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No one’s religious liberty is being threatened

No one’s religious liberty is being threatened

During last week there were a number of news stories about Roman Catholic organizations, with strong support by right-wing evangelicals, filing lawsuits against the new federal guidelines requiring contraception for women in everyone’s basic health care.

The New York Times has an editorial on Sunday that bluntly pushes back on the claim by those filing suit that their religious rights are being violated by the requirement.

“In 1993, Congress required government actions that ‘substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion’ to advance a compelling interest by the least restrictive means. The new contraceptive policy does that by promoting women’s health and autonomy.

And there was no violation of religious exercise to begin with. After religious groups protested, the administration put the burden on insurance companies to provide free contraceptive coverage to women who work for religiously affiliated employers like hospitals or universities — with no employer involvement.

This is a clear partisan play. The real threat to religious liberty comes from the effort to impose one church’s doctrine on everyone.”

H/T to Diana Butler-Bass


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Mike Watson

From the point of view of accuracy or any effort at a fair presentation of the issues, the cited New York Times editorial is about as bad as can be imagined. Mark Rienzi addresses it today on NRO here.

Take the first of the editorial’s assertions held up in the blog entry: that the HHS contraceptive policy meets the test of advancing a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means by virtue of “promoting women’s health and autonomy.” Prof. Rienzi responds:

But the compelling-interest test is not satisfied simply by naming some generally important interest — instead, the Court has explained that this test is “the most demanding test known to constitutional law” and requires the government to identify an “actual problem” in need of solving. Here, the administration’s repeated claims about the popularity of contraceptive use, and the wide variety of sources from which contraceptives are already available, belie any claim that there is an access problem in the first place.

Fourth, even if there were some problem with access to what Secretary Sebelius calls “the most commonly taken drug in America by young and middle-aged women,” there is no reason to think that the “least restrictive means” of addressing that problem would be to force unwilling religious institutions to provide access.

As the government demonstrates each year through its Title X programs, it is perfectly capable of distributing contraceptive drugs directly when it wants to. And even so, the Supreme Court just last term explained that “the government does not have a compelling interest in each marginal percentage point by which its goals are advanced.”

As to the claim that opposition to the mandate involves an “effort to impose one church’s doctrine on everyone,” Rienzi observes,

No one is forced to work for a Catholic institution. And those who do are perfectly free to get these drugs on their own, for free from the government, or from the many sources that willingly distribute them. Indeed, in no other context has anyone ever suggested that an employer’s failure to distribute an item for free is “imposing doctrine” on anyone. Catholic institutions also do not give out pornography, Big Macs, or trips to Disneyland. Failure to provide these things for free does not impose anything on anyone or restrict anyone’s freedom in any way. Overheated claims to the contrary cannot be taken seriously.

Rienzi surmises that the NYT editorial writers didn’t bother to consult with any lawyers before publishing their editorial, not unlike Secretary Sebelius’ apparent failure to consider the controlling law before HHS’s issuance of the mandate.


I don’t see your point, ChrisA (beyond disputing your implied assertion that TEC is NOT “trying to get out the message about its own religious values”). Could you clarify?

It’s not about challenging the culture, or affirming the culture. It’s about living the Gospel: sometimes there’s overlap, and sometime there isn’t. Discernment which is which? More Light, Lord Christ, grant us more light!

JC Fisher

Chris Arnold

JC Fisher wrote: ‘There’s a continuing effort by those of a conservative (usually patriarchal) religious bent to coopt the terms “religious freedom” and “religious values” unto themselves.’

And whose fault is that? Why isn’t the Episcopal Church trying to get out the message about its own religious values? At least when it comes to the question of birth control, it’s largely because our religious value are indistinct from the values of the culture around us, so there’s no conflict! Our religious freedom and our religious values are not contested because there’s really no difference between our beliefs and that of the culture around us. Or at least we’re not really challenging the culture around us.


There’s a continuing effort by those of a conservative (usually patriarchal) religious bent to coopt the terms “religious freedom” and “religious values” unto themselves. As far as those of us w/ religious values that promote human equality: we just don’t exist (either to the conservatives, or to the mainstream “Colorful Conservatives Sell Ad-Time!” media). Ergo, there are no religious progressives who need their religious freedoms protected FROM religious conservatives.

…says the Vatican & Co.

JC Fisher

Apps 55753818692 1675970731 F785b701a6d1b8c33f0408

Re to Dallas Bob: The Roman Hiearchy has it backwards. Most of the laity do not agree with Rome’s position on human sexuality and birth control.

-Cullin R. Schooley

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