John Kass, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, argues in today's column that requiring health-insurance plans to include contraception for women in their health insurance plans is a "clear" violation of the First Amendment. He offers this puzzling argument:
But then, recently, he decided to challenge the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. And his new policy to force religious hospitals and schools to offer abortion-inducing drugs and birth control in health care plans for employees is a clear violation of religious freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
It demonstrates to Americans that their government is not only willing but eager to dominate faith, by telling religions how to practice their beliefs. And if they refuse, then the faithful will feel the federal wrath.
So the president's policy is not only mistaken and insensitive and wrong, it is the perfect expression of everything Americans fear about the ever-increasing federal leviathan.
It is not only mistaken–it's also wrong. Mistaken is the most wrong kind of wrong. The article (and the comments) are worth reading for the factless cocoon in which some people seem to live. Nowhere in the piece does Kass bother to (1) cite the facts about the actual policy; (2) consider reasonable objections to such non-restrictions; (3) discuss what the actual position of the Catholic Church is:
The Catholic bishops have called the new health coverage rule "an attack on religious freedom" and argue that all employers who object to contraception–not just faith-based organizations–should be exempt from having to provide it to their employees.
“That means removing the provision from the health care law altogether," said Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the USCCB, "not simply changing it for Catholic employers and their insurers."
He added, "If I quit this job and opened a Taco Bell, I'd be covered by the mandate."
That's not a slippery slope, that's their stated objective. So imagine the following etiam tu quoque (offered, by the way, by a commenter on the Tribune page): the Chicago Tribune has now changed hands, it's owned by Jehovah's Witnesses. However life saving blood transfusions may be, they are not covered on their plan because Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in them. Sorry John Kass, no blood transfusions for you so long as you work at the Tribune. In addition, the JWs think it immoral to refer you to outside plans that would cover blood transfusions. You must find insurance and pay for that out of pocket on your own. A discount from you current plan to cover it would violate their beliefs (these are, by the way, objections actually offered to compromise plans by the Catholic Church). Would you support the law then?
Anyway, the point is that it is not super-obvious to everyone that this is a religious freedom issue. I would say that it's one worthy of some careful discussion. Kass isn't offering that.