Monday, November 21, 2011
As MOJ readers know, Pres. John Jenkins (Notre Dame) and many others -- on "both sides" of the political spectrum -- have urged President Obama to re-think the very stingy exemption that exists for "religious employers" from the contraception-coverage mandate (which -- denials in some quarters notwithstanding -- will also include some abortion-inducing drugs) in the new health-insurance law. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that many Democrats are urging the President not to agree to a "change that would grant a broad exemption to health plans sponsored by employers who object to such coverage for moral and religious reasons."
In my view, both the mandate and the narrow religious-employer exemption are objectionable. I was struck, though, by this, in the NYT piece:
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, said: “It just doesn’t make sense to take this benefit away from millions of women. Americans of all religious faiths overwhelmingly support broad access to birth control.”
Sen. Shaheen thinks that it is relevant, apparently, to the question whether it "make[s] sense" to refrain from requiring objecting religious institutions to pay for abortion-causing drugs that "Americans of all religious faiths overwhelmingly support broad access to birth control." Indeed, it appears that they do. But, what work in the argument is "of all religious faiths" doing?
UPDATE: Michael Sean Winters (who is, in my view, clear-eyed about the importance and foundations of religious liberty but mistaken in thinking that Pres. Obama is, too) notes:
[T]here is something more than a little ironic about these liberal champions, the type of people who normally celebrate the “wall of separation” between Church and State, now clamoring over that wall as fast as they can to tell Notre Dame and Providence Hospital what they can and cannot do. Ironic, too, that liberalism which was founded on the principle of conscience rights, and at a time when the Catholic Church was unalert or hostile to the idea of conscience rights, has grown so indifferent to them while it is the Catholic Church today that champions them. But, irony is the coldest of comforts.