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Corporations at Prayer

Are corporations not only people with free speech, but citizens with conscience protections? The USCCB makes its argument.

In the USCCB Administrative Committees March 12 statement (referred to in Grant Gallichos post), the bishops assert there are three classes of citizen relative to religious freedom. The first class consists of those people and institutions that Health and Human Services (HHS) recognizes as religious employers and are therefore exempt from the contraception mandate. The second class consists of people and groups whom the bishops recognize as religious employers (Catholic hospitals, schools, charities, etc.), but Health and Human Services does not. These groups may not be exempt from the mandate, and it is this second class that has been the main point of debate. But in their statement, the bishops also introduce an argument for the "conscience protection" of what they call a "third class" of "citizen":

The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values. They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing services contrary to those valueswhether in their sponsoring of, and payment for, insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselveswithout even the semblance of an exemption.

This third class is new and very interesting. The first and third categories here (employers and insurance companies) suggest that corporations can claim a religious exemption simply if their management is made up of Catholics. While these Catholics are individuals, they would be enforcing their beliefs through a corporation as the corporation. This seems to be a variation of the idea that corporations themselves are legal persons; in this case, persons with both a religious conscience and the right of free speech. An employer would have the right to claim a Catholic character for his corporation and on that basis require his workers to conform.This goes beyond the idea of simple individuals opting-out of laws on the basis of their religious convictions. Corporations, with rules and management, are also enforcement apparatuses to their workers.It seems to me that the corporate actor contradicts individuals who are seen as having their religious rights violated by having to pay insurance premiums to a health plan that conforms to the mandate. If corporations were allowed to claim the "conscience protections" of a citizen, could their workers still object to those corporate policies on a religious basis themselves? This is the heart of the matter. Either corporations would be allowed to define conscience protections policies regarding health mandates, which would cancel their workers rights to choose (unless they chose to conform), or workers could define their conscience protections and claim a right to choose which would cancel their companys right to set labor policy. It would have to be one or the other.This is why the HHS mandate regarding corporations is currently fair. If corporations with any Catholic (or other religious) executives could claim these kinds of religious exemption as part of their freedom of religion, then any corporation could claim various kinds of exemptions on the same basis. There is a cartoon circulating that notes that a corporation with a Jehovahs Witness executive could refuse to fund blood transfusions; a corporation with a Scientologist CEO could refuse to fund psychiatry benefits; and a corporation with a Christian Scientist on the board could refuse to fund just about everything. The third class either allows religion to use the corporation as an individual to enforce a religious idea upon its workers or it allows corporations to "opt out" of laws regarding its workers. Neither one of these is a reasonable alternative in a secular society.

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USCCBs Taco Bell lawyer carried the day. What if the CEO owns no stock, wants to have meatless Tacos on Lenten Fridays and the Supreme Court won't take his case? And some think a brokered convention will be fun.

Excellent topic. Cdl. Dolan asked something recently that introduces similar issues. "Can government also coerce the church to violate its conscience?" http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=45056 If "it" has a conscience, the word raises many questions involving aspects such as location, contents, scope of authority, and responsibility and process for forming, consultation, and examination. These are well understood for an individual human being. When the "conscience" is assigned non-metaphorically to some kind of incorporated "it", clarification is required. Perhaps as much attention needs to be paid to clarifying "conscience" as you are aiming to do with "corporation" right now. (Re that third category, note that "civil rights" are highlighted. If this intends to open up the discourse to the breadth and depth of US civil rights matters, further complications are on the way.)

Today's Federal Register publication asks for input on "for-profit religious employers" In developing a definition of religious organization, we are cognizant of the important role of ministries of churches and, as such, seek to accommodate their religious objections to contraceptive coverage. The Departments seek comment on which religious organizations should be eligible for the accommodation and whether, as some religious stakeholders have suggested, for-profit religious employers with such objections should be considered as well.http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2012-06689_PI.pdf see page 15"religious organization" is the category for charities, hospitals, universities, etc. Until now, it has been restricted to non-profit organizations. Also, on page 29, the Federal Register publication asks for comments on "religious health insurance issuers"One question that has arisen from religious stakeholders is whether an exemption or accommodation should be made for certain religious health insurance issuers or third-party administrators with respect to contraceptive coverage. The Departments have little information about the number and location of such issuers and administrators and whether and how such issuers operate in the 28 States with contraceptive coverage requirements.The Departments also recognize that various denominations may offer coverage to institutions affiliated with those denominations. For example, their plans may be offered as church plans (described above) to individual churches as a means of pooling their risk. The Departments seek comment on whether different accommodations are needed for such plans.

My first reading was that "for-profit religious employer" meant a profit-making business owned by a church or a non-profit religious organization (perhaps because it generated too much unrelated business income to fit within a non-profit).I didn't think it meant the Taco Bell stand, but perhaps it leavs the door open for someone to argue that any religious person who owns or directs a for-profit business is a "for-profit religious employer" I haven't seen anything in the publication that suggests that that the government is thinking of exempting Taco Bell or other businesses without an institutional connection to religion.

If I'm not mistaken, the notion of commercial corporations as persons has a rather long history in English law. Such a creature is, of course, a metaphysical impossibility, and that no doubt is bound to lead to such basic problems as the bishops' case has raised. Unfortunately, the U. S. currently seems to have no political scientists of the stature of Jefferson and Madison or Supreme Court justices with the wisdom of John Marshall to think our way out of the conflicts embedded in this case. (See also Citizens United!) Or might our Constitutional lawyer/President think of a way out?

