Friday, March 2, 2012

Josh- Part II

(Tonight I continue the exchange on the HHS mandate with my friend Josh.... read last nights post to see where we left off)

 Wow Josh, a lot to digest!

 Unlike some- I do think our president is a very intelligent man and sometimes obfuscating seems a brilliant tactic he employs. Of course at its heart obfuscation hides the truth from those who have a right to hear. I guess what I have been thinking most about in all this Josh is the public at large. I understand the need for these religious issues to be clearly defined, but how can I presume to speak for others? Don’t we all support things that go against our beliefs in one form or another through payment of taxes or wages to other who hold different beliefs? How is this issue so different than all the others? The first amendment does seem to allow Congress to pass laws limiting religious expression if the laws are neutral and generally applicable. Can we really expect people outside of our faith 
( whom the Catholic Church also employs) to hold our religious laws above those of the state without violating their first amendment rights? What am I missing  here?


 P.S.-I had seen the women speak for themselves link- it is an impressive list of names, and made me smile as I often feel so under-represented for my views and choices.I guess I am not as alone as I believed! 

 How is this issue different from others – a great question.

 First, being required to pay taxes is different from being required to purchase a product. (Even apart from the contraception issue, there are deep constitutional questions about that dimension of the health plan anyway.) Taxes that go to the general welfare are different from benefits purchased by employers for employees. So being required to pay taxes that may go to something one disapproves of is different than being required to purchase a product that one would never in good conscience purchase freely.

 Second, as you note, all reasonable limits to religious expression must be by laws which are neutral and generally applicable. The case for neutrality and generality is easiest to make when there are laws already on the books, and someone comes along and asks for an exception (e.g. Mormons asking for – and being denied – an exemption from polygamy laws). That case is also easiest to make if the law “burdens” everyone equally. It is much harder to make the case for neutrality and generality when a new law is made in the face of a longstanding religious practice, and when the law really only burdens, and in fact seems designed to change the behavior of, those of certain religious affiliation – as is the case here. 

 Third, in this case the mandate and proposed accommodation have not really come through a normal legislative process. The larger health plan passed by legislators was only tentatively supported by some Catholics on the expectation that there would be a traditional religious exemptions; the HHS, a government agency without legislative authority or accountability, specified further regulations and refused to allow the traditional religious exemption. Lastly, and perhaps most simply: by respecting the rights of individuals and corporations not to have to purchase products against their conscience, nobody else’s rights are being violated. An employee whose employer is not purchasing contraception for him or her is not having any first Amendment rights denied. (This is true even for someone who thinks that access to contraception, sterilization and abortion are a fundamental health issue, which we haven’t even discussed but there are good reasons to call that into question too!) 

 --Josh P.S. No, you are certainly not alone. But you are, alas, in the minority, and it is sad that more women, especially young women, don’t get the chance to hear any alternative to our cultural status quo on contraception.

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