Why the Catholic Church is Wrong About Obama’s “War on Religion”


In light of the Fortnight For Freedom protest, a campaign of Catholic Bishops that kicked off June 21, 2012 to protest Obama Health Care mandates which include contraceptive care, we provide the following perspective.

There has been much discussion amongst the political punditry about the Obama administration’s new regulations regarding health insurance. Basically, all company insurance programs must now provide birth control coverage. This has left many people, especially conservative politicians and the (hierarchy) of the Catholic Church, furious.

Archbishop William Gregory, in a letter to congregants claimed that the Obama administration’s new regulations denied Catholics the religious liberty guaranteed under the first amendment. In addition, Republican senator Roy Blunt introduced an amendment that would basically allow any employer with a “religious or moral” objection to birth control to deny contraception coverage to their employees. This amendment is supported by the Catholic Church hierarchy and essentially all of the senate Republicans except Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.

But the claims made by the Church and Senate Republicans are fallacious and their stance is actually hypocritical.

The Catholic hierarchy has continuously fought these regulations on religious liberty grounds-in fact, they are claiming religious persecution. But if the Catholic Church got its way on this, it would set the dangerous precedent of allowing employers to pick and choose what types of medical care their employees will receive. No reasonable person should find this situation acceptable.

For example, if we followed the Church’s logic, what would stop a Scientologist employer from denying their employees coverage for psychiatric care or a Christian Scientist employer from denying all medical coverage?  It could be argued that these people could simply find new jobs, but that isn’t a great comfort, especially when unemployment is still high.

For all intents and purposes, the Catholic Church is trying to claim exemption from a law passed for non-religious reasons with a religious excuse.

This specific line of thinking was actually shot down by the Supreme Court in 1990 in Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 when the Supreme Court found that two Native-Americans could be fired from their jobs for ingesting peyote, even though they did so for religious purposes. In other words, they could not use religion as an excuse to ingest peyote.  And, interestingly, the majority opinion was written by staunchly conservative Justice Scalia.

Why should the Catholic Church be allowed to deny healthcare coverage for religious reasons when Native Americans are denied their holy peyote?
It’s illuminating when an argument is followed to its logical conclusion.

With the recent Supreme Court decision in support of Obama’s health care Catholic protest of 1) the regulation that will require virtually all health-care plans in the United States to cover, without fees or co-pay, sterilizations, artificial contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, and, 2) the requirement that religious groups, like all employers, will have to pay for abortions and birth control drugs for their employees – is bound to escalate.

Nathaniel Quinn is a student and Willamette Democrat.. You can reach him at nquinn@willamette.edu.

23 thoughts on “Why the Catholic Church is Wrong About Obama’s “War on Religion””

  1. the church again wants total control

    its religioous freedom has already in a few states been enshrined into law.

    CAtholics with their “conscience” could easily put up signs on their businesses, eg white only, str8s only, catholics only etc.

    Back to the good old days when it was the back of the bus problem.

    Religiious freedom also justied slavery as per the bible. and gave us the kkk and segregation.

    Religious freedom in saudi land resulted in 9-11

    Religious freedom in the middle ages let the church torture and burn at the stake.

  2. Wow, I read this hoping for an article I could rebut with intelligent dialogue. But the reasoning behind each of the points in the article is so weak and unintelligible, I will state only the following:

    I seem to remember the Bill of Rights guaranteeing me the right to live out my religious beliefs as I see fit: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF. . .” (First Amendment – my emphasis added). Subsequently, my Catholic religion requires that I shall not procure, provide or stand complicit in abortions (surgical or medicinal), artificial contraception or sterilizations.

    Where does any Amendment guarantee a citizen’s right to have sex without consequences, or a “woman’s right” to receive government (tax-payer) subsidized birth control? (Honest question; if you find it, please tell me.)

    The Catholic Church is being accused of waging a war on women’s rights when the fact of the matter is, religious rights ARE guaranteed, and yet are now in jeopardy of being disregarded and violated.

    Where you stated that ” it would set the dangerous precedent of allowing employers to pick and choose what types of medical care their employees will receive,” you blithely ignore the fact that employers already pick and choose the types of medical care their employees receive, and actually have no legal obligation to provide ANY (until this law goes into effect.)

    The danger of this law is that employers will be FORCED to provide insurance coverage, will have no choice with regard to the mandated services to be covered, or may choose to pay a tax instead. Religious institutions not agreeing with the mandated services will be taxed for practicing their religion. How is that not interfering with the free exercise of religion?

