Contraception, health-insurance reform & religious freedom
The Editors December 20, 2011 - 4:33pm
From the editorial, "An Illiberal Mandate," just posted on the homepage:
In August, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a draft ruling that would mandate coverage of contraception and sterilization in health-insurance plans, including those provided to employees of Catholic institutions. The ruling offers an exemption from the mandate only to religious institutions that primarily employ and serve coreligionists, and whose work is strictly religious. As HHS sees it, access to contraception is a fundamental component of any health-care plan, especially for women. That claim seems commonsensical to many people, including many Catholics. The USCCB argues that compelling the church to pay for plans that cover services the church has long held to be immoral violates the religious-freedom guarantee of the First Amendment. Catholic hospitals, universities, and social-service agencies see their mission as caring for people of all faiths or none, and they employ many non-Catholics. Given this understanding of mission, inevitably there will be a degree of entanglement between any large religious institution and the modern state. That should not be an excuse, however, for imposing secular values on more traditional religious communities. Religious diversity is impossible without a degree of autonomy from the state. Is there any evidence that such autonomy poses a serious threat to liberal democracy?...[E]xcept when life or limb is at stake, it is hard to see what is liberal in coercing religious individuals and institutions. There are other ways that contraception can be made available to employees of Catholic institutions, should they choose to use it. One does not need to oppose contraception to see that, in this case, its far less important than the principle, and practice, of religious freedom.