U.S. Catholic leaders are “fighting mad with the Obama administration,” says Michael Brendan Dougherty at Business Insider, and they’re taking the fight to the pews. Over the weekend, Catholic parishioners nationwide were read letters from their bishops decrying the feds’ recent decision to require religiously affiliated hospitals, colleges, and charities to offer insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization, and the “morning-after” pill — all of which the Catholic Church officially opposes.
These rules are perfectly reasonable: Catholic schools and hospitals hire and serve people of many different faiths, says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. And if these institutions “don’t want to follow reasonable, 21st century secular rules… they need to stop taking secular taxpayer money.” If you take taxpayer money, you have to follow taxpayer rules.
Churches themselves were given a religious exemption from the new rule, which is part of Obama’s health care reform, but the bishops said forcing other Catholic institutions to comply violates “the fundamental right to religious liberty” guaranteed in the Constitution. American Catholics don’t agree with the church on birth control — 95 percent use contraceptives, and 89 percent say it’s their choice, not the church’s. Still, is the Obama administration abusing its power?
My rebuttal is:
It seems to me that the point needs to be made that Catholic institutions are not “secular in nature.” They are a part of the Church’s outreach and ministry of service. They result from Catholic belief and they support Catholic belief. That being said it is a fact in this case the U.S. government is forcing Catholic religious institutions to pay for services that violate Catholic teaching regardless of how many Catholics disregard the Church’s teachings.
The colonists (Quakers, Free Thinkers, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and Catholics) came to this country in order to escape governmental control of their beliefs and practices. The First Amendment in our Bill of Rights guarantees freedom from governmental control of our beliefs and our religious institutions. What is at stake here is not whether people accept Catholic teachings but rather whether our government can control how we put our teachings into practice.
What’s next? Revocation of the tax free status of churches that don’t conform to governmental mandates?
We have here a constitutional issue that is destined to be adjudicated in the U.S. Supreme Court.