    You brought up the case of Employment Division v. Smith, in which it was found that ingesting a legally controlled substance while at work, where such practice was prohibited, was grounds for dismissal under “work-related misconduct”, and the employees were subsequently denied government unemployment benefits. Apples and oranges with the current situation. The Catholic Church and its adherents are not trying to advocate the practice of otherwise illegal (and dangerous) activities.

    On the other hand, here is a clip of Congressman Gowdy relaying some other, more pertinent Supreme Court decisions directly to the author of the HHS mandate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QfRa3SdU0I

    It is indeed illuminating when an argument is followed to its logical conclusion. I saw very little logic in much of anything you stated here.

    Have a nice day.

    1. I’m glad to read someone out there still thinks for themselves and sees through this load of crap.

    2. Excellent response. I always find it amazing how when some people are prevented from imposing their will on somone else, they complain that person (or group) is unfairly resisting their will and the impositioners then claim they are somehow the victims of their intended downtrodden.

    3. I’m catholic and just finished marriage prep the bishop told us he recommends we not use birth control for the sake of our health. Catholics like you are slugs but honestly i could not expect any different from Americans.

  3. Good points well put. Arguments that the ACA infringes religious liberty have gone from wrong to ridiculous. Notwithstanding all the arm waving about religious liberty, the law does not force employers to act contrary to their consciences.

    Many initially worked themselves into a lather with the false idea that the law forces employers to provide their employees with health care plans offering services the employers consider immoral. The fact is that employers have the option of not providing any such plans and instead simply paying assessments to the government (which, by the way, would generally amount to far less than the cost of health plans). Unless one supposes that the employers’ religion forbids payments of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion), then the law’s requirement to pay assessments does not compel those employers to act contrary to their beliefs. Problem solved.

    Some nonetheless have continued clamoring for such an exemption, complaining that by paying assessments to the government they would indirectly be paying for the very things they opposed. They seemingly missed that that is not a moral dilemma justifying an exemption to avoid being forced to act contrary to one’s beliefs, but rather is a gripe common to many taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action the government may take with the benefit of “their” tax dollars. Should each of us be exempted from paying our taxes so we aren’t thereby “forced” to pay for making war, providing health care, teaching evolution, or whatever else each of us may consider wrong or even immoral?

    In any event, those complaining made enough of a stink that the government relented and announced that religious employers would be free to provide health plans with provisions to their liking (yay!) and not be required to pay the assessments otherwise required (yay!). Problem solved–again, even more.

    Nonetheless, some continue to complain, fretting that somehow the services they dislike will get paid for and somehow they will be complicit in that. They argue that if insurers or employees pay for such services, those costs will somehow, someday be passed on to the employers in the form of demands for higher insurance premiums or higher wages. They evidently believe that when they spend a dollar and it thus becomes the property of others, they nonetheless should have some say in how others later spend that dollar. One can only wonder how it would work if all of us could tag “our” dollars this way and control their subsequent use.

    The invocation of “religious liberty” by those opposed to the law is but a ploy to rile up political support to achieve the political aim of gaining an exemption that allows employers to limit their employees’ choices to those conforming to the employers’ religious beliefs. Their aim is not religious liberty for themselves (they already have that), but rather power over their employees.

    1. If I understand you correctly, you are saying I should pay for my female employees’ birth control, even though it is against my religious beliefs and practices, or I can pay Big Government an equivalent penalty plus administration fee so BG can directly pay for it. And this make me better off – how? It comes from my pocket and buys the same offending substance, but the money is transfered through another pair of pants first which makes it OK? And the BG option relieves my religious liberties from being violated?

      It sounds to me like you are either a philosophy professor at a liberal arts college on the left coast or you are growing some wacky weed in your garden. Either way, your logic does not hold. I am being forced to pay for an abortaficient (birth control pills) that is against my religious beliefs. I am offended by your blatent disregard for my firmly held religious beliefs. I am not imposing my religious beliefs on anyone, but you feel it is OK for you to tramply my religious beliefs and I should shut up and quit whining about it. Your logic doesn’t hold.

      1. Confronted by questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith, the courts have generally ruled that under the Constitution the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, torts, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. (E.g., http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/494/872/case.html)

        When the legislature anticipates that application of such laws may put some individuals in moral binds, the legislature may, as a matter of grace (not constitutional compulsion), provide exemptions for conscientious objectors. In doing so, the legislature need not offer the objector a free pass. For instance, in years past, we have not allowed conscientious objectors simply to skip military service for “free”; rather, we have required them to provide alternative service in noncombatant roles or useful civilian work.

