Sunday, February 12, 2012

GOP Walking the Contraception Plank

Is this how it's going to end for the Republican Party?

TPM: Not satisfied with President Obama’s new religious accommodation, Republicans will move forward with legislation by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) that permits any employer to deny birth control coverage in their health insurance plans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Sunday.
Currently, 28 states mandate that employers' health insurance cover contraception for its employees, eight of which require it regardless of whether they are religiously affiliated or not. Many Catholic universities and hospitals already provide the coverage. The Obama administration's religious exemption is far broader than current law and actually a loosening of restrictions. But for some reason, GOP leaders think they have a dog in this fight and are betting that this will be wedge issue to sway Catholic votes away from the President in the upcoming 2012 election. This despite the fact that 58% of Catholics believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception, and that 62% of women overall, a huge voting block to be sure, agree as well.

So not only are they tying one end of the Blunt Amendment rope around the Catholic opposition rock, but they're tying the other end around their necks with a flawed "religious freedom" argument and attempting to roll back existing law for employers whose businesses have nothing to do with religion, and tossing it off the wingnut bridge.
“The fact that the White House thinks this is about contraception is the whole problem. This is about freedom of religion, it’s right there in the First Amendment. You can’t miss it — right there in the very first amendment to our Constitution,” [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell said. “What the overall view on the issue of contraception is has nothing to do with an issue about religious freedom.”
McConnell went on to embellish the argument, claiming Obama is being “rigid in his view that he gets to decide what somebody else’s religion is.” He said that “this issue will not go away until the administration simply backs down.”
How can a career politician of McConnell's stature get the First Amendment so wrong? It's because he is ginning up another empty attack on President Obama. He just can't help himself. Let's review:
Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
No law "respecting the establishment of religion..." - meaning that the government will not make any one religion the official religion of the country. "...or prohibiting free exercise thereof." - meaning that you are free to practice any religion you choose without fear of reproach from the government.

So, no, Senator McConnell, it's not "right there" in the First Amendment. Just because you are free to practice religion as you choose and follow its supposed moral values, does not mean you can arbitrarily ignore the laws of the land thereby causing an infringement on another person's rights. It's a far, far stretch to say that requiring an employer to cover contraception in its health care benefits for their employees, even if that employer is the Catholic Church now playing a role in the secular world, is a violation of conscience. It is up to the individual in question to face their moral conscience when it comes to the usage of contraception made available at no cost via their health insurance plans. Catholics who work outside the realm of the Church as their employer have that health care right. They also have the right not to use it - because of their religious beliefs.

In fact, I believe that in this particular case, it is the Catholic Church that is in violation of the very thing it protests. If the employee in question is not of the Catholic faith, why should he or she be discriminated against and not have the same health care benefits they would have if they didn't work for a religious organization? Is that not an infringement of their rights? If the government favored the religious institution's view, would that not be a violation of the First Amendment, namely "respecting the establishment" of their religion in lieu of federal law? If this were the case, could a Catholic secretary working for an Orthodox Jewish lawyer bring a ham and cheese sandwich to the office for her lunch in clear violation of her employer's Jewish beliefs?

I happen to be indifferent on the exemption to churches that President Obama offered. But when the church clearly steps in to the province of secular business, whether it be a hospital or a school in which people of all faiths are accepted, then they should and must follow the rules and regulations of the secular world. You can't claim religious exemption when it suits you. In this contraception coverage "nontroversy," the majority of Catholics are right, it's the Catholic Church and the "anything anti-Obama" GOP that are wrong.

ADDING... Rachel Maddow had a great piece on this issue last Thursday night. Along with exposing the Republican candidates fighting it out for the Presidential nomination, she also took a swipe and the 60-something, white male Beltway pundits who seem to think that it's the President who is looking bad on this issue even though he's with the majority of Americans. I think she may have been referring to Chris Matthews.

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