Americans United for Separation of Church and State has posted its view championing the “free exercise” constitutional acceptability of the HHS “contraception mandate” that went into force on August 1. The author of it seems the same Rob Boston who by coincidence was the focus of yesterday’s blog post. Time for a fisk of Mr Boston’s notion of what constitutes “setting the record straight”:
…Americans United works to defend church-state separation and took no stand on the ACA. But when the controversy erupted over access to birth control, we made a couple of points that are worth reiterating as these new provisions take effect.
To begin with, it’s important to remember that houses of worship are exempt from this mandate. No Catholic or conservative Christian church that opposes birth control has to make it available to its employees.
Also to begin with: “it’s important”? So this administration deserves some sort of hearty pat on the back in not going after the narrow houses of worship themselves, and therefore not completely dynamiting the 1st Amendment? Seriously?
The types of entities that will be affected by this new provision in the law are not churches; they are religiously affiliated. That’s a big difference.
There is no difference. Religious charitable entities are religious charitable entities. It is not for the State to take upon itself power to rule on religious belief in order to satisfy the State’s policy whim of the week.
One would have thought that, given its self-appointed raison d’être, a group labeling itself “Americans United for Separation of Church and State” would grasp that.
Church-affiliated bodies (colleges, hospitals, social-service agencies, etc.) are almost always subsidized with taxpayer dollars.
I will address “taxpayer funding” below. First, what about having simply funded this administration’s “contraception mandate” with taxpayer dollars raised through light of day taxation, instead of through a backroom approach that has the State heavyfootedly stomping needlessly on charities’ religious conscience? How about that?
It seems to have dawned on no one. There is no high-profile public domain evidence anyone in this administration ever suggested such a course. Nor is there any (I have seen) on the Americans United web site — an organization, which, again, we are told is committed to the Jeffersonian ideal of “separation of church and state.”
They hire people outside the faith and serve the public without regard to the individual’s religious belief.
Worth noting is as do hospitals and other charities, Roman Catholic houses of worship welcome the entire public. One does not have to be a baptised Catholic to sit through a Mass. My sister-in-law, who was born in the Church of England, is active in her local Catholic church and is not a Catholic.
But probably I should not say that too loudly. Nor should any other Catholics. We don’t want to give this administration any new “bright ideas,” of course.
Because church-related institutions receive so much tax money and act in a quasi-official capacity, they cannot expect to operate without some accountability.
Americans United regularly takes vague shots at the issue of taxpayer dollars somehow justifying the “mandate.” Yet what does this group think faith-related entities, like Roman Catholic hospitals, actually receive State monies for? To restore stained glass windows? To perform baptisms? To re-translate Urban II speeches?
No, they are contracted to provide services and are paid for work as anyone has a right to be — such as Catholic hospitals being reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid for treating those patients. But Americans United appears to think that if the State compensates that somehow grants the State unlimited license to trample on the “free exercise” rights of those doing the work. Astonishing.
Why should they be able to impose religious views on their employees, many of whom don’t even share the faith.
Next, about this “imposition” claim. One could just as easily ask what right employees have to “impose” their religious views (or none at all) on their employers? Is the answer for Catholic employers to hire only Catholics? Should there be true sectarianism in America? Surely Americans United would be unhappy with that?
In all that, though, we see how in its meddling in “free exercise” this administration is releasing an ugly poison into U.S. civil society’s bloodstream. The reason there is a 1st Amendment at all, we may recall, is because the Founders knew how in Europe governments messing in religion more often than not had brought on society-devastating strife like the Thirty Years’ War, the aftermath of the Edict of Nantes being revoked, Parliament vs. Charles II, etc.
If this administration’s members remember any of their “Early Modern Europe” college history class, that is. But it seems most have utterly forgotten. Proof of that is found in their demonstrating indefensible ignorance of, or mere disregard for, or simply plain indifference to, lessons learned as to what furies may be unleashed when the State starts mucking around in religious belief and practices.
This conclusion is hard to avoid: this administration is composed either of third-class historical C- student blockheads or statists who consider “free exercise” some archaic idea unnecessary to bother worrying about “in the 21st century”.
When these new rules were announced last year, the Catholic bishops immediately went ballistic. In response to their concerns, President Barack Obama announced a compromise: Religiously affiliated entities wouldn’t be required to provide free contraceptives directly; rather, they could contract with an insurance provider that made birth control available at no cost as part of a baseline package of care.
Inaccurate and misleading. The plain fact is this “contraception mandate” is now in force exactly as it was promulgated. No “compromise” as such exists in law.
So that so-called “compromise” was not the “accommodation” it was sold as being. More broadly governance-wise, on what constitutional basis anyway does the executive branch put forth “toleration” resolutions? Who empowered President Barack Obama to be another Henry IV issuing his own “Edict of Nantes”?
Perhaps unsurprisingly because it doesn’t fit the narrative Americans United is spinning, this piece has nothing to say about Catholic institutions that “self-insure.” And why not? Likely because “self-insurance” makes that so-called “compromise” offer irrelevant anyway.
In another nod at compromise, the administration gave religiously affiliated groups an additional year to implement the plan, meaning they are not under the new rules until this time next year.
