Sunday, January 29, 2012

Immaculate contraception

Speaking of Times columnists, the Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, the Right Rev. Ross Douthat, is having a terrible time dealing with the horrors dealt out by the Obama administration; this time, the awful prospect of the rules announced last week by HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius for the Affordable Care Act, requiring employers to provide health insurance covering family planning services with no co-pays, including the dreaded "morning-after pill", which some of those Jesuits regard as an extra-sneaky way of getting an abortion. There's an exemption, but oh, my, [jump]

the White House has settled on an exemption that only covers religious institutions that primarily serve members of their own faith. A parish would be exempt from the mandate, in other words, but a Catholic hospital would not.

Ponder that for a moment. In effect, the Department of Health and Human Services is telling religious groups that if they don’t want to pay for practices they consider immoral, they should stick to serving their own co-religionists rather than the wider public. Sectarian self-segregation is O.K., but good Samaritanism is not. The rule suggests a preposterous scenario in which a Catholic hospital avoids paying for sterilizations and the morning-after pill by closing its doors to atheists and Muslims, and hanging out a sign saying “no Protestants need apply.”
Well, but, the thing is, that's not actually what the rule does; it's about insurance provided by employers to employees, and the exemption applies to
employers such as churches whose primary purpose is to inculcate religious beliefs and that mainly employ and serve individuals who share those beliefs. [my emphasis]
The reason that the hospitals, colleges, and charity conglomerates don't qualify isn't just that their clients--patients, students, aid recipients--may not belong to the religion paying the bills, but that their employees don't. The hospital doesn't buy insurance for the patients, for heaven's sake, it's the folks  emptying the bedpans, and filling out the forms, and making the diagnoses, and of course they want contraception, including the 99% of Catholic women who use birth control.

Thus the sign Reverend Ross fears might be hung out the door is really designated for the back door—it's about no jobs for atheists and Muslims and Protestants and Catholic women who can't live with the idiotic rules.

And what the Church is asking for, by this argument, is anything but religious freedom—they want to enforce their unenforceable mandate, and they are demanding federal help in doing it.
Thomas Nast, "No church need apply". Harper's Weekly, May 8, 1875.
A revised version is posted at Daily Kos.

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