It seems to me that the solution to the hypothetical Taco Bell owner's case is just to let his hypothetical business fail when he can't find enough employees who are satisfied with the benefits he offers. And the same thing is true of the Catholic Church and its exemptions. If people want full insurance coverage, they'll know better than to work for the Church, or they'll get the contraceptive coverage elsewhere.

Why should an individual lose her rights to free speech or free exercise of religion or conscience by acting through the vehicle of a corporation or LLC? Millions of corps and LLCs are owned solely by an individual or are closely held by a small group of individuals (typically family). Most churches in the US are corporations. Do they lose the protections of the First Amendment once they adopt the corporate form? The Supreme Court didn't think so in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah. Most media entities are corporations, do they lose free speech rights? What about labor unions? If the government forces Commonweal to publish an editorial supportive of the war in Afganistan, is the corporate conscience not violated? What if some of the editors agree with the governmen's position?

"Why should an individual lose her rights to free speech or free exercise of religion or conscience by acting through the vehicle of a corporation or LLC?"Why should an individual get extra rights (essentially twice the "free speech and free exercise of religion") compared with those of a non-incorporated individual? The Constitution did away with the idea that land-owners get extra votes or extra rights. Bill Gates can exercise his rights as Bill Gates. He doesn't get an extra vote or extra rights just because he is a member of the landed gentry.

As I understand the HHS regulations, including the February 10 "accomodation", only "organizations" (be they corporations or whatever) qualify for exemption from the contraception coverage requirement - not individuals.

Why should an individual lose her rights to free speech or free exercise of religion or conscience by acting through the vehicle of a corporation or LLC?

Individuals can't speak through a corporation. When they do this, it is the corporation that is speaking. Sounds counter intuitive, but a corporation is a legal structure created to limit liability. Part of the package is that the assets of the corporation belong to the corporation. Even if a person owns the corporation, the corporation is the one that owns its own assets. If this wasn't so, then why should a person escape personal liability just because they are acting through the vehicle of a corporation of LLC? The point is, one doesn't have an individual relationship with a corporation. One has a corporate relationship to it. Or to put it another way, when one speaks through a corporation one is no longer speaking as an individual.It could be argued in the case of free speech, that a corporation has the "right of free speech" in the course of its management. That is, a corporation needs to be able to express itself for business reasons. When a corporation donates money to Obama or Romney (or both) it is its managers making a business decision. Let's say that this is the case. Can a corporate "religious conscience" be considered a business decision in any context? Maybe. But then, are we talking about a conscience or a business decision?

In terms of fictive personhood, is there a difference between a labor union and a corporation?

I think the parallel to a union would be a Chamber of Commerce.

MikeD --LLC's are legally and metaphysically quite interesting. The person (say, MD or lawyer) incorporates in order to insure that he/she has the full protection of corporate "persons". in other words, corporate persons have more legal status than real ones. Oh, the irony of it all!Did the notion of corporate persons arise in the 17=18th century when property rights were in their legal ascendency? Only a particularly greedy capitalist could think up a metaphysical monstrosity such as corporations being persons..

unagidon --You seem to switch from the corporation's being a person to management being the person. Which is it? Or is neither and both? (They're monsters, I tell you.)

Corporations are the body; management is the mouth. Management should be speaking as part of the physical assets of the corporation.

Do you equate the corporation with the body of the person? It seems to me that would present evne more ifficulties. Manangement, insofar as it makes decisions would seem to be more the mind and will of the corporation, not simply the mouth. But that gets us into real metaphysical difficulties -- management is not just one person, it is many, and the board of directors are also decision makers. So where is responsibility in all of this? (LLC's seem to be intended as a means of by-passing personal responsibility entirely!)

Unagidon: You write: "I think the parallel to a union would be a Chamber of Commerce." May I ask why? And what the difference is from a corporation? For example, is there a reason why one or two of them should be considered fit to make campaign contributions and one or both of the others not be?

Having channeled St Thomas A, I found out that the corporation's 'soul' i.e. conscience locus, is located in the state in which it is incorporated. Delaware thus has most of these biggo souls..

"May I ask why? And what the difference is from a corporation? For example, is there a reason why one or two of them should be considered fit to make campaign contributions and one or both of the others not be?"A corporation is an entity established to limit risk. A not-for-profit corporation, like a union, a chamber of commerce, a think tank, a hospital, etc. are supposedly set up for reasons other than making a profit. Rules that would govern a for-profit corporation are relaxed somewhat, especially in the case of taxation. One of the functions of a not-for-profit corporation may be to fund candidates. Another might be to fulfill a mission for the public good, like a hospital.A for-profit corporation obviously exists to make a profit. Management might argue that the company will profit more if, say, a Republican president is in power. Or the management might be using its managerial authority to donate money to their personal causes. Either way, they will frequently (in my experience) say that the profit level of the corporation (the profits foregone by this political support) are acceptable to the stockholders, because the stockholders didn't whine about it and therefore tacitly supported the gesture.I don't think that for profit corporations should be able to make political contributions. I don't think that it is a positive social thing for a corporation to be making a business case to influence politics. I also think that the "control" the stockholders exercise is too weak for them to typically object to a company's political contributions. (For large corporations, their "control" usually consists of their ability to sell out and leave.) But I know that my argument is weak in the sense that a corporation could contribute to a chamber of commerce as a commercial activity and the chamber of commerce could then support political candidates.But be that as it may, I don't see how a for profit corporation can have a "religious conscience". For profit corporations are specifically secular institutions.I also have a problem with the idea of a corporation having the power to direct insurance premiums based on the management's religious beliefs, because insurance premiums are part of the compensation package of the corporation's workers, not the property of the corporation. Does a corporation have the right to decide where and how the workers' compensation will be used?