        The real question here then is not so much whether the First Amendment precludes the government from enacting and enforcing the generally applicable laws regarding availability of health insurance (it does not), but rather whether there is any need to exempt some employers in order to avoid forcing them to act contrary to their consciences. Since the law already affords employers choices by which they can avoid acting contrary to their consciences, there is no need for an exemption. The fact that that choice also entails an economic consequence–perhaps a cost or, since the assessments are less than the cost of health care plans, perhaps an economic benefit–does not somehow mean employers are “forced” to violate their consciences. They may not like what the government does with “their” money, but that’s a gripe no different than that of many taxpayers.

        The real aim of those seeking an exemption is to free employers of the law’s requirements and thereby free them to foist their religious views on their employees.

        1. Doug, Nice try, but I don’t buy it.
          Para 1 – I agree ingesting drugs for religious purposes not central to a belief is a practice, not a moral truth, and should be subject to laws governing the legality of the drug in question. Keep in mind, however, even during the time the eighteenth amendment was imposed, the Catholic Church was still allowed to use wine for the celebration of Mass since the small amount that was ingested was not considered intoxicating and that wine is central to the celebration of Mass and is a central tenant of the Faith. Your example, therefore, is not all encompassing.
          Para 2 – I agree, and the Legislature should have specified a greater exemption in this case as well.
          Para 3 – You just don’t get it. There is NO choice specified that is morally acceptable. There is only pay directly or pay indirectly but pay either way to support something you feel is morally objectionable.
          The U.S. District Court for Colorado on Friday blocked the Obama administration from requiring an air-conditioning company in Colorado to provide no co-pay contraceptives to its employees, as the Affordable Care Act directs. “On balance, the threatened harm to plaintiffs, impingement of their right to freely exercise their religious beliefs, and the concomitant public interest in that right strongly favor the entry of injunctive relief,” Judge John L. Kane wrote in the order.
          Government lawyers countered that if the court were to grant Hercules Industries a religious exemption, the government would face a flood of requests for similar exemptions from private companies. The action would undermine the public interest and Congress’s goal of improving the health of women across the country, they said. US District Judge John Kane disagreed. “These interests are countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion,” he said in an 18-page decision. “This harm pales in comparison to the possible infringement upon (the Newland family’s) constitutional and statutory rights,” the judge wrote. He noted that the government had already created numerous exceptions for religious employers, exempting over 190 million health plan participants. The law posed an imminent harm to the company’s owners by forcing them to support contraception, sterilization and abortion in violation of their religious beliefs or face steep fines, Kane said.
          Para 4 – Now your religious bigotry is showing itself. No one is foisting any religious views on the employees. They are still free to pay for their own birth control pills at ~$100/year (figure from the National Institutes of Health). There are existing government programs through which the employees may receive free birth control. Employees are NOT forced to go without. On the other hand, employers should not be FORCED to pay for something they feel is morally objectionable. I hope you understand that not paying for something you consider morally objectionable is not “foisting” your beliefs on someone; however “foisting” morally objectionable requirements onto someone does impact the practice of their constitutionally protected religious beliefs.
          God bless.

        2. Your statement “The real aim of those seeking an exemption is to free employers of the law’s requirements and thereby free them to foist their religious views on their employees.” negates even further, the statement you tried to put forth. The standard test of truth, is evidence, so I will take it this is your opinion and not a fact you can substantiate.

          The real aim…is to yet again, draw the line on where the government can overstep it’s bounds and legislatively infringe on religious freedom. As a business owner, I am not required to cowtow to the plaintive cries of what liberal groups think my employees are entitled to. Those entitlements are based on two things and two things only…the ability of my business to fund the entitlement, and providing an entitlement that doesn’t go against my religious beliefs or morality. There is no other input, employees don’t dictate what I will do…and neither will the government, within reasonable bounds.

          Business owners and persons of faith aren’t at the bottom of the food chain. we’re not here to provide fodder for rampant legislative abuse and blubbering liberal moral police. Why is YOUR morality more important than mine? Business provide a service to the community through goods and services and employment…not the other way around. In my faith, abortion is murder…no liberal, lawyer, legislator or blathering mouthpiece can change that. Your mileage may vary…but that’s YOUR mileage, not mine, and you can’t force me to drive your car.

