospitals were afraid to treat AIDS patients. The caring and compassion of the church, particularly in the field of medicine, has been repeatedly demonstrated.
What’s more, the consistency of the Catholic Church is well established. As a Protestant, I do not have a problem with birth control but draw the line at abortion and abortifacients because we believe that a child in the womb, a fertilized egg implanted and growing in the uterus, is a life. Somehow, those of Protestant faith believe that a fertilized egg is not necessarily a life, but once it has ‘taken root’ it becomes a life. This is a pretty fine line. The Catholic Church doesn’t try to split hairs and it never has, they believe that a fertilized egg is a human being, period. The position of the Catholic Church has never changed on this and although I do not agree, I have great respect for the consistency of their argument. Life is life.
For the government to say that the Catholic Church (and all other churches) must provide benefits that it believes are morally unconscionable is, to me, a clear violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. What if the government re-instituted the draft to support the military? In such a draft, undoubtedly, persons would be drafted that, for religious or moral reasons, choose not to carry a gun or to be placed in a situation where they might be required to kill another human being. For that reason, our nation has allowed these persons to become conscientious objectors, and we allow them to serve their country in another capacity. One of my uncles served in the Korean Conflict as a medic for that reason. If our government is allowed to force people of faith to provide birth control and abortion inducing drugs against their will, is it any stretch at all to imagine that conscientious objectors could be forced to carry a gun into combat? Can American Indians be prohibited from ceremonies that require the use of peyote? Could Muslims be prevented from making daily prayers during the workday? The principle is exactly the same. If religious objections are overruled for one, they can be overruled for anyone.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
– U.S. Constitution, 1st Amendment, Article 3.
If the government is permitted to prevent Catholics and others from exercising their religion, and their conscience, in this way, what other Constitutional rights will it find “inconvenient” tomorrow?
I am not a Catholic and though I respect the Catholic Church I often do not agree with it. My position on birth control is different than the one held by the Catholic Church. Even so, I think they are right and the government is wrong. I stand in support. Will you?