Don’t You Know Who I Am?

The Obama administration has successfully brought to the fore a legitimate discussion on what it means to have a separation between church and state with the healthcare mandate requiring insurance plans to cover birth control, the morning after pill, and sterilization.  By not exempting religious institution employers who have moral objections, the administration is more or less trumping religious convictions with government authority.  Now, I think this aspect will inevitably work itself out and exemptions will be made.  What concerns me more is the attitude defenders of the mandate are taking.

Some supporters of the mandate feel that employees who don’t share the church’s stance on these issues shouldn’t be subject to their employer’s (The Catholic church) moral sentiments if they don’t agree.

Whether or not you agree with the Catholic church’s stance on its doctrinal or social issues is irrelevant to this discussion.  The church’s positions on birth control and abortion are not secret and have been considered controversial for decades.  So when someone seeks employment with a Catholic institution they should not be surprised that the health insurance offered does not cover such things.

And this is my problem with those who do not stand with the church on this issue.  Not that one has to agree with the principles of the church, but they should support the church — even as an employer — to set policy according to their conscience.  The church ought to be free to set the conditions of employment.  No one is required to work for a Catholic institution, it’s not as if everyone must take a turn and are compelled to lose some benefit they had.

It is this “I know you’ve been running your business the way you’ve wanted to, but now I’m here, so knock it off” attitude that has me so disgusted.  Well, who are you?  And why does your sexual freedom trump your employer’s religious freedom (to not facilitate your sexual freedom)?

The bottom line is this: agree or disagree with the convictions of the Catholic church, they hold religious moral objections to birth control and abortion.  To compel the church to actively abet and passively endorse behaviors contrary to their stated convictions is unreasonable at best, and hypocritical at worst.  In fact it is the hight of hypocrisy to demand submission to your sensibilities from the Catholic church and other religious institutions in one breath, and complain that religious institutions are trying to demand submission to their sensibilities from you (See: Don’t Come A-Knockin’).


  1. Terrance H. says:

    Completely agree, John, as my most recent post demonstrates.

  2. The religious angle is part of it, but I think what they are really trying to do is conflate contraception (very popular) with abortion (increasingly unpopular). They know they are losing the stand-alone battle on abortion, as young people (i.e., Roe v Wade survivors) are becoming more pro-life. But those same people want there to be access to birth control.

  3. I don’t notice you mentioning this here, but the Obama administration does in fact exempt the church proper from paying such benefits. Employees of the Diocese, and the Church are not afforded the right to family planning benefits under the Healthcare Law (2010). The argument is more specifically over institutions that are for-profit and public access that operate at arms length from the church proper.
    In that specific case, I agree entirely with the stand taken thus far by the administration. Whether or not I agree with whether or not any organization should be exempt from a law governing national healthcare policy is beside the point- we are specifically talking about profitable businesses that employ and profit from people who do not share an obscure (and speciously biblical) tenet of a large shareholder’s faith.
    To my knowledge, the government does not impel religious hospitals to prescribe birth control, nor perform tubal ligations or vasectomies. What the government is saying is that since every other for-profit business in the country is required to offer family planning benefits to those employees who wish to use them- there is no reason to exempt businesses whose board of directors include clergy, or whose shareholders include the church.

    • What the government is saying is that since every other for-profit business in the country is required to offer family planning benefits to those employees

      This is a problem in itself, but I digress.

      “Currently the health-care regulation has an exception for “employers whose primary purpose is to inculcate religious values” such as individual churches and parishes, it does not exempt religious colleges, hospitals, or other institutions from this requirement.” — Business insider

      Though these colleges, hospitals and other institutions are not the church proper, many are thoroughly affiliated with the church. It is a bit more than simply having a clergy on the board, or having the church be a beneficiary. The colleges and hospitals etc. adhere to statements of faith and are “compliant” to church beliefs and directives.

  4. Yes John, but they benefit directly from people, both employees and customers, who do not share their silly stand on birth control.
    If you interpret your definition loosely enough, Chic-Fil-A should also be exempt from family planning insurance payments. If a business can be said to have a religion to be trampled on- then there is no reason a small to medium sized business owned by a Catholic should be required to pay toward family planning insurance.
    The question is whose religious liberty trumps the other. Does a church have a right to impel other-faithed individuals to conform to its doctrine, or do individuals have a right to hold personal religious convictions without being forced by employers and government to conform to a standard of belief?
    If a Catholic Hospital goes to all the trouble of employing an all-Catholic workforce, it should have no qualms about extending family planning benefits, since every employee will certainly use their religious right to decline their use.

  5. Marshall Art says:

    “If a business can be said to have a religion to be trampled on- then there is no reason a small to medium sized business owned by a Catholic should be required to pay toward family planning insurance.”

