February 9, 2012
Isn’t the resolution of the current dispute over whether religious institutions like hospitals and schools must cover contraceptive expenses pretty simple? The government has said that these institutions must provide such insurance for reasons of women’s health. It is the same reason that the government says that certain Native American religions cannot legally use peyote or other mind altering drugs in their religious ceremonies, as well as the same reason why certain religious practices like allowing venomous snakes loose during religious services are not allowed and are in fact criminal offenses. It is also why the government can force parents with religious scruples against such requirements as vaccinations to have their children – and probably themselves – vaccinated. It is also why the government can impose child labor laws on those who would violate them in the fulfillment of their religious obligations.
This is what the government does all the time, has done since the Constitution was adopted, and was doing even before it was adopted. One of the least controversial ends of governmental action is preserving and protecting the health of its citizens, employing even coercive measures to do so successfully, even when these measures trample on the consciences of some of those citizens.
But here is another puzzle. If those in the employ of such institutions share their principled objections to contraceptives then what is the problem? Obviously, if this were the case then those institutions would not have to cover any such expenses because no one would be buying contraceptives! Of course, this is extremely unlikely because as polling makes obvious, almost no women in, say, the Catholic Church object to using contraceptives [98% is the figure often cited] and overwhelming majorities are in fact using them [68% of Catholic women, 73% of Protestant women, and 74% of evangelical women]. Now, there’s a shock: Overwhelming numbers of women use contraceptives despite the fact that the religious institutions they belong to are against or frown on such use! Go figure!
But the Republicans have a political winner here, for sure! Hardly. It is almost as if these Republicans want Obama to be re-elected, perhaps because their wives prefer him on issues such as this to those who would endanger their health while trying to save their souls, almost all of whom are, I am suspecting, men! Perhaps these churches ought to spend more time trying to convince their members of the sinfulness of contraceptives – oh, I would love to hear how that campaign goes – than trying to stop the government from doing what government has been doing since, well, forever!