The Parade of Privilege: How Government Favors Religion (Privilege #9: The War on Contraception)

Luis Granados, director of the AHA’s publishing house, Humanist Press, responds to the Catholic bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom, a 14-day campaign which, according to the Washington Post, “purports to champion religious freedom, but in actuality distorts it by promoting the use of religion as a license to discriminate.”

Religious Privilege #9: The War on Contraception

The biggest impetus behind the “Fortnight for Freedom” which ends today is the bishops’ opposition to the requirement that health insurers include contraceptive coverage as a standard part of their packages, thus indirectly resulting in those who oppose contraception helping to pay the bill for those who choose to use it.

The bishops’ crocodile tears over “freedom of conscience” with regard to contraception are a canard. History shows that whenever the church has had the political power to do so, it has gotten governments to legally ban the use of contraceptives, for everyone, individual conscience be damned. This happened in a number of American states prior to the Griswold case in 1965, and in countries like Ireland and Spain deep into the 1970s. Only now that the church is on the back foot does it start whimpering about “freedom of conscience.”

I help pay for a lot of things I don’t approve of. Ethanol subsidies. The war in Afghanistan. An embassy in the Vatican. Weapons for Israel. Your list is probably different, but I’m sure there are a lot of things you help pay for that you don’t approve of, either. Neither of us like it, but we know we’re part of a bigger group, and it’s not possible to make everybody in the group happy all the time. So we don’t demand special treatment, or an individual reduction in our tax payments for programs we oppose because we know government couldn’t function if everyone paid only for the things they like.

No one is requiring any Catholic to use contraceptives. The church has every right to argue that contraception is immoral and to urge people to repudiate it in their own personal lives. No one is trying to suppress the church’s right to make its case. But when the church demands and receives special privileges – one law for the church, and a different law for everyone else – that’s another matter.

The furor over the church-related organization mandate obscures the real scandal here, which is that churches themselves, along with other employers whose primary purpose is to espouse religious doctrine, are already exempt from the requirement to provide their employees with healthcare coverage that includes contraception. This affects tens of thousands of people, the vast majority of whom have no moral objection to the practice. One of the biggest arguments the bishops are making is that it’s wrong for government to be drawing that kind of fuzzy line, to provide one set of health insurance rules for a church-sponsored seminary and a different set of rules for a church-sponsored medical school. They’re absolutely right: there ought to be one set of simple rules for everyone to follow. And if the democratic process results in contraception or any other form of medical treatment being part of those rules, then it’s the civic duty of the church to make the same payments everyone else has to make, and the civic right of the church to proclaim its view on the morality of actual use of the various treatments being offered.

To read “The Parade of Privilege” by Luis Granados outlining 14  privileges enjoyed by religious groups in America, visit his blog by clicking here.