A Modest Proposal to Help Americans Exercise Their Faith

Surely employers should have to help Americans exercise their faith, right?

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Parishioners park their vehicles around Excelsior Lutheran Church for Good Friday services Friday, April 2, 2010, near Wilson, Kan.

The federal government has an obligation to ensure that employers aren't infringing on the rights of their employees. That's why I support a law mandating that every employer has to contribute a set amount of money to the church, mosque or synagogue of each employee's choice.

Some employees are not religious or may not have a house of worship in need of financial help. No matter; in that case, the employer will simply contribute the money into a general religion fund that can be used to offset the cost of construction and upkeep of the churches, mosques and synagogues of the employees who do attend religious services. This is a happy compromise, since forcing everyone to contribute means the amount that will need to come out of each person's paycheck will be smaller.

Non-religious folks shouldn't have a problem with the arrangement, since who wouldn't be willing to forego some small amount of pay – pennies, really – to ensure his or her colleagues all have access to top-notch religious services?

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The right to worship is a cherished tradition in the United States. In fact, our founders went so far as to enshrine in the Constitution that an individual's right to free exercise of religion may not be impeded upon. And since it's a thoroughly non-controversial assertion that not providing funding for something is morally and legally equivalent to denying people access to that thing, I have no doubt the current administration will get behind my proposal.

If all employers weren't required to provide funding to houses of worship, some of their employees might not be able to afford the tithing that keeps such establishments afloat. Churches might only exist in the wealthiest neighborhoods, effectively denying access to millions of underprivileged Americans. That would be a gross denial of those individuals' First Amendment rights.

Not everyone supports religion, of course. There are those who believe organized worship has been responsible for some of the greatest atrocities in human history, and that houses of worship tend to be breeding grounds for hypocrisy, sanctimony and repression. That's why I am magnanimously willing to codify an exception for strictly atheist organizations, that is, groups whose explicit and longstanding mission is to advance atheistic causes, who only employ atheists and who will not provide services to anyone who is not also an atheist.

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Sure, some companies, non-profits and other establishments are run by people who disavow religion – but corporations do not have consciences, and just because a person heads up an entity that provides employment for sometimes thousands of people does not mean that person should get to impose his beliefs on others who depend on him for the funding of their religious faith.

Undoubtedly there will be some who fiercely object to this rule. They will likely argue that such a law infringes on employers' right not to have their hard-earned money go toward subsidizing something that at best they don't believe in and at worst they find deeply morally problematic. These individuals are clearly engaged in a hateful and surreptitious war on religion, and they must not be allowed to use their so-called "consciences" as an excuse to deny millions of faithful Americans their constitutionally protected rights.

Like it or not, the right to worship in this country is not up for debate. Unless employers are forced to subsidize the costs of building and running the houses of worship that serve their employees, any number of people could be prevented from exercising their faith. It's time to call this what it is – a matter of access, fairness and choice.

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