In case you missed it last Friday, the Obama administration quietly issued a proposed update to regulations coming out of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as "Obamacare." The verbiage is a bit dense, but here's the upshot: the ACA requires health plans to provide contraceptive coverage to all insured members. Some religious organizations and even a few for-profit companies objected to this requirement, citing religious beliefs.
The Barna Group's recent religious freedom poll is pretty interesting. Evangelicals overwhelmingly support religious freedom and are concerned about its possible demise—yet a majority of them also believe that "traditional Judeo-Christian values should be given preference."
The phrase "separation between church and state" does not appear in the Constitution. Nor does the concept originate with Thomas Jefferson.
A federal judge in Eastern Missouri has upheld the government mandate that insurance policies cover birth control. Judge Carol E. Jackson ruled that the mandate is not a violation of religious liberty. Religious freedom is “a shield, not a sword,” she said, and religious liberty claims cannot be used as a “means to force one’s religious practices upon others.” Her argument closely aligns with points that the Century made some months ago in an editorial and that I tried to make in a blog post.
I've so far declined to comment on Wheaton College's decision to join the election-year culture war skirmish du jour by suing the feds for stomping all over its religious freedom requiring insurers to cover basic women's health needs while allowing faith-based employers to themselves stay out of it. I was sad but not surprised to learn of this move. Wheaton takes it as not only one legitimate view but an article of evangelical conviction that the morning after pill is unacceptable? Sure, okay. I disagree with my alma mater, but it's hardly the first time.
First the bishops sought an expanded exemption. Now they claim the contraception mandate itself violates religious liberty. It doesn't.
Michele Chabin reports that Israeli postal workers are refusing to deliver Hebrew-language New Testaments. Mark Silk asks an interesting question.
So, the Blunt amendment got killed in the Senate. And good riddance: you wouldn't know it from the L.A. Times's writeup, but the measure was a good bit broader than a reversal of the Obama administration's contraception mandate (which itself would have been nothing to celebrate). From the amendment text (pdf): A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package...on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because...providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan. In other words, essentially a line-item veto of whatever the boss is morally opposed to, based on church teaching or otherwise.