When soon-to-be-former President Obama issued a
monarchical edict mandate that insurance providers had to cover contraception, it was met with significant opposition from the right.
It was viewed by religious institutions who provided health care as a threat to their rights as just that, religious entities.
Luckily for them (and for all of us) Marco Rubio is already working on getting this market-meddling piece of authoritarian garbage put where it belongs: namely, in the trash.
But any opposition to this legislation on the grounds of religious freedom will have a tough time. There is an erroneous assumption made by myriad people in this country that there are explicit and specific references in our constitution to the separation of capital ‘C’ Church and capital ‘S’ State.
There is no explicit separation of church and state in our constitution, but rather the Supreme Court has, over the years, decided where the boundaries of religious autonomy are defined.
In the case Reynolds v U.S, the Supreme Court ruled that to allow bigamy in Utah would be to set religious rule ahead of civil rule and as such would allow the rules and laws of religion to overrule the laws of the state.
Later, in Cantwell v Connecticut, the Supreme Court noted that we, as people, have the right to believe whatever we so choose, but that government has the right to restrict the way one acts.
It is both intuitive and somewhat incoherent. If we cannot act on our beliefs, how free are we to truly believe those things?
If I believe it’s immoral, as some religions do, to eat pork, but am forbidden from not eating pork, certainly I am not ‘free to believe’ because my actions are not shaped by my beliefs, but by civil law.
In order to do that, the government would have to literally force me to eat pork. Seems strange right? Except that’s exactly what is going on in this case: the government is forcing people to act in a way they believe, based on their religious beliefs, is immoral.
We could think of innumerable cases where we act illegally, but morally based on our own standards. Furthermore, it can be easily argued that plenty of things some people believe to be perfectly moral (gay marriage, bigamy, incest) others believe to be wholly immoral and ought to be illegal.
There is an important difference though, between not allowing someone to practice freely and actively forcing someone to act against his religion as this contraception edict does.
It would be easy enough for our soon-to-be-former President to grant religious institutions waivers in this case, or truly any business who doesn’t believe in the moral standing of using contraceptives.
In other words, if you’re a woman or man who wants contraception to be covered, don’t work for the Catholic Knights. I think that’s pretty intuitive.
If our government truly believes that contraceptives should be readily available for low or no cost to everyone, then subsidize it or provide it yourself.
College campuses, free clinics and other entities already offer free condoms and other contraceptives.
Forcing insurers to cover them and forcing employers to use that insurance to cover them isn’t just an overreach of the government’s power into our religious freedoms, it’s a violation of our civil liberties.
I wouldn’t expect a one-term president who believes in the efficacy and moral veracity of a burdensome, mandatory (not to mention unconstitutional) health care system to see why this, too, was unconstitutional.
Catholic or Jewish, Muslim, Atheist or otherwise, forcing providers to cover something and forcing employers to provide that coverage violates everyone’s rights, liberties, and freedoms, religious or otherwise.