          Somewhere along the way you folks have decided that you can take the golden egg the goose lays, then force the goose to keep your garden insect-free and then eat the poor bugger too, while hiding behind your bigoted, anti religion, anti choice, anti American rhetoric. Submit to the law or pay a tax for my belief? Not on your life sport, the courts are already tossing this cow pie back in the face of the liberally unenlightened…you kids have forgotten who butters your bread.

          Take a look at the number of businesses that have dropped employees or just closed up because the Emperor in Chief has his foot on our necks while screaming at us to breathe all his fresh air. Mine is among that number. Now, the 42 employees that worked for me until December 31 can toughen up and make do…while looking for another job with benefits, pay, liberal environments, no guns, no smoking, no opinion (unless it’s liberal), no religion, free condoms, free abortions and everything…but freedom…

          I just banked it and retired, I’d rather fly fish than bend over for the slobbering liberal masses that think they can tell me what to do. So, jobs gone, more uninsured, greater strain on the economy, lower standard of living all in the name of the great socialist project to throw business owners in the financial gulag.

          Heh…I’ll think about that as the dividends are rolling in while I’m wading the creek. Congratulations on all your groundbreaking liberal law strategies…you maggots have managed to do in 4 years what the Russians couldn’t do in 50.

          c’est la vie

          1. Noel,
            Thanks for the outstanding reply to this young naive student. Yours is a voice from the real world, which this young man may soon encounter. Hopefully, your words will accelerate his turn from the typical thought of one still close to the leftist world of academia.
            I’m sorry for your business experience, but then, I’m sorry for all of us and for this country.
            Hopefully its not too late for things to turn around, but at this point its not looking very hopeful, is it?

  4. Two reason why your argument fails:

    1. You failed to apply the Constitutions First Amendment on Religious Freedom; and
    2. The Peyote case is non-sequitor.

    David L. Gray

  5. If the government is going to override a matter of religious conscience, there ought to be an overriding reason that compels it. Being fertile, however, isn’t a disease state. Rather, fertility is a consequence of having a healthy body with normal function. One has to ask, then, why contraception is something that ought to be covered by health insurance, rather than being a personal choice that ought to be paid for by those who personally want it.

  6. Why all the fuss, the only Roman Catholics who practice birth control are those who are beyond child bearing age and who feel guilty about having not done so.

  7. For starters, Mr. Quinn assumes it is only the “hierarchy” that is furious. Next, he assumes, without question, that contraception is health care. Giving out carcinogenic pills is health care only if pregnancy is a pathological condition. ( Talk about a war on women! Ha!) Quinn’s point about giving Catholics the right to opt would set a “dangerous precedent” falls flat. The state has a compelling interest in legislating on blood transfusions for Jehovah’s Witness’ children, for instance, due to the fact that a life is at stake. In the case of contraception the case is quite different though. Women ( or their male partners ) can get condoms and pills at the corner drug store cheaply enough. It is probably because Quinn doesn’t see religious liberty as important. But I must ask him, without religion, what do we have to keep the state in check? Other than religion, what can sit in judgement on the totalitarian state? Nothing. The state will become religion..

  8. As a follow up, I would be interested in Mr. Quinn’s take on the recent ruling in Germany that Jews could no longer circumcise their children. Does he agree that this 4,000 year old practice is child abuse? A form of mutilation? Bad medicine? How did Jews manage to thrive so long with it before the enlightened law makers decided it was a threat to the child’s well-being?
    There is indeed a “war on religion” being waged in the secularized areas of the west. And by religion I mean the theistic Judeo-Christian worldview.

  9. You just compared someone using drugs for religious purposes to someone who is against killing babies.

    Your stupidity amazes me.

  10. The racism of yesteryear has come full circle in our county. The entire world embraced our choice of a black President four years ago and most nations of the world still support him. The fringe elements of Republican sect have crept through into the mainstream once again with conservative mouthpieces planting the seeds of hate. The only doubt lies here at home rooting from bigotry. Watch the white hands paint Obama in Blackface at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/10/bamboozling-obama.html

  11. First of all, it’s not the business of the government to tell people what they have to buy or provide. Especially when it comes down to an issue that is as divisive as abortion or sterilization. And, in additiation, I will say that a culture that doesn’t respect life, will surely die.

