Friday, August 26, 2011
Chris Haley has a very good essay, "Creating a Catholic Ghetto," at the First Things blog, in which he focuses nicely -- in a way that complements the Alvare essay to which I linked in an earlier post -- on the marginalizing (and, therefore, socially and otherwise undesirable) effect that the mandate (with its at-present very narrow exemption) would have on Catholic institutions . . . and not only, it should be emphasized, on Catholic hospitals:
The actions of the administration are in keeping with the prevailing secularist ideology: religious beliefs, practices, and institutions are seen as essentially private matters, best kept out of public discourse and away from the public sphere. While I have focused here on the Catholic Church, this mandate would affect not only the Catholic Church, but every church, every religious community, every individual believer. It must be opposed.
And, as it happens, it is being opposed, and also by Catholics who otherwise have been supportive of President Obama's election and Administration. As Michael Sean Winters reports, here, a number of "prominent Catholics [including many who had supported Sebelius's nomination and many who signed a letter, a while back, criticizing Speaker Boehner for, in the signers' view, not adhering closely enogh to Catholic Social Teaching] released a letter to Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recommending that she amend the proposed rule on mandated health care coverage to provide for more expansive conscience protections for religious organizations." The letter says, in part:
Catholic charities and Catholic hospitals do not fit the rule’s definition of religious organization. Catholic schools, colleges, and universities also might not fit the current definition. In light of the First Amendment’s protection of religious practice and of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s forbidding of discrimination for religious belief and insistence on accommodation of religion in the workplace, we propose expanding the definition of religious organization in the final rule to extend conscience protection to religious charities, religious hospitals, and religious schools in regards to mandated health insurance coverage. . . .
Kudos to Prof. Schneck for organizing the letter, and to the signers for signing it. I hope Sec. Sebelius listens. I confess, though, to not being very optimistic. She is, after all, almost certainly also receiving letters (or has received letters) and lobbying to the effect that exemptions for religious organizations and believers from generally applicable mandates -- think, for example, of non-discrimination mandates -- are inappropriate, even pernicious. Unless one believes that religious freedom is a positive good, and not merely a concession one makes, when not too inconvenient, one is not likely to see why an otherwise good law (which the Secretary believes, I assume, the contraception-coverage mandate is) should yield to the preferences or prejudices of those who don't like it.