Obama’s Separation of Church and State

Tom Van Dyke

Tom Van Dyke, businessman, musician, bon vivant and game-show champ (The Joker's Wild, and Win Ben Stein's Money), knows lots of stuff, although not quite everything yet. A past inactive to The American Spectator Online, the late great Reform Club blog, and currently on religion and the American Founding at American Creation, TVD continues to write on matters of both great and small importance from his ranch type style tract house high on a hill above Los Angeles.

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200 Responses

  1. Nob Akimoto says:

    And of course, you cleanly sidestep the fact that this regulation is meant for non-religious institutions like hospitals and universities providing health insurance, not the actual church itself. The distinction is small, but significant and to try to muddle it as a “religious freedom” issue is nonsense.

    I’m sorry but this is just sloppy or deliberately misleading.Report

    • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Also, because we know how this goes, here is other polling showing that even a pularity of Catholics back Obama’s decision even when it’s narrowed down to religious institutions and the 46% that oppose Obama weren’t likely to vote for him anyway.

      But yes, this is a question of religious freedom  for Jewish billing clerks and Protestant landscapers who work for institutions like that are affiliated with the Catholic church and only want the same availability as the clerks and landscapers who work across town at the secular hospital.Report

      • Jesse, from your link:

        Among Catholic voters, however, only 45% support this requirement (“religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should have to provide coverage that includes contraception.”), while 52% oppose it.

        Only about 4-in-10 (41%) white Catholics support this requirement, compared to 58% who oppose it.

        I think you’re referring to the numbers for “All Americans” and not Catholics. Interesting, Catholics are even more supportive of the requirement than the general public (52%/45% vs 49%/46%), but voting Catholics take a dimmer view.

        Interesting link. Thanks for sharing.Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      Nob, I guess you missed the previous discussion.  The Roman church is in the hospital business out of Christian charity, and that purpose is inextricable from its “core” purpose.  [See James 2:20.]

      Were the church in the widget business, say, making booze or clothespins, your objection would be spot on; it would be just another business.  In this light, I do hope you’ll withdraw the “sloppy” and of course “deliberately misleading”  at least for the nonce.

      We have not yet even touched on the Church’s presence in the public square, doing its Christian charity thing, as commanded by the Bible, and as hamstrung by the secular authorities.  There is much more necessary inquiry and discussion to be had, and not just limited to the Roman church.


      • I’m not withdrawing my sloppy or deliberately misleading term, because frankly this is both. You use a poll that’s explicitly targeting the question on religious institutions and frame your post in a way that suggests it’s an actual attack against the Church’s exercise of religion.

        There is of course, no such thing. In fact the religiously based institutions if they have that big of a problem with funding health insurance with contraception coverage, can simply choose to forego to provide health insurance to its employees, period. What they can’t do is provide substandard health insurance and claim it’s health insurance and cheat the system.Report

        • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          That’s a valid argument, Mr. Nob.  “Substandard” is what the government says it is, and it can drive all other competing visions out of the public square under that rubric.

          But this is coercion.  Comply or die. The government can outlaw me giving you a nickel, I suppose.  The minimum is a dime.

          To screw with the Roman church like this is unnecessary.  Let them give their employees what health care they want and let the government provide a wraparound.


          And I object to your letting those insults hang over my head.  I would not do the same to you.  That is not good faith, not gentlemanship.Report

        • Katherine in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

          But they may wish to provide health insurance to their employees, simply not health insurance that includes items they find religiously objectionable.

          I’m uncomfortable with this, as I am with a lot of the attempts to regulate Catholic hospitals and other Christian charities in ways that force them to violate their religious beliefs if they want government funding.  As I see it, if a religious group wishes, based on altruistic religious principles, to provide services – health care, housing, food for the homeless, assistance to the poor – they should be given a reasonable amount of leeway to do that.  They’re making life easier for the government, and improving the lives of people in need, by doing what they do.  And it’s quite right for the government to support such work, without requiring charitable institutions to choose between performing one religious duty – caring for people in need, with partial use of government funds – and another religious duty – adhering to their principles.

          The government is welcome to fund atheist and secular charities as well if it so chooses – but frankly, some of the largest and best ones are Christian because the church has a long history of caring for those who are sick, or poor, or otherwise in need.  (Anyone who doubts it, look up the names of the hospitals in the city you’re in – I’d be surprised if at least one isn’t called “St. something” or “Jubilee”.)  Before the government started taking responsibility for the public welfare around the time of the Great Depression, churches were the social services.  They should get credit for that, rather than blame for holding onto a few areas where their principles conflict with secular ones.Report

          • Nob Akimoto in reply to Katherine says:

            Can we please stand back a moment and remember that this simply is a way of mandating certain ways of compensation match certain standards. This is, in essence the same as a minimum wage law.Report

            • Katherine in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

              Couldn’t they just leave contraception out of the health insurance plan provided employee wages are above a certain level (min. wage + cost of contraception)?  I’m sure someone more policy-minded could come up with a more workable compromise that that which serves similar purposes.  If anything, it would make the employees better off, as they could use the money for anything they pleased, and it would make the hospitals happy, as they could act in a way consistent with their beliefs.  Refusing to include a service in benefits due to a religious objection is distinct from simply underpaying employees; I hardly think you can attribute this decision to cheapness.

              I’ve no objection whatsoever to contraception myself.  I just object to making life more difficult for religious institutions which exist for the purposes of caring for and improving the lives of others.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to Katherine says:

                Personally, I’d be happier with getting rid of employer provided health insurance entirely and just giving employers a tax credit equal to the amount they provide for health insurance and phasing that out slowly. (Which is something Ron Wyden wanted to do, for example.)

                But under the circumstances, I don’t think it’d be practical to do something like what you propose.

                And even if they did, would the church back down? Given what’s essentially being attempted by Rubio and co. in Congress as a response to this, this seems far more about contraception than about religious liberty.Report

              • I just object to making life more difficult for religious institutions which exist for the purposes of caring for and improving the lives of others.

                I’ve got an awful lot of victims of molestation who’d like a word with you.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

                Sam, bad apples in a barrel don’t mean that the barrel is there to poison people.

                It’s a barrel.  It’s there to hold apples.Report

              • Sam in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Bad apples? How many bad apples in how many countries over how many decades having tortured how many victims would it take before we’d start to question the barrel?Report

              • Kim in reply to Sam says:

                Question teh barrel all you like, Sam. But you fix a barrel by pulling out the rotten wood, and putting new wood in. Like it or leave it, the church provides a dogmatic home for those that need/appreciate dogma. Their dogma is in general less corrosive than that of “the rich” (acting in their propaganda guises as “the corps” or “the republicans”)Report

              • Sam in reply to Sam says:


                How many gross violations of humanity does the Catholic Church have to be party to before we’ll start to wonder whether, perhaps, the barrel itself cannot be fixed? The number seems to be x+1, with x representing all historical, current, and future church scandals, meaning that no matter how awful the church has been, is, or will continue to be, it will never be quite enough for the institution itself to be considered compromised.Report

    • Chris in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

      I’m sorry but this is just sloppy or deliberately misleading.

      Per usual.Report

  2. Pat Cahalan says:

    It definitely falls under the “avoidable crisis” category.Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

      This will not I repeat not be a crisis for the Obama administration.

      This will define the republicans as the party that hates contraception.Which is accurate!

      Being religious doesn’t let you flout the law. This is a policy that is in place in 28 states without issue. JWs have to cover their employs blood transfusions.

      There is no reason for aggressively expanding hospitals to get special privileges to undercompensate their employees.Report

      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

        Of course this is a crisis for the Obama administration (that’s fine; political leadership is all about managing crisis situations).

        If you do not think there are negative repercussions to this decision, you’re incorrect.  Politically speaking.

        Whether or not it is the right thing to do isn’t really relevant to my point.Report

  3. Herb says:

    “The Obama administration’s attempt to impose financing contraception on the Roman Catholic Church has been on the order of parking a howitzer in the middle of a Quaker Meeting House and setting up cots in the kitchen.”

    Yeah, it’s just like that….

    I’m with Nob on this.  There’s religious practice…and then there’s medical practice.  We should not be encouraging the blurring of that line.  Unless we want faith healers to start putting their hands out for Medicare reimbursements.Report

  4. boegiboe says:

    I’m disappointed, Tom. You are knowingly smearing churches and religious organizations that receive government funding without religious protections.

    Quakers would allow everyone contraception. They would allow God to sort out the sins. Government has no business intruding on the choices involved. Quakers (or anyone else) correct me if I’m wrong, please.


    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to boegiboe says:

      I’m not following you, Mr. Boegiboe.   I’m smearing no one.  I am questioning the administration’s wisdom on this.Report

      • boegiboe in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Sorry, terrible word choice on my part. I meant “smear” in a more literal sense. “Conflate” would have been better. Your piece says that Obama is doing this and that to “churches,” when churches are explicitly protected from having to comply.

        If members of the Catholic church want to create public organizations to help others, thereby living their creeds, and if they take advantage of tax breaks given only to public entities because of their service to the public, then they should be required to provide for their employees according to expectations of the general public, not just of their creeds.

        Now, as you say, your principal point is that Obama has made a political miscalculation. I’m not saying anything one way or another about that. What I do think, however, is that Obama’s opponents seek to score political points by making the same misrepresentation of his actions that you do throughout your post here, and it disappoints me that you have either been duped by those opponents, or that you are engaging in the same kind of obfuscation.Report

  5. Stillwater says:

    Tom, you wrote that a majority of people

    disagree with the Roman church’s position on contraception, but via American religious pluralism and the First Amendment, believe that the church has a right to its religious belief and that it should not be molested by the government.

    and follow it up with

    that the churches must be kept safe from the government as well.