I guess I misunderstood your main point to the entent you seem to be acknowledging that nonprofit corps have rights and "consciences" that for-profit corps don't. It isn't the corporate form that is the issue, it is the profit motive? Citizens United was a nonprofit corporation, so I guess you are OK with that aspect of the decision. Am I right or am I misunderstanding you again?

I guess I misunderstood your main point to the entent you seem to be acknowledging that nonprofit corps have rights and consciences that for-profit corps dont. It isnt the corporate form that is the issue, it is the profit motive? Citizens United was a nonprofit corporation, so I guess you are OK with that aspect of the decision. Am I right or am I misunderstanding you again?

If you are misunderstanding me it is entirely my fault.A local Tea Party may want to incorporate. Why? Because they can have assets and liabilities and the members don't want to be personally liable for the latter. The Tea Party will organize as a non-profit organization. Does this mean that they don't want to profit? In fact, they probably do and would be more than happy to see the books in the black at the end of the year, non-profit or not.However, this Tea Party is an association of people who have banded together in order to promote a political cause. This cause may include supporting certain candidates for office. Their main goal is not to turn a profit, but to engage in political activity. So this kind of a corporation is different from one whose goal is to turn a profit. This brings up at least three other issues.1. Is Citizens United all right since it is a non-profit association centered around a political goal? Yes, but the question isn't about their intentions (as much as some people would like to something like this disbanded). It's about the funding. This is an interesting parallel to the current debate about contraception benefits and religious freedom. If it were the case that a corporation was restricted legally in the kind or size of donations they could make to a candidate, but not restricted in the kind or size of donations they could make to a PAC that in turn will "indirectly" support a candidate by funding his political movement but not "him", are we looking at a polite fiction enabling corporations to support political candidates in the way that Obama's compromise of having a third party provide contraception coverage for certain corporations a polite fiction that the corporation's own money isn't actually, ultimately, paying for contraception anyway?2. If making a profit is some sort of impediment for a for-profit corporation to engage in political activity, then how about for-profit corporations that are organized to engage in political activity. I am thinking here especially of media outfits. I guess I would say that these are corporations whose main purpose is to make a profit by engaging in political activity, so here would could truly say that partisanship was a managerial activity.3. If we had a for-profit pizza restaurant where all of the employees and management belonged to Opus Dei, where we knew that no one would use a contraception benefit at all even if it were offered, would those people be supporting evil by the mere act of paying premiums to an insurance company that offers contraception benefits?

" - where all of the employees and management belonged to Opus Dei, where we knew that no one would use a contraception benefit at all even if it were offered, - "unagidon: that's a rather sizeable assumption, don't you think?

Thanks for clearing that up. It looks like it is not the corporate form that is the issue, but the profit motive and size of many for-profit corps that is the issue for you. The vast majority of corporations are closely held (the number gets even larger if you add LLCs, LLPs, LPs and other entities that allow people to limit liability while engaging in business operations. It seems to me that your argument is limited to publicly traded corporations. Am I following you correctly? Most of the corporations I deal with in my work are closely held or non-profits, so I deal with the people behind the corporate veil and have a harder time understanding why people view corporations in general as being such a problem.

Religions need to adapt and accommodate. Jehovah's Witnesses blood transfusion confusion Jehovahs Witnesses take blood products now in 2012.They take all fractions of blood.This includes hemoglobin, albumin, clotting factors, cryosupernatant and cryopoor too, and many, many, others.If one adds up all the blood fractions the JWs takes, it equals a whole unit of blood. Any, many of these fractions are made from thousands upon thousands of units of donated blood.Jehovahs Witnesses can take Bovine *cows blood* as long as it is euphemistically called synthetic Hemopure. Jehovah's Witnesses now accept every fraction of blood except the membrane of the red blood cell. JWs now accept blood transfusions. The fact that the JW blood issue is so unclear is downright dangerous in the emergency room.--Danny Haszard http://www.ajwrb.org JW blood reform site

Danny H --Thanks for the information about the Jehovah's Witnesses. Glad they now can get the blood they need. I liked the ones who would stop by my house on Saturday mornings. Really nice people. They've stopped coming by. Guess they've given up on me.

Mr. u, are you telling Catholic business owner Frank O'Brien that the president is right to apply crippling penalties to his generous family-wage approach to business simply because he does not want to fund abortifacients and contraception, and that the bishops are wrong to defend his religious freedom? Since he is a sole owner instead of a corporation, do you admit that the Bishops' analysis that he has religious freedom does apply to him? Or do you deny his religious freedom? http://aclj.org/obamacare/aclj-files-suit-challenging-hhs-mandate-for-vi...

