Friday, February 3, 2012

Equal Rights or Free Exercise of Religion: Which one is guaranteed by the Constitution?

By: Dusty

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

There are over 310 Religions and Dominations in the United States. According to stats from 2001 85% of  the population in the US reported to be practicing their chosen faith.  95.3% of those Americans are practicing Christianity "the religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies"   Yes Mormons, Catholics, Protestants, Seventh Day Adventists, Mennonite and Church of the Nazarene are all included in that same group of 35 different religions who are classified under the umbrella of Christianity. 

So why does the American Affordable Health Care Act have the Catholic Church in a tizzy right now?
This is why: on August 1, 2011 this announcement was made: 
"Today, as part of the Affordable Care Act, we are announcing historic new guidelines that will help women get the care they need to stay healthy," Sebelius said at a news teleconference. "Today we are accepting the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine, so no woman in America needs to choose between paying a grocery bill and paying for the key care that can save her life."

The new requirement does not affect health plans in effect before March 23, 2010. These "grandfathered" health plans include most employer-sponsored plans. However, the majority of employer plans already cover contraception.

Starting August 2012, new health plans will have to offer the expanded wellness coverage without requiring a co-payment. Insurers may "use reasonable medical management to help define the nature of the covered service," according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Religious institutions that offer health insurance to their employees may choose not to offer birth control, according to an amendment to the prevention regulation proposed by the Obama administration. The HHS says it "welcomes comment on this policy."
This is the amendment:

"Consistent with most States that have such exemptions, as described below, the amended regulations specify that, for purposes of this policy, a religious employer is one that: 
(1) Has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; 
(2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; 
(3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and 
(4) is a non-profit organization under section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii) of the Code. Section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) and (iii) refer to churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and  conventions or associations of churches, as well as to the exclusively religious activities of any religious order. 

The definition of  religious employer, as set forth in the amended regulations, is based on existing definitions used by most States that exempt certain religious employers from having to comply with State law requirements to cover contraceptive services...The definition set forth here is intended to reasonably balance the extension of any coverage of contraceptive services under the HRSA Guidelines to as many women as possible, while respecting the unique relationship between certain religious employers and their employees in certain religious positions. Additionally, given "the Departments are waiving the 30-day delay in effective date of these amendments.

Did anyone read anywhere above or get the impression that the Federal Government has now mandated that all Catholics will now be forced to take birth control pills and will be forced to have abortions or be forced to perform abortions? No? Me Neither. What I read was that insurance policies must now provide free of cost to the insuree woman’s wellness services. Religious organizations who provide insurance coverage for their people who practices the same faith may be exempt from this provision. But that is how the Catholic Church interpreted this new law and this is how they are spinning it from their pulpit and on public media. 

Watch this segment from Hardball w/ Chris Matthews. Cardinal Tim Dolland, of New York speaks at the beginning of the segment followed by Melinda Henneberger, The Washington Post and Melissa Rogers, Wake Forest U. Divinity Schools. 
Okay. Under the affordable care act, employers all have to provide free contraception to their employees. Religious employers who make up a tiny percentage of employers in this country said we cannot do what violates our conscience, what violates our church rules, give us an exemption of conscience not to be able just to be able to not give free contraception that we don't even believe in to our employees. This was sort of a worst case scenario where I'm trying to figure out how it could have been handled more poorly but I can't. So the President has a one on one meeting with the guy you just saw, Tim Dolan


The Archbishop of New York
Yes, he is assured, they come out of it, he is feeling good. he comes out of it thinking, yes. this is going to be handled with some sensitivity. He understands our concerns, he gets it, and so at the last minute on January 20th, as everybody is showing up in town for the March for Life, all of these Catholics who support, who are pro life and who supported Barack Obama at great risk, i mean really took on so much criticism, are really thrown under the bus. The woman Sister Carol Keyan who single-handedly practically delivered, there had been no health care reform unless she who runs the Catholic Health Association had supported it, is just left out to dry by him saying no, you have to violate your conscience to stay in the business that you feel god called you to do and serving the poor and the sick.