    But I think the issue in play here isn’t keeping churches safe from government, but people safe from churches. So I’ll ask you: Do churches have a right to engage in practices which restrict or abridge otherwise existing freedoms?Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Stillwater says:

      The question is indeed keeping churches safe from government [coercion] on this occasion, Mr. Stillwater.  That’s my primary argument, and it’s one I think few people have considered, “separation of church and state” being a cliche against “theocracy” today more than the concept with many ramifications that it was hundreds of years ago.

      The Obama administration is clearly attempting to use the power of the state to coerce the Roman church.Report

      • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        I’ll believe this is about religious freedom when  people start saying it would be just fine for a Jehovahs witness ran company to offer insurance without blood transfusions.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        The Obama administration is clearly attempting to use the power of the state to coerce the Roman church.

        That response really conveniently – and I mean REALLY! – begs the question. My argument was that the government is protecting people from the church. You did. not. answer. that. challenge.

        And to support my argument here and nudge you towards an answer, I’ll just say this: what Nob said.Report

      • Herb in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

        Well, yeah…the state is very coercive.  The question isn’t whether the state is coercing the Catholic Church, which…let’s be real…could be something as innocuous as a fire marshall telling the archbishop to install fire extinguishers every ten feet.

        The question is whether the coercion results in a loss of religious freedom.  I do not think that can be demonstrated in this case.Report

  6. Scrooge McDuck says:

    David Frum has made a good point  on this:  can you imagine the same fury if HHS made a similar ruling that health plans could not exclude blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses) or antibiotics (Christian Scientists)?    This is not about constitutional separation of church and state–it’s (as  always) about sex.

    Just more culture war.   There are lines that have to be drawn:  what if an employer didn’t believe in birth control–do we extend the exemption to him, and allow him to deny coverage to his employees?   What if an employer claimed a deep religious objection to AIDS treatments, where do we go?

    Employer-provided health care may be a crappy way to organize a health-care system, but that’s the system we have.   As such, if we are to make employer mandates the core of our medical system (both formally and informally), whatever regulation exists must be based on scientific standards not personal whims.

    The employees of Catholic hospitals may be Catholic, or they may be Jewish, atheist or Buddhist.   Their relationship to their employer is, in all probability, secular.   As long as we have to draw a line, I’m reasonably uncomfortable with where the Obama Administration has drawn it.



    • Tom,

      Has anybody established what medicines these institutions currently will pay for? Will they pay for birth control if its use isn’t to prevent conception, but to regulate irregular periods? Will they pay for Viagra, even though sex had without the intent to conceive is considered a sin? Or do they currently refuse to cover any medicine that might conceivably allow for a sin to occur? If they don’t, I don’t see how they have a leg to stand on.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

        Mr. Wilkinson, I don’t want to ignore your very good interrog, but we’re so far away from a calm Talmudic-ethical consideration of those particulars at this moment that I question we will ever enjoy such calm to do them justice.

        But who knows?  Hang around and see if you can help quiet the noise.  At this moment I’m busy enough defending my good name, let alone my argument, I hope you understand.


        Thx for the righteous reply.Report

        • Scrooge McDuck in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          At this moment I’m busy enough defending my good name

          You are aware that this is the internet, right?Report

        • Okay. Seems like a worthwhile query. Would you agree that the church paying for medication which allows for sinful behavior (like the most obvious candidate: Viagra) undermines their stance here?Report

          • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

            I didn’t realize that Viagra made you both sterile and also forced you to have unmarried sex.

            Sorry, couldn’t resist.

            There are legitimate questions here.  I don’t think bringing up the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Christian Scientists is at all relevant, for pretty obvious reasons.  The Moonies don’t run hospitals, either.Report

  7. James Hanley says:

    I’ll stand with Tom on the point that claiming that Catholic run hospitals are religious organizations is nether “sloppy” nor “deliberately misleading.”  It’s debatable, but those terms are dead wrong.  And by god I’m not one who’s hesitant to jump on Tom with both feet when I think he’s using language carelessly.  He’s got a defensible claim here.

    But I’ll note this: At least one poll shows a flat majority of Catholics, 52%, support the policy being discussed. So apparently more than half of Catholics don’t think their Church needs to be protected from government in this case.Report

    • Nevermind that – you can find polling on the percentages of Catholics who have used contraception and the numbers are jaw-dropping. Apparently, American Catholics aren’t very interested in what the Catholic Bishops and the Pope have to say on this matter (because both are incredibly, jaw-droppingly wrong).

      Whomever wins the framing of this issue is going to win the battle. If Republicans can convince everyone that Obama is being mean to churches, they win. If Democrats can convince everyone (rightly) that Republicans are opposed to contraception (which they are, as evidenced by Marco Rubio’s bill allowing all employers to refuse contraception on moral grounds), they’ll win.Report

    • I’m going to say it’s sloppy and misleading because of phrasing like this:
      “The Obama administration’s attempt to impose financing contraception on the Roman Catholic Church has been on the order of parking a howitzer in the middle of a Quaker Meeting House and setting up cots in the kitchen.”

      Further the citing of  Hosanna-Tabor is another example on this list. The whole post is phrased in a way to make it sound like this is some broad attack on religious liberties rather than a narrowly targeted attempt to define health insurance policies.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Mr. Sam, acknowledged in the original post, that Catholics contracept but don’t dig the Administration’s bullying on this, percentagewise.  Follow the links.  The whole point of the post is about how Americans respect religious pluralism even when they disagree with the beliefs themselves.

        This is a very beautiful thing, and I think a very American thing based on my studies of religion and the American Founding.

        I meself defend creationists although I find the whole deal absurd.  Does that help about where I’m coming from on all this?Report

        • Tom – you’ve given us one link to a Rasmussen Poll. I’d like to see more numbers from more reliable polling outfits before we declare that the nation doesn’t “dig the Administration’s bullying.”

          And sure, its fine to defend Creationists. But the question becomes defending creationists who insist that their employees also stupidly believe that the Earth was created 6000 years ago.Report

        • Robert Cheeks in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          TVD, forgive this intrusion. I think the problem here is that you’re under the impression that this is a real “Libertarian” website. Obviously, there are very few Libertarians about. These people are, generally speaking, confused statists. I trust I’ve been hepful..I always wanna be hepful.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Catholics contracept but don’t dig the Administration’s bullying on this

          The poll I linked to shows that 52% of Catholics do dig the administration’s bullying on this.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        Nob, dude, I’m explicitly saying this Obama Admin initiative is sexo-religio-ideologico war taken to the Roman church. Nothing to do with “health insurance.”

        Free contraceptives for all is not a human right, it’s not more than a handful of bucks a month, and it’s a fixed and constant cost, not “insurance” atall.  Might as well “insure” oil changes with GEICO.

        So pls back off with the insults, brother.  Yours have been among the most principled counters.  Ill will shames us both.  You’re a worthy interlocutor.Report

        • Okay, fine. It’s not sloppy or deliberately misleading in so far as you’re actually framing it as a religious conflict.

          I don’t think this is accurate of what the Administration is actually doing, but I’ll grant you that you’re actually out to frame things this way.Report

        • greginak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Well calling this about “free contraceptives” is sloppy. Nobody is saying the church has to give out condoms, just that their insurance plans have to cover contraception.

          So if this is all some massive war by Obama on religion can we just as easily say this about a Catholic Church war on women and desire to control women.Report

          • Tom Van Dyke in reply to greginak says:

            Well, you might say that, Mr. Greg.  Actually, you just did.  But let’s stay on topic, see what happens, and try not to douchebag this comments section.

            I take to the LoOG mainpage quite seldom and only after much consideration of the topic and rounding up of various perspectives and links.  I thank you in advance for granting me a break and some air.  To yr point—

            Yes, universal coverage of contraceptives is more like oil changes than repairs, actual “health care.”  This nuance I will hold to, and we’re talking about 10 bucks a month or so here.

            The US Gov’t, if so concerned about consequenceless vaginal sex as some sort of natural right, could provide for universal contraception apart from this Obamacare mess.  We don’t have to be going here atall.

            Why the Roman church—almost the only entity on earth that maintains a philosophical-theological objection to contraception—should be roped in to paying for it, just seems hostile, if not perverse.

            This just isn’t necessary, man.Report

            • They don’t have to pay for it.

              They can choose not to provide health insurance to their employees. It’s not like they’re mandated to provide it by the government. They’re just being told if they’re going to provide something they call “health insurance” to their secular, largely non-Catholic employees of hospitals and universities (but not actual church institutions) then they must include contraception as covered things along with things like prenatal care and maternity care.

              They’re not mandated to provide health insurance. They can in fact opt not to provide it, something that will undoubtedly be made easier by the fact that Obamacare sets up healthcare exchanges which allows better group-rate coverage for individuals. They would simply have to accept whatever hiring decisions come out of not providing health insurance, which would likely be the requirement to have to pay someone far above market rate in order to make up for that lost benefit.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                You’re still coercing, Nob, driving Christian [Catholic] charity from the public square by hamstringing it.

                They would simply have to accept whatever hiring decisions come out of not providing health insurance

                Uh-huh.  Your argument is formally valid—I would not accuse you of dishonesty or sloppiness.  But you’re still cordoning off the public square.  So is the Obama administration.

                Perhaps it’s legal, but it’s not America.  Depends on the 14th Amendment dice throw at our Supreme Court these days.  But I do not think that this is a good thing, nor is it in accordance with our Founding, which saw religion as a necessary pillar of a nation and a society.

                The Public Square is more than government; in fact, government is the least part of a nation, not its defining part.  We are getting things backwards, and this Obama admin initiative is bringing it to the fore.

                Contraception—consequenceless vaginal sex—is not a natural or human right.  That is absurd, man.  We are way off the tracks.Report

              • No one’s driving anyone from the “public square”. This is a definition of a service and form of compensation.