Dear Anitra,Are you saying that O'Brien isn't incorporated and that therefore he is personally liable for the losses his company takes? Are you saying that he is paying his workers cash under the table? Are you saying that the medical benefits he provides are actually his and not part of the pay of his workers? Are you saying that because he pays his workers, he should get to say what they consume as part of his own religious freedom? Do you think that if he pays premiums to an insurance company that covers contraception he isn't subsidizing everything they do already? If he pays more in premiums than his company uses each year for medical services, where do you think this extra money goes? Do you think that if he were a Scientologist, his personal religious freedom should allow him to forgo paying for mental health benefits? Or do you think that if he were a Christian Scientist his religious freedom should allow him to forgo providing any health benefits at all?

Thanks for clearing that up. It looks like it is not the corporate form that is the issue, but the profit motive and size of many for-profit corps that is the issue for you. The vast majority of corporations are closely held (the number gets even larger if you add LLCs, LLPs, LPs and other entities that allow people to limit liability while engaging in business operations. It seems to me that your argument is limited to publicly traded corporations. Am I following you correctly? Most of the corporations I deal with in my work are closely held or non-profits, so I deal with the people behind the corporate veil and have a harder time understanding why people view corporations in general as being such a problem.

All I'm saying is that corporations are entities that themselves have no "conscience", that if a businessman uses corporate dollars to pay for personal endeavors, then he is misusing those dollars, and that whether the corporation is owned by one person nor not, the owner of a corporation does not have unlimited freedom to use its assets as he sees fit and still claim that he should be personally shielded from much of the liability.

Mr. u, I do not know what to make of your response to my questions by asking different questions, except that you do believe that Mr. O'Brien, the owner of his business that is dedicated to the Sacred Heart and that is demonstrably committed to economic justice for its employees, should be taxed out of existence by the federal government solely because his business is organized as an LLC, and that Catholic teaching gives him no religious freedom to say he should be able to operate his business without providing coverage for abortifacients, contraception and sterilization. There is no basis in Church teaching, ZERO, to argue that operating a business under a limited liability form abandons religious freedom and human dignity in the operator. None. You utterly fail to show such grounds. Your position is a non sequitor. Church teaching instead makes it clear that the laity have consciences and religious freedom in the business world, and you deny it to them. Yet you hypocritically insist that people in the business world have ethical obligations. They could not have obligations if they have no conscience. In exchange for Church teaching, you prefer workers "right to choose" to force their employer to give them free embryo destructive drugs. Note, of course, the Obama mandate is not a condition on organization under corporate form, nor is the Bishops' defense of religious freedom. You have artifically injected that irrelevant issue. Your question about scientologists is an attempt to dodge the issue that you are not only denying religious freedom to the laity, but you are saying the Bishops are wrong to defend the religious conscience of the laity against your president's attacks on it. That is a fine Democrat party position to take, a hypocritical "liberal" position to take, and a reprehensible Catholic position to take. Rather than ask further questions, please consider answering these and providing specific basis to say that Vatican II's teaching on religious freedom and conscience and the laity do NOT APPLY to Catholics running businesses under certain state-recognized forms.

Mr. u, I do not know what to make of your response to my questions by asking different questions, except that you do believe that Mr. OBrien, the owner of his business that is dedicated to the Sacred Heart and that is demonstrably committed to economic justice for its employees, should be taxed out of existence by the federal government solely because his business is organized as an LLC,

Do you literally mean taxed out of business? As in the taxes would be so high that he would have to go out of business? Or is this hyperbole?

and that Catholic teaching gives him no religious freedom to say he should be able to operate his business without providing coverage for abortifacients, contraception and sterilization.

You haven't demonstrated that the doesn't do this now. Are you saying that his workers would consume these benefits and that O'Brien has a right and an obligation therefore to protect his workers from themselves?

Church teaching instead makes it clear that the laity have consciences and religious freedom in the business world, and you deny it to them.

What about the workers? Is O'Brien "giving" them benefits or have they earned them? You would want the owner to have the "right to choose" but not the workers, don't you think?

Note, of course, the Obama mandate is not a condition on organization under corporate form, nor is the Bishops defense of religious freedom.

You didn't read the blog very carefully. The bishops are very clearly saying that ANYONE who runs a business should be allowed to opt out of the Mandate.

Rather than ask further questions, please consider answering these and providing specific basis to say that Vatican IIs teaching on religious freedom and conscience and the laity do NOT APPLY to Catholics running businesses under certain state-recognized forms.

Do you know that Italy has single payer insurance that covers all the mandates? What is the Vatican's teaching on that?Since you seem willing to call me a (cursed?) liberal, let me explain that I am not a liberal. My position on contraception coverage is that it should not be covered at all by anyone, since it is an elective thing. I think we need to take care of the necessities before we take care of the electives. So in fact, your position is to the left of mine, since you would allow coverage if the business owner's conscience allowed it.Here is your quandary. You want the owner to have the right of conscience regarding the mandate. If the owner's conscience says that he will adhere to the mandate, then contraception provision is fine with you. But whether the owner agrees to the mandate or not, the conscience of the worker is not taken into consideration. It is only and always take it or leave it with them. What are the rights of paternalism, and where do they stop?