The irony though is that the very strongly pro choice folks who push so hard for this are going to get nothing if Obama is not re-elected because Catholics don't turn out for him. there won't be a health care reform bill to argue over
Go back up to the top did you read anywhere at all in the bill that states a person will be forced to participate just because they now have access to an insurance policy which provides for birth control? No you did not. Did you read anywhere at all where a person will be forced to violate their beliefs or their conscience? No you did not. Did you read anywhere at all where a person will be forced against their will to provide a service that violates their beliefs? Again No you did not. This bill states that all private and public companies who provide health insurance to their employees are now required to provide coverage that includes a wide vary of woman’s wellness services at no cost to that individual including birth control and the morning after pill if she so chooses.

Where this messaging failed begins with the Department of Health and Human Services. What this law specifically does is grant equal rights to all who do not share the same religious faith. For example a Methodist is employed at a Catholic University- under the old rules this person is denied equal healthcare coverage for the sole reason that the Catholic Church does not believe in birth control or prevention. However if a Catholic is employed at a Methodist University who does provides this health insurance coverage that person is not required aka forced to use birth control pills or any other preventive measures, however that option is available to them. The Department of Health and Human Services should have placed the emphasis on equal coverage.

This messaging also failed with the Catholic Church. The ArchBishop Dolan could have sent the message that even though the Catholic Church is against birth control and other preventive measures they also understand that some of their employees do not share their same beliefs. Some of their employees are members of other faiths and should have equal access under this law. The Catholic Church could have also stated that the only difference now is their members will have access to these services at no cost whereas right now their members have the ability to purchase those services elsewhere.

The Catholic Church is sending the message to its members that they cannot be trusted to follow the teaching of the church and must be denied those benefits as they cannot possibly resist the temptation when there are no out of pocket expense. The Church is also telling its members that they are not equal to their fellow Americans under the Constitution. Surely the Catholic Church has considered that their members can freely purchase on the open market the services it is denying its members access to via an insurance policy?

Where the media failed and especially Chris Matthews and his guest Melinda Henneberger is Chris failed to do his own research and Melinda resorted to use of prejudicial rhetoric. Chris is an intelligent guy, where it took me 5 Google searches to find the information I was looking for to write this post, he has people who are paid to do research. When a person is speaking to a national audience on a topic as important as this one I would think research would be a key component. Melinda failed as she resorted to the use of prejudicial rhetoric by first calling President Obama by his name only and then claiming he threw the all his Catholic supporters under the bus along Sister Carol Keenan whom Melinda claims single handily delivered health care reform. The making new law yet another Anti-Life and Pro-Choice fight. Melinda should have also done some research on her own, she has had since 8/1/2011 to prepare for this moment while toning down the negative rhetoric.

The answer to the question: Is it Equal Rights or is it the Free Exercise of Religion that is guaranteed by the Constitution?  Both Equal Rights and Free Exercise of Religion are guaranteed by the Constitution. One cannot be granted without the other. Chris, Melinda, the ArchBishop Cardinal and Newt seem to have forgotten we have a former Constitutional Law Professor as President of the United States. 

  • Churches are exempt from the new rules: Churches and other houses of worship will be exempt from the requirement to offer insurance that covers contraception.
  • No individual health care provider will be forced to prescribe contraception: The President and this Administration have previously and continue to express strong support for existing conscience protections. For example, no Catholic doctor is forced to write a prescription for contraception. 
  •  No individual will be forced to buy or use contraception: This rule only applies to what insurance companies cover.  Under this policy, women who want contraception will have access to it through their insurance without paying a co-pay or deductible.  But no one will be forced to buy or use contraception.
  • Drugs that cause abortion are not covered by this policy:  Drugs like RU486 are not covered by this policy, and nothing about this policy changes the President’s firm commitment to maintaining strict limitations on Federal funding for abortions. No Federal tax dollars are used for elective abortions.
  • Over half of Americans already live in the 28 States that require insurance companies cover contraception: Several of these States like North Carolina, New York, and California have identical religious employer exemptions.  Some States like Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin have no exemption at all.


No comments:

Post a Comment