                It’s not hamstringing. Indeed a substantial number of Catholic institutions already offer health insurance that includes contraception. (So maybe the BIshops should talk to them first…)

                This is a choice. If an employer doesn’t like the mandate, then they’re able to make the choice of not offering insurance as a benefit. That’s fine, that’s their choice.Report

              • Jeff in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                The Church must comply with other state and federal laws, especially at intitutions that are not wholely religious.  (Catholic hospitals have allied with secular ones to provide mandatory health coverage, even going so far as to have a “secular floor” within one hospital.)  If these laws bar them from the “public square” (which belongs to everyone, not just Catholics), boo fishing hoo.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Well, I’ll go so far as to say there’s a reasonable argument to calling Catholic hospitals religious institutions.  But to seriously believe the Obama administration isn’t motivated by a desire to promulgate a statist health care program, but actually motivated by a desire to attack the Catholic Church?

          I want to make another crack about the painkillers Tom’s taking, but this really just isn’t funny.  That approaches the level of serious paranoia and conspiracy-theory thinking.  I don’t say that to make a dig at Tom.  It’s just plainly obvious.  I’ve disagreed with Tom a lot, and he engages in over the top hyperbole about liberals sometimes, but I’ve never before seen him seriously put on a tinfoil hat before.  I’m disturbed.Report

      • Jeff in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

        The whole post is phrased in a way to make it sound like this is some broad attack on religious liberties rather than a narrowly targeted attempt to define health insurance policies.

        Rather say “The whole post is phrased in a way to make it sound like this is some broad attack on Obama” and you have Tom’s reason for posting, given his history.Report

    • The article conspicuously doesn’t mention the other poll finding: A majority of voting Catholics oppose it. The margins are the same (52%-45%), just switched.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman says:

        What do you take to be the significance of this, Will?  It seems to me it would only go to political calculus, not a moral case about whether this is an attack on Catholics per se (as opposed to the Church).Report

        • I agree with your interpretation. I consider the political calculus to be a part of the discussion. It does not speak to alleged anti-Catholicism.

          I might even go a step further and argue against the notion that this is anti-church, but I’ll pass on that for now and will decide over the weekend whether I will write a post or not joining the pile-on.Report

          • Well the Catholic Church is doing its darned best to proclaim that this is all about contraception and not religious liberty…:

            That was no consolation to Catholic leaders. The White House is “all talk, no action” on moving toward compromise, said Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “There has been a lot of talk in the last couple days about compromise, but it sounds to us like a way to turn down the heat, to placate people without doing anything in particular,” Picarello said. “We’re not going to do anything until this is fixed.”

            That means removing the provision from the health care law altogether, he said, not simply changing it for Catholic employers and their insurers. He cited the problem that would create for “good Catholic business people who can’t in good conscience cooperate with this.”Report

            • If it really is about “protecting the church” it shouldn’t be about removing the provision from the mandate COMPLETELY.

              The fact that this is their position gives away their intention and IMO invalidates Tom’s premise. This isn’t Obama’s war against the Roman Catholic Church. It’s the Roman Catholic Church’s war on contraception being at odds with a reasonable policy decision regarding health insurance and contraception.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Please, Mr. Akimoto.  I’m arguing my own argument per my studies of religion and the American Founding.  I’m not arguing the Roman Catholic viewpoint atall.  The Roman church’s “Theology of the Body” is beyond our far above our poor power to add or detract.

                I think Obama 2012 blew this bigtime.  I still expect him to be reelected.  I just don’t like this atall.  And if it somehow costs him his reelection, I approve.  I think the free exercise of religion is more important than most of the things we squabble about, the true purpose of government among a very few other things, as Kyle Cupp put it:

                “Protecting religious liberty is a more fundamental role of government than regulating healthcare.”

                More I cannot say.Report

              • And again, I’m not going to agree with you that this is a religious liberty issue. It’s just not. It’s a regulation issue.

                Just because you put a religious face on it doesn’t make it any less regulatory nor economic.

                No one’s telling Catholics they can’t believe contraception is evil. No one’s telling them they can’t make the choice to not offer health insurance to cover it.

                They are, however, being told told that they can’t use their religion to get an exemption from something everyone else has to follow when offering a service.

                This would be akin to say, muslim run bank demanding that they be allowed to call a non-usury charging checking account “interest checking”. and crying foul of religious freedom because the Federal Reserve won’t let them. It’s not.

                Sure the bank will have to do something else to attract customers to use their service. But they can’t falsely claim they’re providing interest on checking accounts.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                Yes, Nob, you’re not discussing religious liberty in the least.  I am.  You reject the premise: you say this is a policy thing.  I get it.  Thx for yr replies.Report

              • As someone that supports contraception, I think removing the provision entirely, or allowing for a Waiver of Conscience regardless of whether you’re a church or an employer that is anti-contraception, is a far more ideologically defensible position than “But we’re a church, g’dammit.”


              • Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman says:

                By instinct, as compared to what you compare it to, I agree it is more principled. But then what distinguishes this from a case for a religious-conscience, or just a general conscience exemption from just whatever law someone claims requires something from them that their religion or conscience prohibits?

                Incidentally, it’s not the churches claiming the, “But we’re a church, g’dammit” exemption; it’s the government offering a “But they’re a church, g’dammit” exemption, at least as opposed to a “But we’re religious(ly affiliated, motivated, principled, oriented, or what have you)” exemption, which is what the bishops would like the orgs to have access to..Report

              • This is where the reasonableness, or lack thereof, of the exemption they’re asking for comes into play. No, I don’t think anyone should get an exemption for anything based on moral views. At the same time, I do believe that exemptions should be made for abortion or euthanasia coverage, if it ever came to that*.

                And so we have to look at the competing values. A government that is going to coerce people to do what they don’t want to do, and a government that we (or I) don’t want to coerce people to do anything the government believes makes righteous policy. In the case of contraception, I don’t have a whole lot of patience on the reasonableness of their position (particularly given the other uses for contraception), which is one of the reasons I’m not really with them on this.

                Regarding your second paragraph, I don’t put as much emphasis on the distinction between church-as-church and church-as-hospital as a lot of people do. A Catholic hospital is, for better or worse, a Catholic institution in my view. It’s not a place of worship, but it is a part of the church. I don’t expect you to convince of me this, but it goes back to my wife’s experiences having worked at a Catholic hospital (and why she won’t work at another one, regardless of the benefits package).

                * – I recognize that nobody is proposing that. But to argue that conscience exemptions could lead to something that nobody is proposing (Jehovas Witness and Blood Transfusions), we can also look at what a complete lack of conscience exemption might lead us, even if nobody is proposing it.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will Truman says:

                This is a First Amendment issue, WillT.  Fortunately, there is at least a strong plurality that recognizes that, which encourages me.  The rest wish to use the state to run roughshod over the opponents of “modernity,” and indeed are quite unapologetic about it.

                I doubt the 1st Amendment’s Free Exercise clause would be ratified by them today.  This is not good, and why I’ll stick with our creaky old constitution, thank you very much.


                New is not necessarily improved.Report

              • BSK in reply to Will Truman says:


                What do you make of the vast majority opposed to allowing Rastas to smoke weed? The evergrowing movement to outlaw circumcision? The social and legal repulsion for animal sacrifice? Do you believe that the support for religious liberty and pluralism you see here is universal or reserved for certain actions by certain faiths?Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will Truman says:

                I think there’s a fine line in each of the cases you cite, BSK, and all are troublesome.

                This Obamacare thing is brute political force, it is coercison, and it’s an unnecessary test of the First Amendment.  I think it stinks, and I think it thumbs its nose at the tradition of American pluralism, if not the Constitution itself.Report

              • I don’t see the First Amendment issue that you do. Or rather, this falls under a category of exception. There are, at least to my mind, clearly limits to the extent that we allow religions to do what they want without consequence.Report

              • BSK in reply to Will Truman says:

                Tom- I’m not referring to the cases themselves, but the popular response. Do people oppose weed for Rastas because of “fines lines” or because they don’t see Rasta as a real religion? My hunch is the majority fall into the latter.

                I’m … uncomfortable with the mandate, as I am just about any time that the government and religion interact. However, I am more uncomfortable with Pro-Christian hawks claiming the mantle of 1st Amendment Warriors when their defense is limited to their preferred faith. I’m not accusing you of this, mind you. But I don’t think a single poll showing a slight support for a predominant faith’s resistance to an aspect of a controversial law as evidence of the American public’s staunch belief in religious pluralism and liberty, which you seemed to contend was your primary point.Report

              • BSK in reply to Will Truman says:


                It is my belief that many feel the 1st Amendment ought to apply differently to different faiths. Which is to say, they don’t truly support it. Yet this perspective allows them to see 1st Amendment issues where their are not and ignore them where they are.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

                The “Ground Zero Mosque” was a great way to look at how The First Amendment is seen IN PRACTICE.

                In practice, a huge number of folks thought it an appropriate use of government power to prevent it.

                I don’t know that we want to start down a road of “well, if they didn’t like it for the Ground Zero Mosque, they shouldn’t have it for Depo”, though. That may have us end up in some places that Progressives never intended to wander into.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will Truman says:

                BSK, truth and wisdom are not democratized.  I don’t care about “popular responses.”

                I am however, gratified that a healthy chunk of Americans properly see this as a First Amendment issue even while they [like myself] have no problem with contraception itself.

                As for the rest of the mob who want to steamroll the Roman church on this, I despair, and I’m particularly disgusted with the president on this.  It was not only an unnecessary provocation, but it’s of questionable constitutionality.

                And yes, it is coercive, and it is brutish.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will Truman says:

                WillT, coercing a religion into direct conflict with its principles?  UnAmerican.  This is the dynamic here, not a free hand for “conscience” to do whatever it wants without consequences.  That would be absurd.

                The problem here, is—as other writers have pointed out—Free Exercise is far more than mere freedom of worship or even conscience.  What we have here is that the state will coerce the Roman church [and someday, on another issue, it’ll be some other church] into accepting the state’s [a]morality, or find itself obliged to depart the public square.  [This was rather Douthat’s argument before he was shouted down, his well poisoned.]

                Soon there is no “pluralism” of any kind, not just religious.  There is only the state.