It is indisputable that the president's mandate that you are defending will tax objectors out of business, especially smaller businesses like Mr. O'Briens. The taxes for not providing insurance, or for not providing abortifacients etc in it, are thousands of dollars a month perpetually. O'Brien's federal complaint says (in a public court record) he has an objection to providing these things and that but for the mandate they are not provided. You have no evidence or basis to claim he is lying.Catholic teaching contains utterly no basis to allege that workers have any rightful claim to coverage of contraception, sterilization and abortifacients, much less that they have such a claim to demand it from employers under government penalties. None. So there is no basis for you to argue that workers are in any way entitled to coverage of such things or have earned them. Zero.The Bishops are not calling for freedom for anyone who owns a business, only anyone who owns one and has a religious or moral objection. But that is my point--neither the mandate nor the claim of freedom is related to whatever corporate form the business happens to take. That's because it's not relevant to this moral question.Once again instead of providing Church teaching to justify your false deprivation of religious freedom and conscience from the laity, you just ask me to produce a document about Italy. That is an absurd response. Document your claim, or admit it has no basis in Catholic teaching.My and the Bishops' claim is that the owner should have a right of conscience against the mandate, nor for it. Read before you accuse. The "conscience of the worker is not taken into consideration"? Absurd again. No worker has a conscience claim to demand her employer help her kill embryos or sterilize herself. You can't justify that under Catholic teaching. Under secular totalitarianism, sure. So admit Catholic social teaching is not the perspective of your criticism.

"They could not have obligations if they have no conscience."Anitra --Hmm. This does open up a can of theoretical worms.What IS an "obligation"? That's about as easy to answer as "what is a right?"

My and the Bishops claim is that the owner should have a right of conscience against the mandate, nor for it. Read before you accuse. The conscience of the worker is not taken into consideration? Absurd again. No worker has a conscience claim to demand her employer help her kill embryos or sterilize herself. You cant justify that under Catholic teaching. Under secular totalitarianism, sure. So admit Catholic social teaching is not the perspective of your criticism.

I'm the one who is saying that there should be no mandate at all. You're the one who is saying that it should just not apply to Catholic employers. What I am asking is why should employers be privileged to make the moral decision for their workers? You think this is justified because you agree with the idea that employers should be able to opt out of the mandate. If the employer wanted to opt out of something else for "religious" reasons, would you support that too? Or are you just saying that only Catholics can justify a religious objection? You seem to.Regarding being taxed to death, sorry, but you are simply wrong. Read the statute.

Read the statute yourself, sir. Mr. O'Brien will be taxed approximately $2000 per employee per year for not providing coverage at all, and approximately $100 per employee per day for not providing the contraception/sterilization/abortifacients in his coverage. Taxed to death. 26 U.S.C. 4980H. 26 U.S.C. 4980D We both agree there should be no mandate at all. The question is, since that won't be allowed by Democratic power structure kept in place by the bloggers here (who are clamoring that they be kept in place this November), and the sme people won't let Obamacare be repealed, now what? Comprehensive religious and moral objection protection from these mandates is the proposal, just like the ones that permeate federal health law thanks to Ted Kennedy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Bill Clinton. That's all the Bishops propose, and it is what you are arguing against, in the context of a full mandate repeal being made impossible by Democrats (they are the ones who imposed this mandate!!!). If you're not against the Bishops' insistence on the bill by Mr. Fortenberry (in lieu of repealing the mandate altogether), then say so. If you are for keeping in power the people who created the mandate and won't repeal it, don't claim you are against the mandate.

It will be a positive bargain for Mr. O'Brien to drop insurance and pay the $2,000 per worker and thereby escape the mandate too. (I'm sure he's paying about $10k a year for his workers now.) The workers will then go on to the State Exchanges and get their health benefits there. Your religious rights argument is weak, because it doesn't take into account people (especially workers) having a right to disagree. You think from your religious principles that workers should not have a right to demand contraception coverage. If everyone shared your beliefs you would be right. But people don't, and it looks to them as though the bishops (in the name of religious freedom) are trying to tell everyone what they have to do. This is why there is so much political opposition to the bishops. They won't win this one and it will erode the party they seem to be supporting as well. The bishops would have been better off opposing this as elective utilization. But then they would have had to show more support for the ACA, since the conversation then would be about how it will be executed. I get the impression that not only oppose the mandate, but you want people to oppose it for the right reason.Your argument also seems colored by what appears to be your opposition to the ACA (which you call Obamacare). Is that a religious objection too?

I don't see a possibility for conflict in the case of insurance benefits. A violation of conscience comes when a person or institution is forced to do something that it believes is evil. The government is forcing institutions to provide coverage for procedures that many institutions believe are evil.However, no one in this debate is talking about forcing an employee to do anything. For example, if a company provides coverage for contraception, the employee is not forced to use contraception. If the company does not provide coverage, the employee is still not forced to do anything except pay for his own contraception if he chooses to use it. In neither case is the employee forced to violate his conscience. The employee may not be happy that he is not receiving a benefit that other employers provide, but that happens all of the time.I went from a job that provided me 15 days of vacation and 10 days of sick leave a year, to a job that provided 20 days of "paid time off" a year, which could be for vacation or sick leave. I was not happy about the reduction of benefits, but I chose to accept them for other reasons. However, I was not forced to violate my conscience.Now if a company did not want their employees to have children because they took too much time away from the job, and forced their employees to use contraception or abortion, then that could be a case of the employee's conscience being violated. However, I doubt the employer would be doing this as a matter of conscience rather than a matter of greed.

I don't see how O'Brien can send his employees to the Missouri exchange next year seeing as the exchanges don't exist, and it would be unjust for him to drop their coverage. Are you going to pay his $8,700 A DAY for not paying to kill their embryos? I guess the justification for that must be in Humanae Vitae somewhere? Maybe a footnote I missed.Bottom line is you have no Catholic teaching basis to deny religious freedom to lay Catholic business owners. Three, four, five times you have refused to cite any source. But you do refuse them conscience rights anyway.

