Posted: 11/27/13 21:19
by Dave Mindeman
The Supreme Court is going to take a case regarding an employer's health insurance being required to cover contraceptives as part of their plan. The mandate is being challenged on religious freedom grounds.
Although the decisions seems obvious to me, there is no way to predict what THIS court will do with it. However, in order to make the decision, the Supreme Court will have to clarify a number of things. So, let's go into the list.
1. Is coverage of contraception in a health care plan a religious issue?
This is talked about as if it is a given, but why? Birth control pills are essentially hormones, and they have uses other than contraception. A number of women take them for menstrual irregularities, migraine headaches, acne, as well as other more obscure uses. So, first of all, there would have to be a clarification regarding coverage classifications. A blanket rejection of this hormonal therapy would be unfair. And putting a religious connotation on this particular health care therapy is not a universally accepted norm. Not only is the use open to interpretation, but the religious restriction depends on what religion you observe.
2. Are the beliefs of the owner absolute in health care coverage?
An owner of a business can certainly have his or her own personal beliefs, but is being the owner a deciding factor as to allowing the owner to impose those beliefs on everyone who works for the company? If the company accepts government contracts or government aid as part of their receipts it can become even more problematic. Do they not have to adhere to the governmental policies that follow acceptance of taxpayer money? How far can that be taken?
3. What about how far that can be taken?
If religion can be imposed on all employees in regards to their health care, how much more can religion be involved? If the owner thinks same sex marriage is a sin, can that owner refuse to allow spousal coverage for same sex partners in the health care plan? If the owner's religion believes that women "should not have authority over men", can they use that as a pretense for gender discrimination in promotions? Could an owner who is a Jehovah Witness forbid coverage of blood transfusions in a health care plan? There are as many scenarios as there are religions - somewhere there must be a separation of religion from the secular work place. The rights of the individual worker has to rise above an imposition from the beliefs of people who would impose their will because of their position.
4. Is this a violation of the establishment of religion clause?
The First Amendment prohibits the federal government from making a law "respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".
Is it feasible to believe that companies who use religion as the pretense for exempting birth control coverage from a health plan, are they not establishing a "religion" for their company? And because they are basing this on the First Amendment, are they not using the US government to establish that religion? In addition, is the company prohibiting its employees from the free exercise of their beliefs counter to the company owners?
Yes, the government is mandating the coverage - but the mandate is not attached to a religious idea. It is the same way that the government wages war in a non-religious context, even though virtually every religion fundamentally opposes war.
The Supreme Court is wading into deep water with this case. Especially with their tendency to side with political conservatism on such issues. Progressives have little confidence in the 5-4 decision making that this court uses to justify its will on these issues. A change of one justice should not make such a difference in how we interpret law, but that seems to be the case with this very political court.
We shall have to see what type of decision they work out. If they narrow the circumstances, it may not have far reaching effects.
But if they decide to establish a broad precedent which they believe should establish new law for the future, then religion and politics will soon be merging .....to our detriment.