                The stakes here are much bigger than free consequenceless vaginal sex [which I have no idea how it became any barometer of healthcare].Report

              • BSK in reply to Will Truman says:


                There is no evidence people see it as a 1st Amendment issue, only that they support the church. There are a whole host of reaons people might support the church without it actually being ground in the 1st Amendment.

                “What Obama and his female advisors like ringleader HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius [also a Catholic] misunderestimated was that although most US voters—including Catholics—have no problem with contraceptives on any level, they still have an appreciation for religious liberty. They disagree with the Roman church’s position on contraception, but via American religious pluralism and the First Amendment, believe that the church has a right to its religious belief and that it should not be molested by the government.”

                A statement like that makes your claim that you care not about popuar responses ring hollow, when your whole blog post was explicitly about the American people standing up in support of the 1st.


                I am on the record here and elsewhere saying I am uncomfortable with the mandate, so please don’t read my position as being in favor of government intrusion into religion. However, I am also incomfortable with people who view the 1st as a NIMBY issue, with the ‘backyard’ here being their faith-of-preference.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman says:


                I don’t think a “Catholic hospital,” in the context of the way that phrase has been being used publicly in this debate, whatever you have in mind about it, is in fact “part of the church.” Far from it, in fact, if I understand correctly. The bishops, in my view, are asserting moral control over institutions that perhaps the church funds to some extent or other, for example. I don’t really know the state of play on that It depends on the bishops making distinctions in their claims they aren’t inclined to actually make, so we can’t really know), but I think it’s a key question. But I think it is certain that many of the institutions about which they are concerned in their high-profile public assault on this policy are quite clearly not “part of the church.”

                One way or the other, this is a key point. For whom do the bishops speak?Report

              • Tom,

                coercing a religion into direct conflict with its principles? UnAmerican.

                This has always been a balancing act. The history and state of Utah are a testament to this. Bob Jones University paid a much deeper price for its beliefs than the St. Jude’s Hospital is expected to here.

                This is the dynamic here, not a free hand for “conscience” to do whatever it wants without consequences.

                You are demanding a church retain its right of conscience. I do not see a church having this right as being stronger than an individual’s having this right.

                We chose not to give Bob The Catholic Employer this right for a reason. There are, in fact, all manner of reasons as to why singling out contraception is a problem. Reasons why this drug was given Very Special Status. But if those reasons are wrong, that’s a reason that the law is wrong. Not a reason that this implementation of the law is wrong.

                This isn’t the law I would have passed. It is, however, the law that we have to work with. Not a law that will obligate anyone to depart the public square. A law that would simply require associattes of the Catholic Church (and everybody else) to make a decision as to whether to (a) provide benefits, including contraception, or (b) put their employees on the exchanges.

                I would be much more sympathetic if the alternative actually were the Catholic Church departing the public square. Or even losing tax-exemption.Report

              • Michael,

                To be honest, I am not sure what you are saying. This is a tangent that clearly matters more to you than it does to me, though, so I’ll leave you with the last word.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman says:


                Would you accept that hospitals funded in part by the Catholic church are not necessarily “part of the church”?Report

              • MichaelD,

                Conceptually, I consider a hospital as part of the church so long as they consider themselves to be affiliated with the Catholic Church and the Catholic Church considers itself affiliated with them. Regardless of whether there is any sort of funding transfer.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman says:

                “Part of” is just not what the phrase “affiliated with” means, Will.

                Do you consider anything that is affiliated with something else “part of” that thing? You’re making a special dispensation (sic) in this case. Based on what?

                My point is that I suspect many of these institutions would not allow that, despite their affiliations with the Church, they are not “part of,” perhaps not even “controlled by” the Church or the bishops, despite what the bishops would have you believe.

                But what you are saying would not allow that anywhere there is an affiliation acknowledged on both sides, that it isn’t necessarily the case that the institution is “part of” the Church, even the people who run the institution would say it isn’t. This in spite of the clear distinction in normal meaning between something being affiliated with something and it being “part of” that thing.Report

              • Trumwill in reply to Will Truman says:

                MD, like I said, this isn’t something that I am going to the hill for. If it matters to you that my wording is changed from “But we’re a church, g’dammit” to “But we’re a church,  g’dammit, and they’re with us!”… consider it changed. It doesn’t change what I was getting at and it doesn’t much matter to me.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Will Truman says:

                WillT, churches have been held to have specific and explicit protection under the First Amendment.  Period.Report

              • TVD, if the churches sue, and win, that will settle that. For me to believe that they have as strong a case as you think they do, I would need to know about the 12 states that have laws either analogous to or as strict as the HHS mandate and why those weren’t challenged.Report

              • WillT,   I have only gone as far as Obama’s actions per the First Amendment are “questionable.”  I have zero confidence in the Supreme Court when it comes to the elasticity of the 14th Amendment except that at least a minority will get it right.

                I also think the president’s actions here are unnecessary and divisive, and bad statesmanship, on behalf of a petty ideological point.  McDonalds got more consideration in getting its waiver than the First Amendment did.

                As for the accommodation the Roman church made on behalf of your wife’s medical practice, I think it was far too generous, and that you or she have zero reason to carp about it.

                Would that President Obama have been half as considerate and flexible in doing his duty to the Constitution.Report

              • Tom,

                The point of my comment was to illustrate that yes, in fact, Catholic hospitals do (sometimes, at least in one case and there is reason to suspect many more) have a different operational philosophy, one that creates conflict with secular providers who hold a different philosophy.

                As to Dr. Wife, she got the experience she needed from that job. It’s just that she also learned that she does not plan to work under said operational philosophy in the future*. That’s not the church’s fault. That’s not her fault. It is, however, indicative that working at a Catholic hospital is not like working at a non-Catholic hospital.

                * – In that case, she was exempt from many of the policies because she did not work for the hospital (though she was affected by some of them). If she worked for a hospital, she would not be able to provide what she believes is the best care for her patients. That’s not a situation she is going to sign on to.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Michael Drew says:

                If that’s what you think, BSK, then you have misread me.Report

              • BSK in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I misread this:

                “Mr. Sam, acknowledged in the original post, that Catholics contracept but don’t dig the Administration’s bullying on this, percentagewise.  Follow the links.  The whole point of the post is about how Americans respect religious pluralism even when they disagree with the beliefs themselves.”

                That is a direct quote from you.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                BSK, you’ve substituted one inference [tribalism] for another [First Amendment free exercise].  Not an invalid niggle, but then you try to leverage that into a negation of the OP, whose main point was not what you say it was, a popular recognition of the First Amendment issues here.

                That was a side feature that gratified me.  The point of the OP is that Obama screwed the pooch with this, and picked a fight with the Roman church over ideology and for political reasons, and with questionable constitutionality, thumbing his nose at the 1st Amendment implications.

                For once Joe Biden was right—Obama didn’t get away with this one.

                And tellya the truth, this whole niggle is a waste of time.  The OP stands, and I regret even answering your attempt to trap me via other 1st Amendment issues.  This latter discussion has been a waste of time and more an exercise in sophistry and debate than any concern with the truth in this matter.

                Obama screwed the pooch and got caught.  What he did [or tried to do] stinks.


              • BSK in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


                In the quoted text, you said “[t]he whole point of the post is about how Americans respect religious pluralism even when they disagree with the beliefs themselves.”. Right there, in black and white, you say the “whole point” is about “Americans respect [for] religous pluralism. Now you say ” the OP, whose main point was not what you say it was, a popular recognition of the First Amendment issues here.”. Dude, you are not even pretending to play fair here.Report

              • BSK in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                “And tellya the truth, this whole niggle is a waste of time.  The OP stands, and I regret even answering your attempt to trap me via other 1st Amendment issues.  This latter discussion has been a waste of time and more an exercise in sophistry and debate than any concern with the truth in this matter.”

                If this indicates your intention to avoid addressing two contrictory quotes you have offered, I will be sorely disappointed, as I have done nothing here but work off specific things uou have said and voice my disagreement with them.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Yes, there you go again, Mr. BSK, arguing for the sake of arguing.  What is your point?  You don’t have one.

                A charitable and non-annoying reading of my point is about the First Amendment in general, not the polls on any specific issue. And that Obama was quite brutish on this one.Report

              • BSK in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I have several clear points: the popular support for the 1st Amendment you claim the poll demonstrates is not demonstrated by the poll in question; other evidence suggests that Americans support religious liberty, at best, selectively and inconsistently indicating that supposed support for 1st Amendment issues is often grounded in other things, such as political opposition and favor or disfavor for the religion in question; it is not clear that Obama gaffes at all, either legally/Constitutuionally or in reading the American public.

                So there YOU go again, acting disingenuous and dishonest under the guise of civility. I renew my objection to your presence on the front page.Report

              • BSK, you haven’t substantiated your alternate theory of tribalism, yet have personalized your disagreement anyway.  This will not do.

                Mind you, I didn’t say your objection is invalid.  However, Obama screwed the pooch, but by the time you’re dissembling, nothing happened here atall.

                But something bad did happen, man, and many objections out there in the real world from non-Catholics are precisely along the lines of religious freedom and the First Amendment I make here.

                As for popular opinion, I agree it’s not consistent and is often driven by sentiment.  Including, in this case—militant secularists and those with an animus against the Roman church, as well as those who carry President Obama’s water no matter how dirty it is.


              • BSK in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                More of your nonsense, Tom. And this time more than ducking and dodging. Out and out lies. You, sir, lied. And I will not hesitate to say it.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman says:

            Sure, political calculus is part of the discussion, but I just wanted to know what you saw as the significance of the fact that it is (only) among voting Catholics where this policy is opposed by a majority of Catholics.Report

  8. b-psycho says:

    Don’t most Catholics not even practice the crap the bishops spew w/r/t contraception anyway?

    As for the original issue: considering the injection of additional tax money into the health insurance “market”, it’s no surprise that these kind of rules would come up.  I’d like to ask though how many of these same institutions so up in arms over birth control include boner pills in their plans already.Report

    • Scrooge McDuck in reply to b-psycho says:

      I’d like to ask though how many of these same institutions so up in arms over birth control include boner pills in their plans already.