    Good point indeed! In fact, there should be no compulsion whatsoever for ANY privately owned business to provide ANY service that conflicts with the personal beliefs of the owner or its shareholders. THIS would be the proper application of Constitutional principles regarding free expression and prohibiting any establishment of religion by the government. This would not inhibit the ability of an employee from accessing fallaciously called “family planning benefits” on their own at their own expense where it belongs. But it would relieve the company owners from underwriting the sexual laxity of its employees. Thus, there is no compulsion whatsoever by an owner to dictate anything as regards what an employee should believe, yet the company itself isn’t compelled to act against ITS beliefs. Win-win for all.

  6. Excellent point Marshall!
    But if you are going to say that, then you might as well just admit that your issue is about publicly mandated health care and not about religious freedoms. You might as well admit that this whole religion canard is a way to say you don’t want to pay for the betterment of society.
    For what it’s worth, I agree in principle with part of what you are trying to say. I don’t think that public welfare can be achieved in a private market, and I think Obama sold out universal healthcare to avoid a fight with private insurance companies. Healthcare should be nationalized, as it is in all the most successful models. Obama failed.

    The problem with the whole argument is that universal healthcare once enshrined is just an extension of your income stream- it is part of your payment at work or part of your social assistance or welfare check. A portion of your income tax (in my case) or your employers portion of your insurance premium (in your case) is as much a part of your personal income as any other dollar you earn. The difference is that it is allocated for your future health costs in the same way that you social security deductions are allocated for you retirement. The idea that ANY employer, religious or otherwise, ought to be able to prevent you from using YOUR money to purchase services YOU WANT is the antithesis of liberty and freedom.

  7. I’m not following John.
    Why the red herring?

    • George

      you said:

      Does a church have a right to impel other-faithed individuals to conform to its doctrine, or do individuals have a right to hold personal religious convictions without being forced by employers and government to conform to a standard of belief?

      This is a vacuous argument that many supporters of forcing religious institutions to violate their convictions are making. No one is required to work for a Catholic institution. When people apply to work for one, they know the religious bent of the institution before hand. They can continue with the employment process at will. They are not required to to work for any particular place.

      I find it intensely offensive wen people play the “now that I’m here, knock it off” card. Since the church has been able to privately employ and offer insurance they have omitted certain coverages. It’s like someone going to work at In-and-out burger and then suing to have the bible verses removed from their wrappers because they are offended and don’t share the religious convictions as the owners.

      It is so utterly selfish and Narcissistic to voluntarily choose to work somewhere then demand they conform to your sensibilities. Don’t like it? Work somewhere else.

      The reason I asked you the silly question is in the hopes it would dawn on you that your answer of “I don’t have to work at one” is the answer to supporters of religious conscience violations. You’ll never have a turn to work there, you’ll never have to work at one if you don’t want to. If you or a woman want birth control and abortion pills covered by health insurance, go work somewhere that allows that coverage and leave the church alone.

  8. That whole argument is entirely fallacious, John. Employers don’t have a right to tell employees how their own money is spent. That portion of the premium that is covered by the employer is part of the employers contractual payment to the employee. The money does not belong to the employer, it belongs to the employee.
    Why should any employer have a right to control how the earnings they give employees are spent?
    Who do I think I am? I think I’m someone who gave a service to an employer in exchange for monetary benefit. I don’t expect a Catholic Hospital to perform my vasectomy if it has moral qualms about doing so. I don’t expect them to pay for it directly. I expect them to pay into my insurance plan- that by federal law requires that family planning benefits be covered- but that money they pay is MY money.
    If I pay for a vasectomy out-of-pocket with money I earned working at a Catholic hospital, that is no different than having the procedure covered by health insurance I earned while working at a Catholic hospital. It’s my money.
    If you understand how insurance works, the only way your argument makes sense is if the institution underwrites the insurance policy. It is not enough to merely contribute a portion of an employees compensation to it. I bet that many or all religious institutions do not underwrite their employee insurance plans. If they do, they shouldn’t be allowed to. Employers should not be able to pick and chose how their employees money is spent.
    If you want to get all libertarian about this, then an employer has a right to hire employees that they understand to share their beliefs. They do not have a right to ask employees to account for the money that they are being paid for services rendered. If a Catholic university wants to hire only Catholic employees (and I don’t even know if that is constitutional), then it should really have no problem if their insurance plan offers family planning, since all the employees will follow their religious convictions and not use the benefits for that purpose.
    I don’t think I deserve special consideration, I think I deserve to use my premiums from my health insurance to pay for services that everyone else has paid for.

    • What contractual obligation are you talking about? Just because you work somewhere doesn’t oblige the employer to give you a health insurance options of your choosing. They aren’t even required to subsidize your health care at all. They aren’t required to offer health insurance in the first place.

      This is the problem with the liberal mentality, that everyone has a right to have others do for them.