I dont see a possibility for conflict in the case of insurance benefits. A violation of conscience comes when a person or institution is forced to do something that it believes is evil. The government is forcing institutions to provide coverage for procedures that many institutions believe are evil.

You make several assumptions in your argument that are not necessarily true. The first is that "institutions" have consciences. They don't. They have managers. The managers may have consciences, but your second assumption is that health care benefits are something that managers buy and then "give" to their employees. They don't. Health care benefits are part of the compensation package, just like wages. Or to put it another way, if worker A uses a contraception benefit and therefore "violates manager A's conscience" why isn't worker A violating manager A's conscience if he buys condoms in a drugstore? This is why there is so much political opposition to the bishops. The bishops are taking a decision out of the hands of workers and are putting it into the hands into the hands of managers as though the workers are babies. Your third assumption is that when a company buys insurance, the insurance company somehow puts the money into an account for that company and uses that money for that company's claims. They don't. It all goes into one big pot. Premiums go in, claims come out. Some companies spend far less on claims than they pay in premiums. Some companies will use 10,000 percent of their premiums on one worker's heart transplant. It's a nice fiction to say that one is writing a check knowing that the money won't be used for certain things; it's rather like sending in your taxes but specifying that your taxes won't be used to fund the war in Afghanistan.I mentioned Italy on an earlier comment and the fact that this Catholic country has single payer insurance that covers birth control. How do the Italian bishops tolerate it? Because the decision to use or not to use birth control is made by the consumer not the manager. Now it may be that the bishops are thinking that they will somehow reduce the consumption of contraception overall by turning the question into one of the moral rights of managers. They won't. If they wanted to do this, they could and should have opposed the contraception mandate from the point of view of cost and the fact that the benefit is elective. "No elective benefits" would have been more effective. What they have done instead is (but who is surprised) supported a paternalistic view of the relationship of management to labor and then stoked a class war under the guise of protecting religious freedom.

Bottom line is you have no Catholic teaching basis to deny religious freedom to lay Catholic business owners. Three, four, five times you have refused to cite any source. But you do refuse them conscience rights anyway.

You don't have a source that says that business owners are obligated by the Church to make moral decisions for their employees.

Every Catholic is obligated to act morally in all they do. There is no exception to the 10 Commandments for when Catholics own businesses. You don't think that is Catholic teaching? That tells us a lot about you, but little about your idea that Catholics have no religious freedom in business. Calling it "to make moral decisions for their employees"? What a joke--you're not even arguing at this point, you're just spouting slogans. The issue is whether you will stop defending Democrats for forcing Frank O'Brien to provide abortifacient coverage for his employees. "make moral decisions for his employees" utterly does not follow from that reality of the government forcing Frank to do something, like your entire argument here is a non sequitor because you have no Church teaching exempting the laity from religious freedom and conscience.

A corporation is not a citizen. But it seems clear that institutions operate according to ethical principles, and that those principles ultimately are established and enforced by the owners and/or their proxies - directors and managers. If organizations don't or shouldn't have principles, then there is no reason that we should expect corporations to pay their employees a living wage, or respect the environment, or support their local communities, or try to preserve existing jobs, or subsidize employee benefits. We shouldn't expect large financial institutions to do anything for the good of the world economy. None of these are required by law, but many entities find good reasons to do them anyway.Note that the entity's principles don't always reduce to the *personal* principles of the individual owners, directors and managers. Institutions may have missions - typically documented in its bylaws, its annual reports, its employee manuals - that transcend the personal beliefs of those charged with running the institution. This is why we can still speak of a Jesuit college as being a Jesuit college, even when its directors, its managers and its faculty include very few Jesuits. The expectation is that the employees, managers, directors and owners subordinate their personal morality to the principles and mission of the organization. I've read somewhere (it may have been in a Commonweal article from a few years ago) that, most likely, a majority of faculty at Catholic colleges are pro-choice, because college instructors in America tend to be pro-choice and Catholic faculty reflects that reality. Yet Catholic colleges are still expected to impart Catholic wisdom to students, regardless of the personal views of its faculty.Once we agree that institutions operate according to ethical principles, then we can inquire whether Catholic moral principles are a permissible subset of the ethical principles by which an entity can/should operate. In the United States, the answer clearly is that it is a permissible subset. What's more, the wisdom of our nation has been that religious individuals and institutions are afforded wide latitude to operate according to their principles - they have special constitutional and legal protections to ensure that this wide latitude persists. We should be grateful that religious freedom is thus protected from a tyrannical majority - or a tyrannical government.A Taco Bell franchisee is probably a fairly small business operation, according to the scale of modern business. It may consist of a single store or a handful of stores. (I do understand that in some cases a franchise operation can consist of dozens of stores, and franchise operations become large entities in their own right. Whether that happens for Taco Bell, I don't know). The owner may well be an individual or a small group of individuals. It is entirely possible that the owner personally knows every, or almost every, employee of that handful of stores. The success of the business requires heavy investment in time and toil by the owner. In short, it is run on a small business/proprietorship model. In a proprietorship, the employer/owner's ethical principles necessarily inform the ethical principles of the business she runs. Why shouldn't they? In employer-sponsored insurance benefits, both the employer and the employee are stakeholders. The employer pays for the benefit on the employee's behalf. We know this is true because it is the employer who receives the tax benefits.