    Second of all, the concept of a third party payer system is the root of this problem. Call your local hospitals and see the price ranges for a particular surgery. You’ll find that it will vary from hundreds to even thousands of dollars. Why does a Tylenol cost 20 dollars on the hospital bill, when one can buy two or three bottles for the same amount? (Same for universities. The cost of college is so high because the Feds think it’s their business to garauntee the loans, so why wouldn’t the colleges jack up the prices to where they want them?) Now, call nearby concierge or boutique clinics, that don’t deal with insurance. You’ll find that thier costs are 70-80% less than the hospitals and clinics that do deal with insurance. The prices for Lasic and cosmetic surgery are always getting cheaper. There are no parasites trying to steal your money there. The doctors offer the best prices and quality because people shop around, since insurance will not cover them. There’s an old saying in Austrian economics that goes: “If you want to make something more expensive, make it free.”

    Get the Feds out of my life, please!

  12. Life begins at conception this is proven scientific fact( if you do not believe me google it). At the time of conception the life that is created has 46 chromosomes and DNA information to make a Human life ( I learned this from reading a article by a Doctor who used to preform abortions ), so what you are doing is murdering a Human Being when you take the morning after pill, or get and abortion.

    Now with that said what we need to understand what you are doing is paying what is now blood money to the insurance company because that money is now in a pool of money that can be used for the purpose of murdering a Human Being. Blood money is tainted money and can not be used for good in the eyes of many people. When Judas returned the money ( 30 pieces of silver) to the leaders of the Jewish community in Jerusalem what they did with the money was to buy a potters wheel. The reason is a potters wheel was not a clean thing, so to buy one with blood money is ok, it is a useful item to make clay pots to store things in. The thing about clay pots is they are unclean that is why anything that was stored in a clay pot was blessed so it could be consumed. What we find is most all clay pots where destroyed after use so they could not be use again they where not glazed so they where porous and would absorb what was stored in them, so if you reused the pot you might get sick or die, depending on what was stored in that pot.

    So what you are doing is turning people into murders by default because you are taking their money and using it for the purpose of murdering a Human Being by putting their money in a pool of blood money. This is why Obama Care violates the number ONE Human Right, the Right to Life, and there for it is unethical. Do not try and tell me about ethics I am a Locksmith by trade who used to work for a Locksmith who was a University Professor of Ethics, and I am also a Catholic. A true locksmith is the most ethical and honest person you will ever meet.

  13. “Fallacious” accurately describes the arguments and causative actions listed in Mr. Quinn’s commentary.

    No person may force any other person to work in an environment they do not wish to be in. As a business owner, a Catholic and father of 2 adopted sons, my religious beliefs are just that…mine, and the government has no Constitutional basis for imposing regulations on my beliefs.

    Don’t like my insurance coverage? Then don’t work here, simple as that. Christian Scientists and Scientology have already applied for and been approved waivers from Obamacare – moot point. The use of hallucinogenic compounds in Native American religious rites on reservations is the purview of the reservation authorities, off the reservation it’s illegal – moot point.

    Mr. Quinn’s statement, “For all intents and purposes, the Catholic Church is trying to claim exemption from a law passed for non-religious reasons with a religious excuse.” Is pure horse muffins. For all intents an purposes…the Catholic Church is opposing federal legislation that directly contradicts 2000 years of church doctrine and would force Catholics to violate their beliefs when those beliefs do not represent an illegal, harmful or detrimental action against persons or property.

    Quite simply, why is it the business of government to impose upon religious belief that is not harmful and why would any non Catholic care? There is only one answer and that is the ever encroaching, all pervasive desire of the liberal progressives to force their views on everyone else.

    Sorry, that’s not the America I was born and raised in. Perhaps next time Mr Quinn will present an opinion that doesn’t fallaciously invoke every tenet of logical fallacy.

  14. I came upon this comment looking for a schedule of live music in Salem, hence the delay. However, after reading the opinion, I had to make a couple of comments.
    First of all, comparing the right of an employee whether or not to ingest a substance (as in the peyote example) to the right to put a stop to a developing human being is, as Mr. Gray says above, a non-sequitur. The logic of one does not follow to the other.
    Secondly, there is nothing in the Constitution that mandates that employers should be forced to provide any benefits to an employee, regardless of what John Roberts says. So, if religious institutions choose not to pay for drugs that can end a developing human life, then forcing them to pay for these drugs is most certainly a violation of the First Amendment.
    Good try, Nathaniel, but keep studying. I would suggest opening your mind to some conservative writers while you’re at it.

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