      I’ve heard this trope a dozen times in the last couple days, and I still don’t get it. What do boner pills have to do with the issue of mandating contraception? Are there papal encyclicals on boner pills? Is there deep theology on the topic.

      Or is it just a glib piece of snark, that sounds funny because someone said “boner?”Report

      • Catholics should not be having sex unless they’re intending to procreate. More here. Presumably, once one reaches the age where Viagra is more likely to be necessary, they’re less likely to be having procreative sex. Boners make the point more vividly than paying for vasectomies do, but the idea is still the same. If Catholic health plans pay for these procedures, in direct violation of what stated Catholic rules are, it seems entirely reasonable to wonder what the difference is when it comes to contraception.Report

        • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

          Catholics should not be having sex unless they’re intending to procreate.

          Uh, Sam?

          This is wrong.  Which you can tell if you read the link you linked to.

          Catholic teaching on sex is that married people should romp in the hay to strengthen their marriage and their pairbonding.  And that they should accept children lovingly that come about from that activity.

          You don’t have to have sex with the intention of procreation.

          Now, that’s based upon a particular document, and as I referenced in the other thread recently there’s lots of Catholic theological thinkers who came to the opposite conclusion, but the Pope came down on that side and that’s the currently accepted guiding wisdom.Report

          • Sam in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

            Many Catholic websites seem to argue otherwise.

            Contraception is wrong because it’s a deliberate violation of the design God built into the human race, often referred to as “natural law.” The natural law purpose of sex is procreation. The pleasure that sexual intercourse provides is an additional blessing from God, intended to offer the possibility of new life while strengthening the bond of intimacy, respect, and love between husband and wife. The loving environment this bond creates is the perfect setting for nurturing children. 

            But sexual pleasure within marriage becomes unnatural, and even harmful to the spouses, when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the basic purpose of sex, which is procreation. God’s gift of the sex act, along with its pleasure and intimacy, must not be abused by deliberately frustrating its natural end—procreation. Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Sam says:

              You’re reading that wrong (also, it’s written badly, but that’s neither here nor there).

              Let’s take the part that you emphasize: when it is used in a way that deliberately excludes the basic purpose of sex, which is procreation.

              You’re conflating “accepting the (stipulated) purpose as a possible outcome” with “only pursuing the activity with the intent of maximizing the (stipulated) purpose”.

              There is a difference between the two.  Realize that I don’t particularly agree with their argument as it stands (in fact, I think it’s fundamentally unsound on a couple of points), but it’s a different argument than the one you think is being made.  Two sterile people can marry.  Two old people can marry.  They can sex up the place all they want while still acting in accordance with natural law.

              Natural law may intend the sex act to lead to procreation.  Individuals aren’t natural law, they’re only supposed to act in accordance with it.  You don’t have to have the *intention* of procreation when you engage in the sex act, you just have to accept that this is the natural law purpose of the sex act and agree to accept those potential consequences (lovingly, in a state of marriage)… if you engage in the activity.  To use contraception is to attempt to contravene natural law.

              (Again, there are problems with this argument, but the Catholic standing is certainly *not* that you can only screw somebody when you’re married and you’re trying deliberately to have a baby)>


          • The theory is marital sex should be unitive and procreative.  I think you two are getting hung up on intentions.  It’s not that the couple should INTEND to procreate when they have sex (though that is fine).  But that all marital sex should be OPEN to procreation.

            The unitive theory is interesting and not as discussed as the procreative part (though according to the teaching it’s just as important).  You’ve often heard a gay man or woman has the same “right” to marry someone of the opposite sex.  Arguably any sex a gay man or woman has in a heterosexual marriage would be by its nature, not “unitive.”Report

      • Sam in reply to Scrooge McDuck says:

        Did my answer really not post? WHY AM I AWFUL AT COMMENTING ON A WEBSITE? I AM 31! I SHOULD BE CAPABLE OF DOING THIS!!! (Also, boners are brought up because Catholics should not be having sex unless its is intended as procreative. The assumption we make is that by the age at which one usually needs Viagra, the goal of having children has probably passed. More information available here. There are obviously other medicines and medical procedures[like vasectomies] that could be mentioned instead, but boners are so eye-catching. I’ve heard.)Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Sam says:

          Sam, it got caught by the spam filter. I have no idea why. While there, I noticed that two of your other comments (older ones, I think) got caught by the spam filter, too. Apologies for the inconvenience.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to Sam says:

          Catholics should not be having sex unless its is intended as procreative.

          Sam, that’s wrong.  Catholics who are infertile and know it obviously cannot intend their sexual act to be procreative.  And yet they are allowed, even encouraged, to have sex with their spouses.

          And as to Viagra, a man and his wife can still be fertile, despite ED, so taking a boner pill can, in those cases, be intended to make procreation possible.

          It’s just sex outside of marriage and sex with accoutrements designed to prevent conception that are frowned on.  You can even have sex if you explicitly don’t want kids, you just have to pull out and, as the Bible says, “spill your see on the ground” (or, presumably, elsewhere, depending on how you get your kicks *grin*).Report

          • Sam in reply to James Hanley says:

            Yes, but James: the Catholic Church cannot distinguish between the couple taking boner pills* for the sake of procreation and the for the sake of just having sex, just as it can’t distinguish between the woman taking contraception not get pregnant versus the one taking it to help regulate heavy, painful, and irregular periods, can it?

            And I’ll say this again: I’m not at all confident about your very liberal interpretation of Catholic teaching on this. Plainly, I’m not religious. I do not believe that The Church’s position on knocking boots** for the fun of it is endorsement.

            *scholarly term

            **also scholarly termReport

            • James Hanley in reply to Sam says:

              he Catholic Church cannot distinguish between the couple taking boner pills* for the sake of procreation and the for the sake of just having sex, just as it can’t distinguish between the woman taking contraception not get pregnant versus the one taking it to help regulate heavy, painful, and irregular periods, can it?

              That’s a worthy point.  But I think the response would be that the boner pill doesn’t necessarily lead to non-procreative sex, whereas the pill–whatever else it does–necessarily leads to non-procreative sex.  I’ll accept, though, that by financing boner pills the Church has to know that it is in some cases funding non-procreative sex. I don’t know that this blows their argument out of the water, but it’s another chink in its armor.

              As to Catholic doctrine on sex, I’m not Catholic myself, but I’ll wager the Catholics here will confirm that I’m right.  The church does not require a post-menopausal women or one who’s had a hysterectomy to stop having sex.Report

          • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

            spilling your seed on the ground is a sin. about the same level as having gay sex, I believe. (cite’s over on streetprophets. ping ’em)Report

            • James Hanley in reply to Kim says:

              OK, I was having second thoughts on the spilling of seed (it’s pre-coffee a.m.).  I’ll stand by the claim about post-menopausal women and other infertile persons being allowed to have sex.Report

      • Difference in approach on the two is suggestive of an underlying view that men being able to have sex inherently matters more than women being able to prevent a particular outcome of sex.  Indeed, that there aren’t encyclicals about it is the point: it’s taken for granted without explanation.


      • Sam getting caught in the spam filter shows why I used “boner pill” rather than the V-word.Report

  9. Tod Kelly says:

    It seems like folks are banging on Tom for being anti-contraception or anti-Obama, which seems to be reading more into the OP than is there.  I just read it that to argue Obama made a political calculation that he thought would go in one direction, but appears to be going another.

    And I think he is absolutely correct.

    However, I will say that in doing so he continues to get Romney to makes pretty far right sound bites that will help him come October/November.  So I agree with you about today, Tom, but I’m not yet convinced Obama loses this particular political battle in the long run.

    We shall see.Report

    • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Thx, Tod, you get it.  I’m at arm’s length, the political philosophy of religious pluralism; Obama’s play here in the context of 2012.

      My opinion is that I approve heartily of pluralism, and I’m not good with Obama’s play here, either as an electoral strategy or in concordance with my studies of what has made America great.

      And I’m no romantic about


      Every step of the way has been hard-fought, and more to come.

      The right to believe stupid shit is God-given.  This I believe, Tod, and thx for asking.




    • BSK in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      A post on a subblog here proves this wrong. While Obama may. Ot get the Catholic vote, he likely wasn’t going to fare too well there anyway. This policy polls very well with women and young people, two grops Obama had last election and needs this time around. If it motivates them to come out and he loses a few more Catholics from a group he wasn’t likely to carry, the political calculus is spot on.Report

    • Christopher in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I too worry that Tom is right about the optics of this. So often the first reaction (for all of us) to something “new” is the tribal one — what do the leaders of my tribe say about this? I have many Catholic friends, users of birth control all, that are all too willing to conflate outside criticism of the church hierarchy (at best a mild form of anti-clericalism) with an attack on the folks in the pews (a quasi-racist anti-Catholicism).

      It seems to me that the hierarchy is happy to nurse this concern along, and even tried to exploit it during the sexual abuse crisis. The problem there was that the victims and accusers were pretty much 100% Catholic. So while I’m pretty sure a Catholic president could get away with this birth control decision, I fear Obama can’t.Report

  10. Doug Indeap says:

    Questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith are entirely real, but not new.  The courts have occasionally confronted such issues and have generally ruled that 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, negligence, 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. When moral binds for individuals can be anticipated, provisions may be added to laws affording some relief to conscientious objectors.
    Here, there is no need for such an exemption, since no employer is being “forced,” as some commentators rage, to act contrary to his or her belief.  In keeping with the law, those with conscientious objections to providing their employees with qualifying health plans may decline to provide their employees with any health plans and pay an assessment instead or, alternatively, provide their employees with health plans that do not qualify (e.g., ones without provisions they deem objectionable) and pay lower assessments.


