Debate Club

Obama Rule Respects Religious Diversity and Employees' Dignity

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The better way to frame the question is: Should employers with a corporate relationship to organized religion be permitted to avoid constitutionally protected health measures that every other employer must follow? Of course not.

Setting aside the politically charged question of contraception for a moment, would this issue be so difficult if we were considering a demand by a Christian Scientist-owned construction company to be exempted from state-mandated health and safety regulations for its employees because it prefers to rely on prayer? Of course not.

[Catholic Birth Control Fight About Healthcare, Not Just Religion.]

Religiously owned or affiliated organizations that employ people of all faiths and backgrounds ought to play by the same rules as every other employer, including being subject to health, safety, and labor regulations. They provide goods and services to the public and are the beneficiaries of ample taxpayer funded grants and subsidies. Their status as religiously owned or affiliated shouldn't allow them to pick and choose which public regulations they must comply with.

The Obama administration's new rule requiring employers—except for houses of worship and a narrow array of religious organizations—to cover contraception is smart health policy. What's more, it strikes a balance that respects both religious diversity and employees' dignity and liberty.

Opponents of contraceptive coverage—led by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops--want to convince us that a religious exemption must exempt almost all religiously affiliated employers from the new healthcare law's contraception rules. In their view, religiously affiliated institutions should be permitted to have their religious principles override valid legal regulations to which they have an objection. Time and again, however, U.S. courts have found that religiously affiliated employers cannot run their businesses in ways that contravene larger social norms about fairness, health, safety and equality. For instance, they cannot pay their male employees more than their female employees because their faith instructs that men should be the breadwinners in the family, and they must respect the religious beliefs of their employees even if they conflict with those of the employer's religion.

[Obamacare Birth Control Mandate Tramples Religious Liberty.]

The Catholic Bishops' effort to overturn the Obama administration regulation on insurance coverage for contraception turns religious freedom on its head. Conscience no longer belongs to the individual employee—it becomes the sole province of administrators of large healthcare systems, provosts of universities, and the bishops themselves, and is used as a blanket to cover up the religious, and other, beliefs of employees who work for religiously affiliated employers.

What has been lost in this debate is that requiring employers to cover contraception protects the religious freedom of individual Americans. The new contraceptive rule permits each employee to live out his or her conception of a moral life. It allows no employer to dictate an employee's beliefs. (It's important to note that healthcare coverage for contraception is something that concerns both male and female employees.)

The new contraception coverage rule will improve employees' access to essential contraceptive care. It will respect women's and men's decisions about their reproductive health. It will also lift a substantial financial burden from women and their families. The average woman uses contraceptives for 30 years of her life at a cost of $30 to $50 per month.

[Rick Newman: Obama's Common-Sense Deficit.]

But it is not anti-religious or anti-Catholic. Religious freedom will not rise or fall on the back of insurance coverage for contraceptives. A majority of Americans of all faiths, including a majority of Catholics, supports extending coverage. Twenty-eight states already require contraceptive coverage. Many religious employers offer it as part of their insurance plans. And for the vast majority of Catholics who depend on contraceptives to avoid unintended pregnancy, the insurance mandate is anything but anti-Catholic.

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  • Elizabeth Sepper

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    Katherine Franke

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    birth control
    Obama administration
    Obama, Barack

    Other Arguments

    47 Pts
    Religious Exemptions Must Be Employed Judiciously

    Yes – Religious Exemptions Must Be Employed Judiciously

    Jessica Arons Director of the Women's Health and Rights Program at Center for American Progress

    41 Pts
    Contraception Mandate Doesn't Protect Religious Liberty

    No – Contraception Mandate Doesn't Protect Religious Liberty

    Hannah Smith Senior Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

    29 Pts
    Contraception Mandate a Profound Violation of Religious Freedom

    No – Contraception Mandate a Profound Violation of Religious Freedom

    Jeanne Monahan Director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council

    17 Pts
    Secularists Are Fanatics Too

    No – Secularists Are Fanatics Too

    Andrea S. Lafferty President of Traditional Values Coalition

    8 Pts
    The Edict of the HHS Death Panel Cannot Stand

    No – The Edict of the HHS Death Panel Cannot Stand

    Patrick Vaughn General Counsel at American Family Association

    6 Pts
    We Cannot Trust the President's Promises

    No – We Cannot Trust the President's Promises

    Janice Shaw Crouse Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute

    2 Pts
    Government Cannot Dictate Private Beliefs

    Yes – Government Cannot Dictate Private Beliefs

    Roger N. Lancaster Director of Cultural Studies at George Mason University

    -5 Pts
    Like Komen, Politicians Attack Birth Control at Their Own Risk
    -8 Pts
    The Bishops Are in No Place to Cry Foul

    Yes – The Bishops Are in No Place to Cry Foul

    Louise Melling Deputy Legal Director for the American Civil Liberties Union

    -15 Pts
    Blame the Church, Not the State

    Yes – Blame the Church, Not the State

    Joan Hoff Research Professor of History at Montana State University

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