The issue is whether you will stop defending Democrats for forcing Frank OBrien to provide abortifacient coverage for his employees. make moral decisions for his employees utterly does not follow from that reality of the government forcing Frank to do something, like your entire argument here is a non sequitor because you have no Church teaching exempting the laity from religious freedom and conscience.

Try to calm down a little bit.Frank really needs to get out of the insurance business, which will happen in 2014. In the meantime, the benefits don't belong to him, they belong to his workers. He doesn't "give" them benefits; they have earned them. They are a form of salary just like their paycheck is. He isn't using contraception, but they may be. But they may be using contraception whether it's part of their health care benefits or whether they simply get something over the counter. Frank can be opposed to contraception (and not all contraception is abortifacient; does that mean that you would allow for that kind of contraception?), but when he is making choices about health plans, he is making those choices FOR his workers. Does he have a right to do that? You seem to think that he not only has a right but an obligation to make these choices for his workers and that anyone who thinks differently isn't a good Catholic. What I am hung up on here is the paternalistic assumption that managers have an absolute right to make personal decisions on the behalf of others. But this image of the privileged role of businessmen is an article of faith for people like you, which is how you drag in your political position into your debates on ethics.

If organizations dont or shouldnt have principles, then there is no reason that we should expect corporations to pay their employees a living wage, or respect the environment, or support their local communities, or try to preserve existing jobs, or subsidize employee benefits. We shouldnt expect large financial institutions to do anything for the good of the world economy. None of these are required by law, but many entities find good reasons to do them anyway.

We don't expect corporations to do these things, which is why we have separate laws requiring them to do these things. Insofar as they do these things outside of a fear of the law, they are addressing the market and doing what they do in the context of a competitive environment.I agree with what you say about religious organizations, which are set up for the explicit purpose of promoting certain principles. But if a for-profit corporation does it, since a for-profit corporation is set up explicitly to make a profit, "principles" only exist as a by product of the market and the law.

"We dont expect corporations to do these things, which is why we have separate laws requiring them to do these things. Insofar as they do these things outside of a fear of the law, they are addressing the market and doing what they do in the context of a competitive environment."I would say that we have laws for (some of) these things because we *do* expect corporations to do them. If they don't do them without laws, it's because *they* don't expect they should do them :-). But we have that expectation, and impose those laws, because we have some standard that we believe supersedes the corporation's default laissez-faire expectation.

would say that we have laws for (some of) these things because we *do* expect corporations to do them. If they dont do them without laws, its because *they* dont expect they should do them :-). But we have that expectation, and impose those laws, because we have some standard that we believe supersedes the corporations default laissez-faire expectation.

Agreed. But when we make these laws, they are made outside of the corporate institutions and are imposed on them from the outside.

Your framing of a Catholic business owner's provision of abortifacient coverage as an action by the employee instead of the employer is absurd. No worker has "earned" coverage of the destruction of embryos or contraception, and defending the government's forcing of a Catholic business owner to provide it on that theory is baseless especially from the Catholic perspective. Likewise, your proposal that a Catholic business owner "get out of the insurance business" is callous and dismissive of the government's MANDATE THAT HE BE IN THE INSURANCE BUSINESS. If he drops his employees' coverage he not only incurs crippling fines, he CUTS THEIR SALARIES (and practically causes them buy their own insurance), which is unjust from a Catholic perspective, and which would fatally injure the business by prohibiting him from attracting and keeping employees. You prohibit Frank O'Brien from paying a family wage--what a "liberal Catholic" position. Put that on a Commonweal headline instead of at the bottom of a comment box. Whereas if O'Brien pays them that "$10000" in exchange for the insurance you want him to cut, THEN HE STILL GETS FINED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT $2000 per employee per year and you still sit here and justify it, so he is still driven out of business. Here you are being highlighted by Commonweal and you are calling for Catholic employers to cut benefits. Fascinating position, since a restriction on benefits of public workers in Wisconsin drew ire on this same site, but that's because Democrats opposed it there, and here the anti-benefits position favors a Democratic attack on religious freedom. That's the definition of partisanship. The fact is that an Employer's Provision of Abortifacient Contraceptive Sterilization Coverage is a Moral Act by the EMPLOYER, because EVERYTHING the employer does is a moral act by the employer, because HUMAN BEINGS ARE MORAL ACTORS. But you don't think Frank O'Brien is a human being. You deny that he is doing anything when the government forces him to give his employees coverage of contraception and abortifacients. This is your defense of this government attack on religious freedom: that lay Catholics in business have no human dignity. Again you have no Catholic teaching at your disposal to justify this view so you don't even attempt to do so. Instead you contradict Church teaching and Vatican II saying that lay Catholics are the People of God including in business and that they have religious freedom and conscience.