    The employers may not like paying the assessments or what the government will do with the money it receives.  But that is not a moral dilemma of the sort supposed by many commentators, 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.  That is hardly call for a special “exemption” from the law.  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, whatever) each of us opposes?Report

  11. bobvious says:

    “Nob, dude, I’m explicitly saying this Obama Admin initiative is sexo-religio-ideologico war taken to the Roman church. ”

    If only it were true!

    98% of Catholics use birth control. They are at “war” with Rome. Obama might be one more person.Report

  12. Fnord says:

    It’s funny that you cite Hosanna-Tabor, given that it makes such a big deal about the ministerial exception. In fact, it EXPLICITLY DISCLAIMS to being a decision about suits other than “an employment discrimination suit brought on behalf of a minister”: “We express no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits.” And, as has been pointed out, the employees we’re talking about are definitely not ministerial employees.

    In Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, as quoted in Hosanna-Tabor itself, the court wrote “right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).” Hosanna-Tabor is only distinguished because the appointments of ministers are not only “outward physical acts”.

    A “valid and neutral law of general applicability…that [prescribes] conduct that [the] religion [proscribes].” Gee, that sounds a bit like what this situation with ACA is, doesn’t it.Report

  13. Robert Cheeks says:

    Barry’s statist tactics are the kind of stuff that gets pulled in third world countries, Eastern Europe, and other shit holes around the world. What’s interesting is the response of some Americans. Hell, some of them understand that Barry and his cohorts are participating in in a gross act of tyranny that requires the strongest response possible! Consequently, I’m really interested in seeing how this ends.Report

  14. Kyle Cupp says:

    The irony is that although most folks these days think of the “separation of church and state” as a defense against theocracy, for much of Christendom’s history in the past millennium, it was the state that tried to hijack the church at least as often.

    Nicely said.Report

  15. BSK says:


    If your primary point is as you say it is, that Americans support religious pluralism and liberty, I am not sure a singular poll bears that out.  There are many tenets of many faiths that are either illegal with little support to make them legal or that are legal but many feel should be illegal.  Rastafarians smoking weed, animal sacrifice, Shariah law… these all enjoy very little public support.  Even circumcision is encountering increased resistance and calls to make it illegal.  It is hard to rectify these trends with the idea of a widespread respect for religious pluralism.  Rather, I’d argue Americans largely support religious singularism, believing in freedom of Christianity but not necessarily extending this freedom to other faiths.Report

  16. Chris says:

    Tom, governments coerce. They even coerce religious institutions, every day (churches are subject to zoning laws, for example, and they can’t kill people either). That’s what governments are: coercive institutions. You’ve yet to show, however, that this is more coercive of Catholic institutions than any other, that it was directed at Catholics, that it was, as you’ve repeatedly said, “aggressive,” or that it’s an attack in any way on the Catholic Church. It tells an employer, qua employer, that they have to live up to the standards designated for all employers. You can spin it however you like, but the fact that there is an exception for religious institutions specifically (not just businesses run by religious groups) suggests that your opinion needs a lot more nuance.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

      You’ve yet to show, … that it was directed at Catholics,

      As a matter of law, that’s not wholly relevant.Report

      • Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

        I get that, but it is relevant to the claims of aggression, which he’s repeated several times. It also speaks to the lack of nuance in his position.Report

        • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

          Agreed (see my comment on his “war” claim above).

          I do think, however, that its fairly apparent that this is “more coercive” for Catholics than for many other groups, precisely because for many other groups there’s no conflict with principles. I’m not sure Tom has to work hard to make that particular case.  But, yeah, the “targeted at Catholics” claim is an extraordinary claim, and consequently requires extraordinary evidence–what we get instead is no evidence.Report

          • Chris in reply to James Hanley says:

            Eh, I suspect many conservative evangelical employers aren’t happy about it. They tend to dislike contraception more than lay Catholics, even.

            I actually recognize Tom’s view on the issue of separation of Church and State, but I disagree with it. The difference between Tom and me, in this case (as in many), is that because of the language he’s used, he’s made it impossible to acknowledge my position, or any that disagree with him. It’s unfortunate, but it’s Tom.Report

            • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

              conservative evangelical[s] … tend to dislike contraception more than lay Catholics, even.

              Having grown up in conservative evangelical circles, I’m somewhat dubious of this. They’re even more fiercely anti-abortion than Catholics in many cases, but they tend to draw the line pretty firmly at the time the sperm pierces the egg; at any point before that, a new life hasn’t been created.  Catholics emphasize God’s intent for that particular sperm to pierce that particular egg, evangelicals not so much, in my experience.

              Their only real objection to contraceptives is their belief that it promotes sex outside of marriage, especially among teens.

              For data points that are a bit more solid than my experience, see here and here.Report

      • James Vonder Haar in reply to James Hanley says:

        I’ll go with the citation of Fnord, above:


        In Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, as quoted in Hosanna-Tabor itself, the court wrote “right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).”

        The key word in the quotation is “neutral.”  So far as I know, whether a law was specifically directed at harming a religion is pretty central to its constitutionality under the first amendment.Report

  17. Sam says:

    For whatever this is worth, here is a history of the Catholic Church’s involvement in the creation of the original birth control pill. It makes for an interesting read, then and now, and reveals (sadly) the fact that even when it was tangentially supportive of the pill itself, the Church still managed to hurt women with its endorsement of a 28-day menstrual cycle as being “standard.”Report

  18. Shannon's Mouse says:

    Suppose I’m a simple, observant, lay Catholic that runs a business and does not want to support the instrinsically evil act contraception use.  Is forcing me to offer coverage for contraception for my employees a violation of my religious freedom?  Why?

    Suppose I’m an Imam that wishes to found a community within the US that complies with a rather strict version of Sharia that, in many instances, will conflict with US and/or state law.  Is forbidding the observance of those parts of Sharia that conflict with US law a violation of my religious freedom?  Why?

    Suppose I’m [insert religion here].  What laws can I exempt myself from under a claim of religious freedom?  Why?



    • BSK in reply to Shannon's Mouse says:


      While I suspect that Tom might argue this point is irrelevant to the discussion, I think it is part and parcel for the original point he claims to be making, which is that the voting public supports religious liberty.  It largely does not.  It supports the rights of Christians, but few other groups.Report

    • Matty in reply to Shannon's Mouse says:

      The principle of exemption from the general law for religion seems wrong to me. If a law intrudes on the individual in a way that isn’t justified then it is a bad law and you should oppose it for everyone. If it can be justified then that justification should be good enough to overcome any objection regardless of whether it is religiously based or not.

      For an example imagine a law requiring every restaurant to serve ham. Would anyone care to argue that the Muslim or Jewish restauranteur should be exempted to protect their right of conscience but the committed vegetarian should just accept the law? It seems to me any such judgement would involve judging which conscience claims are more important, exactly the kind of interference with personal values that religious neutrality is meant to avoid.Report

      • goethean in reply to Matty says:

        For an example imagine a law requiring every restaurant to serve ham. 

        Not analogous. The employer isn’t providing the contraceptive, the health insurance company is.



        • Matty in reply to goethean says:

          It isn’t meant to be an analogy to the specific case about which I know nothing beyond what has been written on this blog. It was to illustrate my view that liberty of conscience should not be contingent on the conscience in question meeting any definition of religious. I was riffing off Shannon’s question since I found it interesting but have nothing to add on the main subject of this discussion.Report

  19. Max L says:

    Requiring employers who provide health insurance to include contraception is a rule that has been on the books for a decade, it turns out. It was a Clinton administration ruling by the EEOC, and upheld in federal court, that Bush did not think was worth fighting over, either.

    The following is a longish quote from a story was published in Mother Jones yesterday showing that this argument over contraception was resolved, for the most part, ten years ago.

    “In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don’t offer prescription coverage or don’t offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC’s interpretation of the law, you can’t offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too….

    “”It was, we thought at the time, a fairly straightforward application of Title VII principles,” a top former EEOC official who was involved in the decision told Mother Jones. “All of these plans covered Viagra immediately, without thinking, and they were still declining to cover prescription contraceptives. It’s a little bit jaw-dropping to see what is going on now…There was some press at the time but we issued guidances that were far, far more controversial.”

    “”We have used [the EEOC ruling] many times in negotiating with various employers,” says Judy Waxman, the vice president for health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center. “It has been in active use all this time. [President Obama’s] policy is only new in the sense that it covers employers with less than 15 employees and with no copay for the individual. The basic rule has been in place since 2000.”

    “Not even religious employers were exempt from the impact of the EEOC decision. Although Title VII allows religious institutions to discriminate on religious grounds, it doesn’t allow them to discriminate on the basis of sex—the kind of discrimination at issue in the EEOC ruling. DePaul University, the largest Roman Catholic university in America, added birth control coverage to its plans after receiving an EEOC complaint several years ago. (DePaul officials did not respond to a request for comment.)

    Also, it looks like Ericson v Bartell Drug Company is the case law cited dealing directly with contraception coverage and the EEOC Title VII ruling. It is here:
    (The story article is here: http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/controversial-obama-birth-control-rule-already-law )Report

  20. BSK says:

    “Somehow, the American people, or at least a strong half of them, get this founding American principle, that the churches must be kept safe from the government as well.”


    One poll showing opposition to one policy that intervenes with one faith (or several faiths, depending on how we dice up those that fall under the “Christianity” umbrella) hardly demonstrates that people “get” this founding American principle.  It will be demonstrated when the American people stand up in support of a vile practice by a vile religion.  The masses supporting the dominant religion by a slim margin does not do so.

    I’d really like to see you engage this point, since you’ve reiterated that it is the primary point of your post.Report

  21. Jesse Ewiak says:

    More polling from a firm that actually did well in the past few elections.

    • 56% of voters generally support the birth control benefit, while 37% are opposed. Independents strongly favor it, 55/36, and a lot more Republicans (36%) support it than Democrats (20%) oppose it. Women are for it by a 63/29 margin.

    • Only 39% of voters support an exemption for Catholic hospitals and universities from providing the benefit, while 57% are opposed to one.

