I was relieved to hear that President Obama has shifted his stance a bit and stated that “religious organizations won’t have to pay for [contraceptive] services.” Instead, the onus is now upon insurers to offer those services to women employed by Catholic-affiliated organizations.
I think this is a commendable compromise. The original ruling required Catholic-affiliated organizations to pay for the contraceptive services of its employees.
Mandating Catholic organizations to fund actions that directly contradict deeply held religious beliefs is certainly an impingement on religious freedom and was an overstep by the Obama administration.
The issue at stake, here, is religious freedom. This is not about whether the majority of Americans have no moral qualms about contraceptive use. This is also NOT about the fact that many Catholics use birth control. It’s also not about whether the Church’s stance on birth control is outdated, ridiculous and ‘unfair.’
The real issue is this: the Constitution of the United States protects freedom of religion and no governmental entity is allowed to force private, faith-based groups to act against their religious beliefs.
Nobody is forcing anyone to work for a Catholic-affiliated organization. If you choose to be employed by a Catholic hospital, your Catholic employer is not going to pay for your birth control pills. As President of Ave Maria University in Florida stated:
“Our non-Catholic students and employees understand fully that the University must adhere to Catholic teaching and they do not expect us to provide such services.”
Like it or not, the Catholic Church’s stance on birth control is a deeply held religious belief. We can argue all day long about whether or not we agree with it–but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a religious belief and the government has no business strong-arming faith-based groups into funding actions that directly defy those beliefs.
I also heard the argument that if Catholic-affiliated organizations are receiving federal dollars then they are beholden to the will of the taxpayers and must provide the services the public demands. Really? How about considering that maybe Catholic organizations would rather stop taking federal funds than change their religious beliefs? I’m guessing the Church is more concerned about answering to a higher authority–and that authority is NOT the American President or even the almighty American taxpayer.
But thankfully, this situation didn’t come to a stand-off. I admire the President’s willingness to rework the ruling and take into account the sincere objections of faith-based organizations. Because as the archbishop of New York stated, “To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable.”