It's very hard for a Catholic in a society that legally allows abortion and abortifacient contraception, where both are accepted by a majority of the population, to try to draw some line against abetting them. We have here on one hand a businessman who is opposed to both and who is apparently committed to doing whatever he can to oppose both. On the other hand there are health care benefits that people have come to morally expect as people and legally expect as rights. O'Brien believes that he should have a right to exclude such coverage from the insurance that he purchases for his employees as a benefit that they have earned. His employees feel that because it is a benefit they have earned, O'Brien does not have a right to dictate what is and is not covered. The principle here is whether O'Brien gets to cover what he wants or not. This is the sticking point. You want him to be able to deny certain coverage, but the fact is, if he is allowed to, then any employer can deny whatever they want and claim that it is for religious reasons. Since you agree with O'Brien, you refuse to see the part of the question that is a matter of control. But this question of control is one of the issues here. You don't think that people have a right to contraception coverage, so you don't care that in fact many people think they do have a right to contraception coverage. For you O'Brien's right to deny it for religious reasons trumps anyone's right to have it for religious reasons. Whether you like it or not, there are in fact two sides to this disagreement.You have not come up with any Church teachings that say that an employer has an obligation to prevent his (Protestant) workers from having access to contraception benefits. This is because there isn't any and you know it. Now I will go on record for a third time and say that I don't think that contraceptive services should be covered by a mandate... for anyone. This doesn't seem to satisfy you. You seem to think that if the employer has no religious problem with contraception coverage, then there is no problem with him providing it. It seems to me that my position goes farther than your position, without opening the door to all kinds of people claiming all kinds of religious reasons to control their workers' lives.You want me to oppose the whole ACA and the whole Democratic party for the "religious reasons" you have concocted. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to do that. We do need health care reform in the United States. It is unfortunate that the bishops have decided to oppose it; if they had embraced it they might be in a better position to modify it. If they had embraced it, we might have been able to get a single payer system. Then O'Brien wouldn't have to worry about providing insurance for anyone and the insured would be allowed to make their own choices. (This whole controversy arises out of that.) But as usual, they have taken a complicated issue, lopped off the bits they are not interested in (mostly because of their party affiliations it seems to me) and turned the rest into a black and white issue, when it isn't. You don't (because you can't) answer the question of whether manager A has the moral right to control the consumption of worker A, but that's also the issue here. Worker A doesn't think that manager A has the right to dictate what benefits he does and does not get. This is why the bishops are getting significant push back from all kinds of places. You won't make that problem go away by just declaring that it isn't a problem.

There is no evidence "his employees feel they have earned" abortifacient coverage. That is Obama propaganda that you are regurgitating. And even if there were such evidence, the claim is undeniably false from a Catholic perspective, and from a reasonable perspective.There are not two equal sides to this disagreement, and certainly not from the Catholic perspective. An employee has no "right" to "religious freedom" to FORCE SOMEONE ELSE to give him contraception, because when that other person refrains from action the employee's ACTIONS ARE NOT BEING RESTRAINED ONE WAY OR ANOTHER--they are not being forced to do anything or not to do anything AT ALL. NO ONE IS CONTROLLING THE CONSUMPTION OF ANYONE by simply not choosing to give it to him for free. He can still consume it with his own wherewithal. HE ISN'T ENTITLED TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE GIVE HIM CONTRACEPTION. In contrast, an employer has a religious freedom right NOT TO BE FORCED TO GIVE contraception because it is THE EMPLOYER'S action. It is bizarre for you to not only call something the employer is forced to do AN ACTION OF THE EMPLOYEE and that only. If I give you a coupon for a free subscription to a dirty magazine, and you redeem it, we both have committed an (im)moral action, not just you. If I give out coupons as part of an employee package, no employee can claim to be "entitled to" or to have "earned" a coupon for a free playboy subscription. Your idea of employer non-morality, that nothing they do has any moral implications, is unique and bizarre as well as being utterly displaced from the reality that employers are actually doing things. It is the opposite of Catholic teaching, which posits both conscientious freedom, and consequent moral responsibility, on the part of all human beings in all they do, including specifically employers.Your statement against the mandate generally is welcome, and you don't have to oppose the ACA if you would just STOP OPPOSING THE BISHOPS' CALL FOR CONSCIENCE PROTECTION, but your position is certainly not satisfactory if you ALSO, AS YOU PERSIST IN DOING HERE, oppose the call to BLOCK that EXISTING mandate to the extent it forces employers to DO THINGS that violate their religious or moral beliefs, by implelenting a conscience clause that Democrats Kennedy Moynihan and Clinton have repeatedly codified over the past 40 years. For you to say the Bishops are wrong to appeal for the religious freedom of Catholic lay women and men working as employers, because employers have no religious freedom, is a rejection of Vatican II's teaching on the laity and conscience and religious freedom. So no, rejecting Vatican II, and citing no Catholic teaching to do so, does not make me "satisfied."

...AS YOU PERSIST IN DOING HERE, oppose the call to BLOCK that EXISTING mandate to the extent it forces employers to DO THINGS that violate their religious or moral beliefs...

It would seem, then, that the government's proposal to fund contraception through a third party that would not necessitate an employer buying it himself would be just fine with you, then.

" There is no evidence his employees feel they have earned abortifacient coverage. "Either via collective bargaining agreement, or in a non-bargained environment, employees are told that they work for fixed compensation (salary) or contingent compensation (hourly wages, based on hours worked), variable compensation (incentives, bonuses, commissions, etc, if eligible) and compensation in the form of employer-provided health and welfare benefits, usually on a contributory or cost-sharing basis.*IF* an employee is eligible for health and welfare benefits, i.e., they have earned them as part of their total compensation package, *THEN* they rightly can feel that they have earned whatever is included in (1) the plan the employer purchases from a provider, or (2) a self-funded plan administered by a third party under an ASO agreement.

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