    • There is a major disconnect between the leadership of the Catholic Church and rank and file Catholic voters on this issue. We did an over sample of almost 400 Catholics and found that they support the benefit overall, 53-44, and oppose an exception for Catholic hospitals and universities, 53-45. The Bishops really are not speaking for Catholics as a whole on this issue.

    • Republican agitating on this issue could cause themselves trouble at the polls this year. 40% of voters say Mitt Romney’s stance makes them less likely to vote for him, while only 23% consider it a positive.  With the Catholic oversample it’s 46% less likely and 28% more likely. And Congressional Republicans are imperiling themselves as well. 58% of voters oppose them trying to take the benefit away, while only 33% are supportive.

    Of course, the polling question I’d like to see ask is, “do you think Jewish people working at Catholic hospitals deserve worse benefits than Catholic people at secular or Jewish hospitals.”Report

  22. goethean says:

    So an organization owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses or Christian Scientists doesn’t have to provide insurance which covers blood transfusions?Report

  23. Nob Akimoto says:

    Well, fortunately this is now irrelevant.

    Employers can opt to “not provide” contraceptive care, but insurance companies have to provide it if the insured asks for it.

    Interesting twist…though I somehow doubt that this’ll mollify the crazies.Report

  24. greginak says:

    Breaking news in the war against religion. O compromises so that Church affiliated groups don’t have to provide contraceptives. The insurance companies will have to do so. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood are supportive which obviously means this isn’t a pragmatic compromise to have everybody get what they need but a devious hidden attack on religion and an attempt to whack Santa with a drone strike.Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to greginak says:

      I never trusted that Santa guy. Too many B & E priors.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to greginak says:

      …It should be noted that a point made here earlier by James Hanley, reports suggest, played a significant role in allowing this resolution to be crafted: namely, that covering contraception (in what ever form ensures people will use it) is ultimately less expensive than paying for unanticipated pregnancies and children.Report

  25. James Vonder Haar says:

    Carving out ad hoc exceptions to laws drafted for secular purposes, designed to apply to religious and secular institutions equally, on the basis of which religious practices are currently sympathetic, or numerous enough to warrant mainstream attention, is hardly religious pluralism.  Whatever principle we carve out in response to this initiative has to apply with equal force to the quirky or even destructive cult as it does to mainstream Christian faiths.  It seems to me that if a law is not designed in such a way as to purposefully target religious practice, and serves a compelling state interest, and happens to conflict with religious practice, be it politically influential or not, it runs afoul neither of the first amendment nor America’s commitment to religious pluralism, and is in fact a fulfillment of those things.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to James Vonder Haar says:


    • BSK in reply to James Vonder Haar says:


      I tried to make this point a few times, but got little traction with it.  The OP’s primary point was that the opposition to this policy was grounded in a respect for religious pluralism.  Hogwash.  We’ll demonstrate respect for religious pluralism when we allow the Rastas to smoke weed.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to James Vonder Haar says:

      I dissent.  Much depends on the degree of intrusion.

      If the law required doctors to perform abortions, or to perform euthanasia, it would go too far.  Requiring pharmacists to fill contraceptive prescriptions does not go too far.  Somewhere in between is the fuzzy line.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

        He mentioned a compelling interest. Perhaps we could add some degree of a narrow tailoring job. But basically, if the government has a compelling interest, can we say that it is going too far, by whatever standard you’re suggesting we judge that?Report

        • James Hanley in reply to Michael Drew says:

          I’m fine with the compelling government interest part, but do you want to wager on whether you can persuade me that requiring employers to provide contraceptives is a “compelling” government interest?Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

            Right, but whether I can or not, are you saying it goes “too far”? How do we go about telling whether a given intrusion is over the line, whether the line is fuzzy or not?

            The point is, Mr. Vonder Haar stipulated that the law he was speaking to would be in pursuance of a compelling state interest, which means that it’s going to be… compelling to us, so we are actually going to want to know whether, notwithstanding the compelling nature of the interest, the measure nevertheless “goes too far” in some way that keeps us from doing it. This issue of the contraceptive mandate may not be based on a compelling interest, but Mr. Vander Haar had moved beyond the contraceptive issue and was enunciating a general principle, and you responded with a response in similar general terms – i.e. that that’s all well and good, unless it just goes to far.

            The general principle was that,

            ” if a law is not designed in such a way as to purposefully target religious practice, and serves a compelling state interest, and happens to conflict with religious practice, be it politically influential or not, it runs afoul neither of the first amendment nor America’s commitment to religious pluralism, and is in fact a fulfillment of those things.”

            …and your response was,

            “I dissent. Much depends on the degree of intrusion.

            If the law required doctors to perform abortions, or to perform euthanasia, it would go too far. Requiring pharmacists to fill contraceptive prescriptions does not go too far. Somewhere in between is the fuzzy line.”

            …a general statement about limits and the difficulty of drawing lines – rather than, “Well, I don’t find that requiring employers to provide contraceptives is a “compelling” government interest, so his point is moot in this interest where I am concerned!”

            My questions were a) if we are talking about achieving compelling interests with narrowly tailored means, then does it make sense to say that this could end up going “too far,” and b) if yes to (a), given that compelling interests by their nature will compel us to want to know whether a narrowly tailored action to achieve them nevertheless goes “too far,” then how do we go about determining whether one does? We need to try to do better than just sketch out two scenarios, one which doesn’t and one which does go too far, and say that the line lines somewhere between them, but we have no idea where. If we want to say some narrowly-tailored laws that pursue compelling interests go “too far,” we need to say what protection it abrogates – what it goes “too far” past – and how we know it does.Report

      • BSK in reply to James Hanley says:

        There is a difference between saying someone MUST do somethig and saying someone CAN’T do something, with the former being more problematic.  Which is why I do have some reservations about the mandate.

        Still, if there is such a respect for religious liberty and pluralism in this country, how come so few take up the Rastas right to use marijuana?Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to James Vonder Haar says:

      It seems to me that if a law is not designed in such a way as to purposefully target nonwhites, and serves a compelling state interest, and happens to affect nonwhites in greater numbers than whites, be they politically influential or not, it runs afoul of neither the Fourteenth Amendment nor America’s committment to equal treatment under the law, and is in fact a fulfillment of those things.

      And yet we have Disparate Impact lawsuits all the time.Report

  26. Steve S. says:

    “But this latest chapter of Obama’s putative war could have been avoided.”

    Not by a longshot.  Flawed as it is “Obamacare” at least takes a stab at universal health coverage, and if a society residing somewhere north of the middle ages is going to take a stab at universal health coverage it’s going to have to address these issues, and when you address these issues a segment of the right (especially the Catholic right) is going to throw a hissy fit no matter what.  The only question is timing.Report

  27. John Howard Griffin says:

    It could be that this is a “war on religion”.

    But then the Catholic Church has had a “war on little boys” for a whole lot longer.Report

  28. Will Truman says:


    Actually, you have me curious now. What would it take for you personally to consider a hospital, school, or charity to be “part of” the church? Answering directly to the church hierarchy? Being located on church grounds? Being run (at least ostensibly) by a Priest?

    For that matter, what does it take to convince the HHS to get an exemption? My understanding on this is that as long as the core mission is a rounded education or to fix sick people, it cannot be considered part of the church. Is my understanding here correct? (I’m less sure about charities, but I sort of assume Catholic Charities of Boston, despite being a part of the Archdiosese of Boston and answerable to the church, does not get an exemption. Is my understanding on this correct?)

    Though I don’t make the distinction myself, I can understand one between a hospital that’s affiliated with the church and Catholic Charities of Boston, but regardless of how we perceive these distinctions, the ruling in question seems to focus far more on function (job description, for lack of a better term) than on actual relationship. Right?Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Will Truman says:

      As a general matter, if when push comes to shove the decisions of an institution are final only after sign-off by officials of a church, then I for my purposes I’d say that the institution is part of the church, though strictly speaking even then it may not be. If decisions can be made that, even if challenged, will stand independent of the church, then it isn’t part of the church. In the case of the Catholic Church in particular, I’d want to defer to any formal definition of the what the Church itself comprises as an actual matter in the world that pre-exists my sense of it as a general question. I can’t say for sure what is or isn’t part of The Church by such a definition, and I went a bit out on a limb to say that I thought a considerable number of what have been termed “Catholic hospitals” hat have and other institutions being referred to in this discussion are not in fact “part of the Church” by that definition (and it was by that order of definitions that I as speaking – first, any formally existing ones that say what is and isn’t in fact a “part of” the Catholic Church, and then if there aren’t any, the sense of the question as I stated it above), but I feel pretty confident about that speculation.

      On the exemption, as I understand it you’re right the rule as it started out didn’t depend on the status of an organization as being a (part of) a church or not, but on whether its core function was the practice of religion, and whether it employed primarily coreligionists (though in practice that ended up being roughly an exemption aimed at houses of worship per se).

      My view is that it does matter who finally makes these decisions at the institutions in question, because it is those people whose religious consciences either are or aren’t being trespassed against by the law, something they have a constitutionally protected right to not experience if the acts against their conscience they are forced to take to comply with the law come in the course of exercising their religion. The reason I raise the question of whether every “Catholic hospital” is necessarily “part of the church” is because there is one and only one institution that I at this time have absolutely no doubt that the bishops speak for, and that is “the church.” If every “Catholic hospital” is “part of the church,” then indeed the bishops speak for every “Catholic hospital.” But if some “Catholic hospitals” (etc.) do not consider themselves to be “part of the church,” and indeed make decisions contrary to their doctrine, then it seems to me this significantly complicates our picture of what “Catholic hospitals” are and what exactly the religious consciences of their officials dictate to them. If that’s the case, then it seems important that we listen to the people whose freedom to follow their religious conscience is at stake, not to people who claim to be in a position to say what their consciences ought to dictate them, but may or may not actually persuade them of that. In some cases, those people may indeed be bishops (though my naive presumption would be that, generally, bishops tend to be in charge of organizations like the ones that did get exemptions in the version of the rule before Friday’s change), but if so, we should hear from them in those capacities, not (or not quite so loudly) in their unified collective capacity as the counsel of high clerics who run the Catholic Church (the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) – because (and this is my assessment of the loud public case the bishops have pressed here, for which they prepared months in advance) this tends to really obscure the voices of the people whose consciences really are at stake here (again, in some cases, some bishops, but from my estimation, not those of the USCCB, which has spoken with one, loud, commanding, oxygen-consuming voice for “Catholic organizations” on this matter).

