Last week, President Barack Obama’s contraceptive coverage mandate, requiring religiously affiliated institutions to pay health care providers to cover contraceptive care, was attacked by 2,500 pastors who wrote a letter to Obama condemning the mandate as wrong.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, a signee, made a statement that highlights the very base of the debate: “This is not a Catholic issue. We will not tolerate any denomination having their religious freedoms infringed upon by the
Despite what proponents of the mandate will have you think, this is not an issue of abortion or contraceptive care. While the Catholic Church does not believe in these practices, they are the law of the land and must be respected as such.
This issue has been, and regardless of what is otherwise said, will always be about religious freedom.
Catholic’s doctrine teaches that all life is sacred, and as such it is a sin to use contraceptive coverage or receive an abortion in order to prevent life. Supporters of Obama’s mandate, crying foul against the primary antagonist that is the Catholic Church, point to the issue as one of women’s health, to beliefs that the church holds on contraceptives to be archaic, unsafe and unrealistic.
Maybe so. Maybe the church is holding on to old views, ignoring the fact that 98 percent of Catholic women have engaged in contraceptive practices.
That does not dilute the fact that these are unshakable and uncompromising religious beliefs. Hypocrisy of the followers of a religion is not an excuse for a government to impose regulations that directly conflict with what a religion holds as belief.
Catholic institutions that will be affected by this mandate (hospitals, schools, etc) do not ban their employees from using contraceptive products. Men and women employed by these institutions are free to do as they wish with their bodies.
But these institutions will not, and by right of the first amendment are justified, in not paying for or covering these practices.
Other critics have pointed to the Church as hypocritical in not standing up for other beliefs that the government has intervened in, such as the Mormon belief of polygamy.
An important distinction must be made here. The 1897 Supreme Court Case Reynolds v. United States, which struck down the Mormon view of polygamy, ruled that the government has a right to legislate against religious practices if they view such practices to be antagonistic to civic aims.
The difference here is that the Catholic Church is not participating in a practice, but rather refusing to do so.
And still others point to the president’s willingness to compromise. I too admired our Commander-in-Chief’s willingness to extend the hand, until research showed that the mandate is the same gift wrapped in a different package.
Per the words of University of Notre Dame professor Richard W. Garnett, “Under the promised new version, it is supposedly the insurance companies, instead of employers with religious objections, that will pay for employees’ abortion-causing drugs and contraceptives.
But, of course, even the president cannot make these items free. Someone will foot the bill and, in the end, it is not going to be the insurance company.”
A last demographic I wish to address is those who point to the fact that these institutions are willing to accept government money, but unwilling to accept the rules that come with. That one may not have one’s cake and eat it, too.
The prevailing argument in this issue is that the government may take these funds away at any time they wish. There is no mandate that forces these two institutions to financially assist one another. The government provides assistance to schools and hospitals that undeniably promote good, both religiously and civically.
The unshakable bottom line, regardless of all else and all accusations, is that the president is requiring the Catholic Church’s institutions to pay and cover practices they religiously view as a sin of murder.
One would hope that a progressive society such as ours would respect this view, like it or not.
This issue is not about abortion or contraception. Individual views on abortion or contraception should not matter. This is an issue of a religious belief, and while the president is to be commended for attempting to compromise, there is very little room for compromise when it comes to Constitutional rights.
The evangelical protest against Obama’s mandate is a testament to the fact that all who hold our constitution and its first amendment dear should stand up to this regulation as oppressive, illegal and wrong.
Luke Glaser is an English junior and the Kernel’s feature editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.