What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 31, 2012

State v. Church (Trib-Style)

From today's Tribune-Review:
It's shaping up as the most important church-state battle of our time. And should the state prevail, the Constitution will be pushed further down the slippery slope of becoming a dead letter.

The issue is birth control and whether the federal government can force religious organizations (that, as a matter of doctrine, oppose artificial birth control) to include, with limited exemptions, free contraception and related services in the private health-insurance plans they offer their employees.
For the record, the Tribune-Review is in favor of both birth control and Planned Parenthood. The problem they say is:
The issue is whether the government, in pursuit of a state-determined "greater good," can truncate, if not traduce, constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion. Simply put, it cannot. But if the government prevails, where does it end?
After setting up a strawman argument, they dance with The Supremes:
Unless the Obama administration rescinds this clearly illegal rule, it should be prepared to be spanked by a Supreme Court that's already affirmed (in its recent "ministerial exemption" ruling) that the church-state line is neither gray nor sloped.
Let's start at that last part first.  The Supreme Court's decision, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, was about
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday for the first time that federal discrimination laws do not protect church employees who perform religious duties, a major church-state decision that recognizes religious groups’ constitutionally protected right to select their own leaders.

The justices ruled unanimously that the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion means that even neutral laws intent on banning workplace discrimination may not be applied to a religious institution choosing “those who will guide it on its way.”
And while Scaife's braintrust says that this HHS decision will be invalidated by the "ministerial exemption" of this Supreme Court decision, the decision itself includes this sentence:
We express no view on whether the exception bars other types of suits, including actions by employees alleging breach of contract or tortious conduct.
So...maybe not.

Anyway, from the HHS statement, we learn that:
Scientists have abundant evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women and their families, it is documented to significantly reduce health costs, and is the most commonly taken drug in America by young and middle-aged women. This rule will provide women with greater access to contraception by requiring coverage and by prohibiting cost sharing.

This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty. I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services. The administration remains fully committed to its partnerships with faith-based organizations, which promote healthy communities and serve the common good. And this final rule will have no impact on the protections that existing conscience laws and regulations give to health care providers.
So the braintrust's use of ironical quotation marks ("greater good" instead of greater good) is actually wrong.  One the one hand there's "significant health benefits for women" and on the other there's an organization that's sheltered pedophiles looking to make it harder for women to access those benefits.

Yea, this is a First Amendment issue.

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