The irony of contraception and government intervention

The Obama Administration has been catching increasing heat over a rule that requires employer health insurance plans provide contraceptive services to employees, including employees of non-profit religious employers.

Is this rule a possible infringement of the non-profit religious employer’s exercise of its First Amendment rights to freedom of religion? There is a strong argument that says yes. If a non-profit religious employer is forced by an act of the state to endorse an action that runs counter to its doctrine, why wouldn’t this be a violation of its freedom to practice its religion?

This mandate is probably just as bad as the mandate that all individuals, with certain exceptions, be required to purchase health insurance. Not only is the non-profit religious employer being forced to purchase a plan it does not want, an insurance company is being forced to sell a contract containing terms and conditions not demanded by consumers in a particular market.

Non-profit religious employers have until August 2013 to comply with the rule. During this time, they are encouraged to refer employees to community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income based support. Why not make an exception in the rule for these types of employers based on their religious affiliations? If their employees want contraceptive services, the employees can obtain them from health centers, clinics, and hospitals.

Right now this role of government issue is becoming ammunition for the GOP. Can Mr. Obama afford to have this issue become a distraction?

About Alton Drew

Alton Drew brings a straight forward and insightful brand of political market intelligence. Alton Drew graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science (1984); a Master of Public Administration (1993); and a Juris Doctor (1999). You can also follow Alton Drew on Twitter @altondrew.
This entry was posted in Elections 2012, freedom of religion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The irony of contraception and government intervention

  1. Kenneth Ciszewski says:

    “Not only is the non-profit religious employer being forced to purchase a plan it does not want, an insurance company is being forced to sell a contract containing terms and conditions not demanded by consumers in a particular market.”

    An employer may have moral issues with contraception, but the employer likely has many employees who don’t. If some employees don’t want to use the benefit for any reason, fine, but those who do should be able to.

    Conservatives often complain about “equality of result”, and prefer “equality of opportunity.” Providing the same benefit for all promotes “equality of opportunity”.

  2. dougindeap says:

    Largely lost in the fuming over some supposed moral dilemma is that THE HEALTH CARE LAW DOES NOT FORCE EMPLOYERS TO ACT CONTRARY TO THEIR BELIEFS–unless one supposes the employers’ religion forbids even payment of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion). In keeping with the law, those with conscientious objections to providing their employees with qualifying health plans may decline to provide any health plans and pay an assessment instead or, alternatively, provide plans that do not qualify (e.g., without provisions they dislike) and pay lower assessments.

    No moral dilemma, no need for an exemption. That the employers must at least pay an assessment is hardly justification for an exemption. In other contexts, for instance, we have relieved conscientious objectors from required military service, requiring them instead to provide alternative service in noncombatant roles or useful civilian work. In any event, paying assessment does not pose a moral dilemma, but rather a garden-variety gripe common to most taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action of the government. Should each of us feel free to deduct from our taxes the portion that we figure would be spent on those actions (e.g., wars, health care, teaching evolution, subsidizing churches, whatever) each of us opposes? The hue and cry for an exemption is predicated on the false claim–or, more plainly, lie–that employers otherwise are forced to act contrary to their religions.

    Questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith are entirely real, but not new. The courts have confronted such issues and have generally ruled that under the Constitution the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, fraud, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. Were it otherwise and people could opt out of this or that law with the excuse that their religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate.

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