      To a significant extent, my personal suspicion in this case is that the bishops’ public relations campaign with regard to this issue has actually been as much about attempting to reassert (hopefully to reestablish) their moral authority over the decision making of what have been come to be known as “Catholic organizations,” many of which have faltered in their fealty to the commands of the church’s doctrine over time, both voluntarily to meet market and other interests, and as a matter of similar laws in states, including New York state, (where the current head of the bishops’ council is seated – a Milwaukee transplant, by the way) — which laws are in some cases as much as a decade old, and about which we have heard nothing like the this level of reaction — the as it has been about preserving religious freedom for those institutions, although I don’t suggest that they aren’t sincere and principled in their concern for that issue. That could be entirely wrong, but it is my suspicion.

      That’s a bit more than you asked, but suffice to say, I think it matters that when someone presumes to speak for another’s liberty, he be very clear to do it in terms that very specifically delineate exactly who he speaks for, especially if this is done in terms of classes of people (such as, “officials at Catholic hospitals”) which I think the bishops are doing the exact opposite of, on purpose. Saying that all “Catholic hospitals” (for which they may or may not speak) are “part of the church” (the church being something they assuredly do speak for) completely obscures the question of whom the bishops speak for, and don’t.Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Michael Drew says:

        MichaelD, many hospitals are church-owned.  I would think that settles it for those institutions.

        BTW, the Catholic hospitals seem to be the most efficient.




        Obama driving them out of the public square [a possible result] is stupid and spiteful and serves no greater good, not even a utilitarian one.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          I assume that does settle it for those institutions, but then I also don’t know that to be the case.

          I doubt they’ll leave off serving the public; if their commitment to both service and faith is as strong as they say, I assume they’ll go on serving the public in accordance with their faith until such time as someone tries to enforce this regulation against them, at which time they’ll sue, continuing not to comply (a judge will not issue injunctive relief in favor of the government to make them start covering contraceptives), and in the end, the exemption will expand to include all organizations that have a policy based in exercise of faith of not offering contraceptive coverage to employees.

          Tom, do you know, in Catholic hospitals that do follow doctrine as a matter of officials exercising their faith by making such policies, is it policy that doctors do not prescribe contraceptives for purposes of birth control?Report

          • No, I don’t, Michael.  Let me know what your research comes up with, incl confirmation of my last reply about the church owning the hospitals, which obviated many previous [and lengthy] speculative comments on the subject.


            There is no point in proceeding without info when it’s just a google away, eh?Report

            • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              By all means Tom, i assume the church owns some hospitals. I tried to stipulate it, and never thought it wasn’t the case.  Certainly they control some.  I don’t believe that actually obviates what I’ve had to say about the bishops’ public position here. Now, if you’re assuring me of things you don’t know, I’d ask you to do the research.  I speculated that some church-affiliated organizations are not “part of the church,” labeling it as speculation, though speculation I was pretty comfortable with.  I don’t feel much need to research that; I’m pretty comfortable with its overwhelming likelihood.  If you’d like to try to show it isn’t the case, by all means you can do the necessary research.Report

          • Trumwill in reply to Michael Drew says:

            There is a balancing act involved. My wife worked as a non-employee at a Catholic hospital. As a rule, she could do things that were not in accordance with the faith, but hospital employees could not participate. For instance, if she could not have a nurse (who worked for the hospital) hand birth control to the patient – she had to do it herself. Her institution rented out a floor of the hospital from the Catholic hospital, so technically things could be done on that floor (such as tubals and Depo shots) that were otherwise against church policy. Post-birth, a woman that wanted a tubal ligation had to be moved from one floor to the next, despite the extraordinary inefficiency (it is easiest to perform it immediately post-delivery).

            The hospital in question is not owned by the Church, but is affiliated with it. The arrangement they had with my wife’s employer (a university) may be atypical, but a lot of thought was put into providing care and upholding church doctrine. There was actually a lot of conflict around this (especially around the delivery and care of inviable fetuses, though I can’t remember the specifics of my wife’s breaking point), which is one of the reasons that my wife will not work at Catholic hospitals in the future.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Heh.  St Joseph’s in Phoenix is just as efficient, now that it’s removed itself from Catholic oversight, as ever before.Report

      • Christopher in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I think MichaelD’s definition of whether an organization is part of the church or just associated with it makes a lot of sense: who gets to make the ultimate decision on whether that organization will comply with the law or simply shut down? The church hierarchy? A private board of directors?

        But suppose that the Catholic hospitals are a part of the Roman church by this definition. Then the next part irks me:

        MD: “My view is that it does matter who finally makes these decisions at the institutions in question, because it is those people whose religious consciences either are or aren’t being trespassed against by the law, something they have a constitutionally protected right to not experience if the acts against their conscience they are forced to take to comply with the law come in the course of exercising their religion.”

        Of course, the Pope could tell the US bishops to knock it off. Which means that what we are really talking about is Pope Benedict’s freedom of religion, a man who is not even a US citizen. More specifically, we are saying that the German pontiff has rights under the US Constitution that ordinary US citizens don’t share. I know that this may be the most natural way to read the case law, but do you think for a minute that the Founding Fathers would have agreed with this principle?Report

      • Trumwill in reply to Michael Drew says:

        MD, I view the conflict very differently than you. I do not believe this is about reining in hospitals and schools at all. To me, it seems pretty clearly more directed to preventing the state from forcing those institutions that abide by the churches rules from doing so.Report

  29. wardsmith says:

    My aunt is a nun, part of a religious order which has been running hospitals in this country longer than any institution of the state, period. Yes that is correct, while many pontificate (itself a word relating to the Pope) about how useless the church is, I believe it can be proven beyond much doubt that our own forebears were beneficiaries of the care of said church in numerous ways. I don’t blame a secular state organization for going to war against the church, after all, the church has demonstrably been doing a better job than the state in taking care of the sick, the elderly and education for thousands of years longer than the state has been failing at same. Just like the education debacle, the state doesn’t like competition, it needs to stack the deck.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to wardsmith says:

      Nobody’s going to war against the Church.   The Church has gone to war against the State often enough in history.   Let’s put this in religious terms, should the Pope continue to excommunicate anyone who has an abortion?Report

      • Tom Van Dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Excommunication has nothing to do with the state, Blaise.  That is a non sequitur.  By contrast, the Obama administration has just tried to coerce a church to do the will of the state.  Big diff, an ocean’s worth.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Excommunication is a spiritual death sentence, Tom.   The parallels are quite exact.   Enough of this minging and whinging about how much good the Catholic Church does in the world, that’s irrelevant in this discussion.   We are confining ourselves to what goes on inside a Catholic hospital or a Catholic institution of any sort.Report

          • wardsmith in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Blaise, all excommunication means is the person can no longer receive the sacrament of communion. However, even an excommunicated person can walk up to a priest stick his or her tongue out or hand and receive the host, the priest is not supposed to deny it. Is the Catholic church screwy? All the damn time. Do I believe in God but not in Dogma? All the time. Man’s laws concerning the divine are completely without merit.

            In Roman Catholic canon law, excommunication is a censure and thus a “medicinal penalty” intended to invite the person to change behaviour or attitude, to repent and return to full communion. It is not an “expiatory penalty”, designed to make satisfaction for the wrong done, still less a merely “vindictive penalty”, designed solely to punish.Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

          Let us return to those remarkable canons and their implications:

          Canon 1398: “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.”

          Canon 751: “Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

          Canon 1364 §1: “an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.”

          And from thence to their implications:

          Voting for Abortion

          Any Catholic politician who casts a vote with the intention of legalizing abortion, or of protecting laws allowing abortion, or of widening access to abortion, commits a mortal sin.

          When such a vote indicates that the Catholic politician believes that abortion is not always gravely immoral, such a politician incurs a sentence of automatic excommunication, under canons 751 and 1364, because of heresy.

          When such a vote is intended to have the effect of making abortion legal, or more easily obtainable, or more widely available, such a politician incurs a sentence of automatic excommunication, under canon 1398, as someone who is attempting to provide substantial or essential means for women to obtain abortions. Catholic politicians who pass laws which legalize, protect, or widen access to abortion, are providing essential assistance to women who want to obtain abortions.

          Now it seems to me here is a clear instance of the Catholic faith informing politicians their mortal souls are in peril should they vote contrary to the doctrines of Holy Mother Church.Report

  30. wardsmith says:

    I just had drinks last night with a physician friend who used to work at a major Catholic hospital. Naturally we discussed this topic. He said the Catholic hospital performed “procedures” all the time which had the effect of terminating the pregnancy. DNC’s things like that, the only thing they wouldn’t do is provide the abortion drugs (although they’d use medicine to induce labor far too early and then try and fail to save the infant). They are a product of the modern era in modern society in the USA. The laity of the Church are trying to take a principled stand in favor of life. They cannot be perfect, nor can they succeed against all that is arrayed against them (and yes, the state is at war with Christianity in multiple ways). Bloomberg allowed OWS to fester for months but immediately arrested law-abiding pastors and priests after one hour. The implication is obvious.Report

    • Trumwill in reply to wardsmith says:

      If it was a Catholic hospital and they performed a D&C, I assume it was because the fetus was already dead. Otherwise, they’re performing abortions.

      The hospital my wife worked at would not induce futile delivery, as your friend’s did, regardless of the futility of the continued pregnancy and the potential health risks thereof. That was… an area of conflict.