The national discussion spotlight has been focused on the recent mandate for religious organizations to provide contraceptive and reproductive insurance coverage for women.
Terry Donnelly, Mesquite Citizen Journal columnist, discussed the situation in his article this week. See Church and State Spar
We asked our two Mikes to weigh in on this question:
"Did the government overstep its Constitutional First Amendment boundaries when it initially required religious organizations to provide free contraceptive services for women and do you agree or disagree with the President's accommodation/compromise of having insurers pay for the service?
We are interested in your thoughts and opinions on this topic. Please take a few minutes and weigh in by posting a comment at the end of this article and tell us how you feel. We also invite you to participate in this week's unscientific poll asking about your thoughts about the subject. Access the poll in the left menu column.
Mike Young's turn
What part of “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” does the Obama Administration not understand? Congress has made a law and the executive branch that is in charge of implementing Congress’ action has made a rule, that may prohibit the free exercise of religion.
The next question is does it violate religious freedom? The answer is clear; it does. Just ask any Catholic priest. Why ask a Catholic priest? Because they’re the expert in that religion. Each religion must decide what violates their faith, not some bureaucrat in Washington.
So is there a compromise somewhere to be had? The president proposes that a sleight of hand will do the trick. Catholic organizations don’t have to pay for the services, just their insurance companies. Let’s see now, where do the insurance companies get their money from to pay for these services?
Additionally, I just don’t think contraception should be on the list for healthcare. It isn’t something that keeps you from getting sick. Why should the insurance company cover it anyway? They don’t cover hearing aids or glasses. Those are things that would make someone’s life better and healthier. If you can’t see or hear you may get hurt. But birth control and morning after pills?
But let‘s not forget what Obama said about his daughters, if they got pregnant. He wouldn’t want them to be punished with a baby.
I think that giving contraception as an insurance mandate is just stupid. You can get the drugs or pills at any drug store. And you might just think about that when they start rationing healthcare (and they will). They will simply tell you, “Well, we pay for contraception. What more do you want?”
We have to ask ourselves what is more important for health; contraceptives or actual healthcare that helps someone live and have a better quality of life?
On the Fox News program "America’s Newsroom" Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, said "People need to speak up,"
We do need to speak up as this is a war on religion. Remember first they came for the Jews. We’re just starting with a different religion this time. Which one will be next? Maybe the government will want to ban the 10 Commandments from courts or prayer in schools.
After initially regarding the president’s announcement with cautious optimism, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, headed by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, issued a second statement late Friday, Feb. 10, rejecting it. "Today's proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions."
Even if we were to find some satisfactory comprise to the question of who pays for what and what is included in healthcare, we would still have a more basic issue, and that is, the Obama administration issuing directives that restrict religious, faith-based organizations from fulfilling their mission of protecting life.
Mike McGreer's turn
President Barack Obama did not overstepped the First Amendment when he originally proposed that religiously-affiliated organizations pay for contraceptive services.
There is no legal argument available under the contraceptive proposal since the two essential elements of the First Amendment are not in play. Specifically, the proposal does not interfere with 1) the right to establish a religion, nor does it 2) impede the free exercise of religion.
The current proposal requires religious institutions to cover contraception as part of any health care plan offered to their employees. However, they could also offer an opt-out clause if the offering violates their religious sensibilities. In those cases, an insurance company would cover the individual's choice of contraception, at no cost to the individual or the organization.
Further, insurers would likely see cost savings since contraception is far cheaper than the consequences of unprotected sex.
"If a woman's employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company — not the hospital, not the charity — will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge," Obama said.
The real issue here is not an individual religious one, since a large proportion of Catholics and others already use contraceptives. The issue is the right of a woman to choose their health care independent of working environments, or due to a lack of funds.
The contraception issue is a continuation of women's continuing efforts to achieve equal, but sometimes different, rights with men. Specifically, this issue highlights the importance of separate health care provisions which are not necessarily covered by the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution.
Unlike race, real differences between the sexes (relating to pregnancy, nursing, life expectancy, etc) do justify different treatment under the law.
To some degree, The Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed in 1923, was proposed to affirm that women and men have equal rights under the law which the Equal Protection Clause has failed to accomplish.
It's important to remember that equal, in the case of women, means their right to make their own health care decisions, taking into account their own unique needs and circumstances.
Some members of Congress have attempted to block the contraceptive proclamation by inventing “right of conscious legislation," whatever that means. The government is not in the business of protecting rights of conscience for individuals or organizations (religious or otherwise).
Indeed, as some have said, the only conscience that matters is that which ensures a woman's option to have affordable contraception in an environment dominated by religious zealots.
In the final analysis, the contraceptive proposal reinforces the drive of the Obama administration to correct the inefficiencies, inequities, and high costs currently existing in the health care environment.
The only constitutional question here is the right of women to be free from the cruel and unusual punishment inflicted upon them by people preaching their own brand of righteousness.