  9. Marshall Art says:

    George’s main mistake is believing that the insurance benefits provided by employers is the employees’ money. Whatever package of benefits an employer chooses to provide is no different than whatever wage the employer chooses to provide. If no one cares to work for an employer because the wage offered isn’t acceptable, then the employer will do without employees until some come along who will work for the wage offered or he will raise the offer to attract the type of employee he needs and can afford.

    In the same way, in exactly the same way, every other aspect of the compensation package offered by an employer is subject to the mutual agreement of the prospective employee. If an employee isn’t content with the compensation package offered, be it the wage, 401K/pension plan or health insurance coverage, he can go elsewhere. However, assuming all other aspects meet the requirements and approval of the prospective employee, he can likely find a private insurance plan elsewhere to supply his rubbers for him, or poisonous birth control pill for her. OR, simply out and buy it themselves, as their pay from the employer is theirs to spend as they see fit.

    As to whether or not this is “really” a publicly mandated health care objection as opposed to a religious freedom issue, the reality is that it is clearly both. So what? Clearly publicly mandated health care is wrong, both constitutionally AND morally, as it the intention to force ANYONE to act against his religious beliefs. It’s a two-fer.

  10. John,
    If the religious institutions are not legally required to offer a government regulated comprehensive insurance plan- then why are we even arguing about this? The solution is simple.
    If, as an employer, you can’t morally bring yourself to offer benefits to your employees- and you are not required by law to extend them, then just don’t give your employees health insurance at all. Pay them “lieu benefits” in the form of increased wages….or not.

    Assuming that the government has not legislated health care benefits as part of an employees compensation package (and perhaps I wrongly assumed that this was the point of the Healthcare Law 2010- I am Canadian after all), then employers who don’t agree with the services that the government legally mandates must be part of all health insurance benefits should just exercise their right to not extend group insurance to their employees. End of story. They do not have the right to dictate to government what the minimum standard for health insurance ought to be- especially when the monies they co-pay into insurance premiums are done as part of the employees compensation, not their own money.
    The government has the legal authority to set minimum standards for employee compensation, and health insurance is part of an employees compensation. If government is without this right, then where is the constitutional challenges to minimum wage, overtime pay regulation, statutory holiday pay, and the like?
    If the government decides that health insurance must be part of every employee compensation package (if they have not, they should), then this- like minimum wage or overtime pay or stat pay- just becomes part of the cost of doing business in America.

    Government has a right to step in and set minimum standards for what employers can offer to prospective employees. That is why no one is legally working as a fishmonger in NYC for $2 an hour. Once the employer meets the minimum standard- in this case minimum wage plus comprehensive health insurance, then Marshall is right- they can mutually agree to any additional compensation. But the compensation belongs to the employee, not the person paying it.

    • When I have a few minutes I will go into the comedy that was the healthcare act. Unless Marshall gets there first. Its a joke. A very expensive joke.

      • We are being taxed for Obamacare now although the actual compulsion does not begin until 2014. So we are paying now without recieving any “benefit”. But if that werent bad enough, the fines imposed for non-compliance or underinsuring is less than the costs to insure, so there is a financial incentive for the employer to not comply. Obama promised that if you like your plan you can keep it, but that is only if they don’t drop you because it’s cheaper. What this does put people in the government health plan, from which there is no escape. Once on a government plan you can not take out a new health insurance plan, so eventually everyone will be on a government plan. Which itself is not “free”. Obamacare does not provide free healthcare, it mandates that everyone hold a policy. So even an unemployes person would be required to buy an insurance policy or face fines. But the fines are less than policies would cost thus incentivising people to not buy the policy until they they are sick because now (2014) you cannot be turned down for health coverage for pre-existing conditions without paying exorbinant fees. This was supposed to make healthcare affordable, but actually will increase premiums

        It is an elaborate scam foisted on the public in order to bring the country into a single payer system. Which system of government does this sound like to you? Not capitalism, thats for sure.

  11. Marshall Art says:


    You, like so many on the left it seems, do not understand the dynamic of the employer/employee relationship. The compensation belongs to the employer who trades that package to the employee for the work done by the employee. The employee’s time and effort is what belongs to the employee, who trades that for the compensation package offered by the employer. The compensation is determined by the employer and agreed to by the employee. Government intrusion into this relationship has contributed to burdens on both parties as employers determine how many they can employ in part based on what they are forced to provide.

    Maybe as a Canadian you don’t understand what our Constitution was meant to do, which was to limit gov’t from such interferences. That it has gotten as far as it has in this regard is what drives the right-wing in this country to return to a greater emphasis on constitutional guidelines in legislation. Many wish to insist that proposed legislation must pass constitutional muster in order to be enacted. In this case, it should be shown where in the Constitution is the government given any “right” to tell any business how much to pay or provide for an employee. At the same time, it would be helpful if it could be explained how the gov’t has the right to dictate what gets covered by any insurance provider.

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