What exactly is the “benefit” of an additional year with which to comply? A violation of “free exercise” is one whether it be in 2012 or 2013. So it would be useful if Americans United might explain what the essential difference happens to be?
In addition, the rule-making that will actually implement the policy for religiously affiliated groups is still under way, so it’s possible that even more compromises will be made. (Americans United hopes not. We weighed in on the matter in June.)
It is reassuring to know Americans United feels the original attack on the 1st Amendment is something it considers completely appropriate and that it hopes remains unchanged.
And of course there are a number of lawsuits under way – backed by the bishops – that could affect the issue.
What would Americans United do without Catholic bishops to attack? That Catholics might take a degree of umbrage at regular swipes at their Church appears to play zero role in Americans United’s propagandizing. However, non-bishops like myself can head-on address Americans United’s vituperative, yet pedestrian pieces, without worrying about my tax-exempt status.
All of this still wasn’t good enough for the bishops. In fact, they began insisting that even private employers should have the right to deny birth control coverage to employees.
Again, Americans United takes it as a given employees must be able to violate the conscience of their employers. But, once more, why is it somehow a given employers have fewer 1st Amendment rights than their employees? Are we all equal under the 1st Amendment, or are we not? It is a valid question on which Americans United here is remarkably silent.
When observers pointed out that the church’s stand is wholly unrealistic given that even the vast majority of Catholics ignore church teachings and use birth control, some commentators said this was irrelevant. But it’s not irrelevant. Church leaders tried to persuade their own members to follow church teachings. They failed – and they’re now seeking to twist government policy to achieve something their own teachings could not do. That sure sounds like a church-state issue to me.
That misdirection whopper is pushed once more by Americans United. So it bears answering here, yet again: probing the personal religious opinions of the populace most definitely is not, as James Madison would say, the proper role of the general government.
Any administration that dares make policy based on “observers’” views on religious practices is treading where it should not, and flat out violating church/state separation and is interfering in the “free exercise” of religion.
So it is a church/state issue. It is the State kicking in my “free exercise” door and demanding I genuflect … to that State. And the separation of church/state self-anointed guardians at Americans United are just fine with that.
One more thought on this: The government has the right to ignore religious demands that are completely out of touch with reality and the way we live today. It is time to stand up and say that the efforts to deny Americans access to essential medication on the basis of rigid theological rules that virtually no one follows any more are misguided and even dangerous.
Another absurd attempt at distraction. No one is denying anyone “essential medication” due to “rigid theological rules” here any more than anyone is being “denied food” because we all don’t eat for “free” on our employer’s benefits plan. The public policy answer here was always, and remains, quite clear: if this administration, or any other, wants to hand out “free” contraceptives, or “free” anything, it may look to pay for them courtesy of taxes.
It is not complicated. If this (or any) government wants my money for one of its social projects, it may contact my representative and seek to tax me to pay for it. If this particular one is so vital, similar to “food stamps” the “contraception-impoverished” could be issued with, say, “contraceptive stamps”?
Can’t get that through Congress? Well, invading my church to pay for the scheme is not an acceptable alternative. Find one that is.
Just because a large and powerful religious group holds an idea does not mean it is automatically worthy of deference. It may simply be a bad idea that’s not in the best interests of society.
“Society” is not the issue here. “State” policy is. Once again, if this State has a policy it wants implemented, it may tax me to pay for it.
Demanding charitable religious institutions cough up for them is a violation of “free exercise” and the separation of church and state.
The ability to control your family size by accessing safe, reliable and effective birth control is a fundamental human right.
Were we discussing U.S. separation of church and state? Or is that from a UN agency press release? Regardless, to uphold that “right” — to repeat — the U.S. government is free to tax me to do so.
But it has no more right to demand my church’s religious affiliates, which I help fund through tax-exempt donations, pay for the Department of Health and Human Services’ “birth control” policy, than it does to “mandate” those same religious entities fund CIA drone attacks in Pakistan.
Our government is required to allow those who believe differently to opt themselves out.
Actually, the U.S. government is constitutionally required first and foremost to respect the “free exercise” of religion.
But those latter-day theocrats have no right to make that decision for other people – nor is the government required to treat their yearning to live in the Middle Ages as a serious basis for public policy.
We are not on MSNBC. “Theocracy” demands at least religious Establishment. But given the existence of the 1st Amendment’s “establishment clause,” which bans the establishing of a religion in the U.S., there is no chance there will ever be a “Church of the U.S.” similar to the Church of England.
So Americans United, which we hear is committed to defending church/state separation, should be able to breathe easily on that score. That said, though, in its chosen policy course here this administration is arguably and ironically erecting a degree of informal “establishment”. There is no “Church of the U.S.”, true, but this administration is sure grabbing for State religious “primacy” over “unfavored” religions.
Gather that may be a worry for another day, should someone wake up. As to this one, as we see keeping church out of State is correctly central to this Americans United group and to the current administration. But holding the State at arm’s length from the “free exercise” of religion that is also at the heart of the 1st Amendment clearly is not.
So what about the so-called “wall of separation?” If anyone is taking a sledgehammer to it now, it is this administration and its apologists like Americans United. The Sage of Monticello would be appalled.