Today 43 Catholic agencies filed suit in 12 different federal courts over the federal mandate requiring employers to cover contraception in their health insurance policies. The Catholic Church claims that they are being denied their right to freedom of religion.
Of course, I acknowledge that we absolutely do live in a country where we have a first amendment right to freedom of religion that should protect people who honestly take religious issue with having to pay for another person’s birth control. However, I also recognize that free exercise of religion also means protection from religion. Those who voted against, and successfully denied the Blunt Amendment understand that the federal mandate doesn’t ask anyone to pay for anybody else’s birth control. So let’s lay that myth to rest right here and now. The federal mandate simply ensures that women and men are treated equally when offered employee wage and benefit plans.
Consider the case of a hypothetical Tim and Sarah who manage to get two jobs at a Catholic Hospital. As a result of their new employment,both are offered wage/benefit packages that include some variation of salary, retirement solutions, and health insurance benefits in exchange for the hard work that they devote to the hospital each day. The Catholic Hospital, in exchange for Tim and Sarah’s hard labor, will make out a series of checks each month. One to a retirement fund, one to an insurance agency, and one each to Tim and Sarah for their wages.
When Tim gets his paycheck, he can take it and cash it and spend it however he wants to. The church has no say in the morality of how he spends the fruits of his labor. Tim can buy fatty foods, alcohol, cigarettes, condoms, spermicide, or pay for an abortion and there is not one thing that the Catholic Church can say about it.
If Tim gets sick, say he gets a testicular torsion that requires that his testicle be removed, his health insurance- which he earned through work, should cover that procedure even if it means that it might render him infertile. I would go so far as to suggest that if he wanted to have a vasectomy because he wanted one, and for no medical reason at all, other than it was his choice, his insurance ought to cover it.
For those who don’t understand this concept, I refer you to an old John Wayne favorite, McLintock. In the film, John Wayne aka G.W. McLintock is approached for a job:
Devlin Warren: About that job Mr. McLintock.
George Washington McLintock: Look son, I told ya, I got no need for farmers. Or use for them either.
Devlin Warren: Just one minute, Mr. McLintock. My father died last month, that’s how come we don’t have a homestead. I’ve got a mother, a little sister to feed. I need that job badly.
George Washington McLintock: What’s your name?
Devlin Warren: Devlin Warren.
George Washington McLintock: Well, you’ve got a job. Go see my home ranch foreman. He’s over by the corral.
Devlin Warren: Step down off that carriage, mister!
George Washington McLintock: [Devlin swings and McLintock and gets thrown to the ground] Hold that hog leg! I’ve been punched many a time in my life but never for hirin’ anyone!
Devlin Warren: I don’t know what to say. Never begged before. Turned my stomach. I suppose I should have been grateful that you gave me the job.
George Washington McLintock: Gave? Boy, you’ve got it all wrong. I don’t give jobs I hire men.
Drago: You intend to give this man a full day’s work, don’tcha?
Devlin Warren: You mean you’re still hirin’ me? Well, yes, sir, I certainly deliver a fair day’s work.
George Washington McLintock: And for that I’ll pay you a fair day’s wage. You won’t give me anything and I won’t give you anything. We both hold up our heads. Is that your plug?
Devlin Warren: Yes sir.
George Washington McLintock: Well, hop on him and we’ll go get your gear.
Now, think of Sarah. She, like Tim and good old Devlin Warren, just wants to give a day’s work for a day’s pay. She, like Tim and Devlin Warren, just wants to hold her head up. If she labors for the Catholic Hospital and earns a wage/benefit plan, she ought to be able to have the same freedoms to use her benefits as any man.
When Sarah gets her paycheck, she can take it and cash it and spend it however she wants to. The church has no say in the morality of how she spends the fruits of her labor. Sarah can buy fatty foods, alcohol, cigarettes, condoms, spermicide, or pay for an abortion and there is not one thing that the Catholic Church can say about how she spends the money she earns from them,
If Sarah gets sick, say she gets an ovarian cyst that requires hormonal treatment, her health insurance – which she earned through work, should cover that medicine even if it might make her temporarily infertile and especially since it might save her fertility all together. I would go so far as to suggest that if she wanted to have her tubes tied and for no medical reason at all, other than it was her choice, her insurance ought to cover it.
Saying that the federal government is asking the Catholic Church to violate its first amendment right to freedom of religion is ignoring that the Catholic Church has no say in what happens to wages/benefits once they have paid them. The Catholics who pay for insurance packages dispersed as part of employee benefit programs are really paying nothing more than wages. They are buying the labor of their employees, not birth control. No one is asking the Catholic Church to violate their first amendment rights. No one is asking them to do anything more than deliver an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.
I think that both hypothetical Tim and hypothetical Sarah deserve the same healthcare package. In the wake of a near depression, with slowly recovering unemployment numbers, people shouldn’t have to ask themselves if their employer is allowed to hide behind religion to discriminate against them and shirk their responsibility to provide an honest benefit package.
The Catholic Church has a right to free religion, but Sarah also has a right to fair and equal treatment under the law. She has rights too. As I’ve said before, and I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said it before me, “Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.” If this is so, then also, then so must Church’s right to free religion and conscience objection end at Sarah’s ovaries.