The parties bringing suit against the ACA’s contraceptive mandate want to claim a religious freedom violation, requiring the government to defer to their “sincerely held religious beliefs” at the expense of those women who will no longer have a health plan that includes contraception.
It’s a touchy and complex case, but here are a couple of the highlights of WHY it gets touchy, from the recent arguments in front of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).
- There is no precedent for the legal definition of what constitutes an “exercise of religion.”
- Seriously! You’d think that things like “saying prayers,” “conducting Mass,” “performing demonic Exorcisms,” and the like, might be explicitly listed somewhere. But they’re not. This is known as “The Great Loophole” in the First Amendment (if it isn’t, I claim coinage!) An organization can claim ANYTHING is part of their mission, and religious groups have been increasingly doing so, such that fewer and fewer things can be regulated, without them becoming a violation of someone’s free exercise right.
- The bitter irony beyond this expansion is that each and every time a novel claim comes before the SCOTUS, it is in the position of DEFINING religion, which (while not quite “establishing”) is against the First Amendment!
- It’s about contraception… except when it is not:
- The plaintiffs refuse to be a part of providing 4 out of 20 varieties of contraception claiming that having to provide them, OR facilitate their provision, violates their exercise rights. (The contraceptives they object to all are tagged (sometimes incorrectly) as abortifacients. But this tactic seems to be the camel’s nose under the tent to claim exemption from providing ANYTHING that a religious person can object to.)
- When the government points out that it is a completely legitimate option for Hobby Lobby to provide NO health insurance, they then claim that their religion is being infringed on because they can’t provide the health insurance they want… Up to a CERTAIN standard, but not violating THEIR standards by providing contraception. I know of NO religion with stipulations about the quality of health care its members are supposed to provide their employees, but I guess this gets us back to point 1.
- It’s about the money… except when it is not.
- Scalia and the plaintiffs repeatedly argue that this is a question of the government paying for its preferred subsidy. If the government wants to give women contraception, let the government pay for it! Clever, Antonin! Baiting the government types to advocate for “an entitlement” for abortion. Whose campaign are you running?
- In reality, it is less expensive for the government and society to prevent unwanted pregnancies and provide the coverage. So, the exemption is actually imposing the expense of holding a religious belief on the broader population, rather than just on those who wish to exercise their faith. If the religious want to pay extra to hold their beliefs, let them.
- Hobby Lobby, and other corporations taking their position are intrinsically making the argument that they are in control of what they pay their employees, in terms of benefits or salary. “Sorry, Sally, no cigarettes, kale, or union dues may be paid with your salary… because it is not yours to spend… it is MINE to “exercise my religion” with.”
I suppose if we continue on this train of logic, it will someday be acceptable to claim that “When you don’t practice my religion, it violates my free exercise of my religion, which is “To dictate to others what they must do, for my benefit.”
Why do you hate my religion?