Debate Center: The Affordable Care Act has a day in court
Sometimes when news turns to issues of religious freedom, it involves the Catholic Church. In most cases, the problem centers on the church facing a challenge to their religious positions in the form of an employee who has been fired from a Catholic institution for violating what is called a morality clause. The church usually wins those challenges.
But what if the issue of religious freedom involves a secular institution, such as a large corporation? Would it have the same rights the Catholic Church enjoys by being exempt from laws because of beliefs about morality? If that company is Autocam Corp. from Kentwood, Mich., then the answer would be “no.”
In September, a federal court in Cincinnati ruled Autocam is not exempt from a mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requiring companies to supply health care covering contraception for female employees. This was a problem for Autocam’s owners because they are practicing Roman Catholics and insist supplying financial support for contraception violates their religious liberty. According to the ACA, if the company does not supply the mandated coverage, it will be responsible for millions of dollars in fines. Autocam is not alone, though, because similar cases are being set before courts throughout the country.
Supporters of the court’s ruling will first note Autocam’s owners are not subject to the penalty, but the company is, and a company is not protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as individuals are. Supporters go on to say if the company is allowed to bypass the ACA mandate, then a precedent will be set for any company to have the power to place other restrictions on employees based on religious belief. Supporters also add companies cannot have the power to bypass laws based on religious objection, and they cannot discriminate by denying coverage based on that objection. They further cite polls showing an overwhelming percentage of Roman Catholics who are okay with birth control.
Opponents of the court’s ruling claim the ACA mandate forces employers to either betray their religious beliefs or pay huge fines. They believe this government intrusion is an assault on their religious freedom, and it is an indefensible burden placed on citizens who must violate deeply held religious beliefs. Opponents further insist they should not be forced to pay for the “intentional destruction of innocent human life.”
Reports state the Supreme Court will eventually see a case about the ACA contraceptives mandate. This is because so many companies are challenging the rules, and one lower court has sided with a corporation regarding the mandate. The arguments will be the same as with the Autocam case, with one side claiming they are forced to forfeit their religious freedom or pay seriously punitive fines, and the other side will say company owners cannot bypass laws regarding their employees simply because they have religious objections.
Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at AlexCulpepper@DaytonCityPaper.com.
Debate Forum Question of the Week:
On Sept. 17, a federal court in Cincinnati ruled secular employers cannot deny employees health care that covers contraceptives. Is the court right in upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contraceptives mandate even though it may violate a company’s religious beliefs, or does the ruling violate the company’s right to religious freedom?
Debate Left: … and what about the GUYS?
By Marianne Stanley
Sometimes I think the current state of the Unites States’ social and political battles has nothing at all to do with the supposed issues under discussion and everything to do with our faltering educational system that fails to provide the vital underpinnings for clear thinking.
If this were not so, how else can we explain the almost-countrywide misunderstanding of what “religious freedom” or “government intrusion” really mean versus how they are being used by so many today? We are witnessing the careful disassembling of the underpinnings of freedom and of democratic principles through the systematic destruction of our schools, clever propaganda and the loss of our independent media.
For instance, in this case, no one’s “religious freedom” has been violated by the Court of Appeals. Under what delusional thinking would anyone in this country, be s/he a business owner or a regular citizen, think they have the right to force others to suffer based on personal religious beliefs? Is the next step to send a company representative home with them to ensure that no part of their earned paycheck goes for anything the owner disapproves of … perhaps drinking alcohol or buying sexy clothing? Who gets to speak for God?
And why is it that these cases we are seeing all across the country only concern themselves with women? Nowhere are we seeing that these companies are worried about their male employees having access to condoms or vasectomies. This should make it glaringly obvious that this isn’t about religion at all.
Perhaps it is true that male institutions, from churches to political structures, have always feared female sexuality and that this is just another attempt to lock women into outcomes not of their choosing. Adult women must have the same right to make their own personal, sexual and procreational decisions as men have. Most organized religions insist on the subjugation of women as though we have a sort of second-class soul, not worthy of the same respect and dignity as that accorded to a man. It is time for that to be clearly seen, rejected and ended.
Perhaps it is this absurdity, this extremism of fundamentalism that is driving hordes of Americans away from organized religion as indicated in recent polls. People are shying away from being identified as “religious,” preferring the term “spiritual” instead. After all, just how spiritual is it to try to force people against their will to do yours? How spiritual is it to insist that they live as you want them to live, rather than as they believe they should live?
Our Constitution is clear on the issue of religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … ” Thus, our Constitution expressly forbids any church or person from foisting any religious belief on another. Why then are we seeing unprecedented pressure on our legislative and judicial systems to do what our Constitution expressly prohibits? Could this just be another step in curtailing individual freedom and self-determination? No one is telling those company owners that they can’t freely practice their own religion, but it is telling them they cannot “establish” their religion as the one their employees must follow.
It’s sad to see our increasingly uneducated citizenry being swayed by emotion-arousing terms like “government intrusion,” all the while not catching on to the fact that it’s the misguided, supposedly “religious” among us who are doing the intrusion into the private lives of others. The court’s decision in this case protects the many from the tyrannical control of the few.
We see state after state jump on the bandwagon to deny abortion coverage even though it has been proclaimed a legal right in this country. Now, we are seeing corporations filing lawsuits to leave women high and dry when it comes to making their own adult decisions. As the saying goes, “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross.” In other words, the powers that be, the powers that seek to control and bedevil us can hide a lot of evil behind things that symbolize “good” to us – our national pride and religion. We are seeing it everywhere today and we need to be aware that the motives may be sinister rather than benevolent.
Let the owners of Autocam Corporation go to church day and night if they want. No one is stopping them. But they are in no way, under the Constitution nor under the guidelines of any standard religion, permitted to dictate the choices, practices and moral decisions of others. The sooner we see through the charade that is making life hell for one gender while leaving the other unscathed and free to do as it pleases, the better for everyone concerned.
Perhaps if we could get back to our once-strong, standardized school system that educates rather than inculcates, that honors the potential in each child through offerings of music and art, that provides healthy food and allows each child to play and socialize, that teaches the difference between fact and “spin” and that allows the teachers to teach, to discuss, to encourage individual thought and original thinking rather than just “teaching to the test,” maybe, just maybe, we wouldn’t be seeing so many of these cases that should never see the light of day in any legitimate courtroom that recognizes a frivolous lawsuit when it sees it.
Marianne Stanley is an attorney, college professor and former journalist who believes many of our nation’s ills could be cured if our children were taught critical thinking skills beginning at the elementary level and continuing through middle and high school. She can be reached at MarianneStanley@DaytonCityPaper.com.
Debate Right: The federal government and religious liberty
By Dave Westbrock
A three-judge U.S. 6th Court of Appeals rejected religious objections brought by two Michigan corporations based on requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that full contraceptive benefits be provided to female employees. These companies are self-insured and could lead to tax penalties of up to $19 million for failure to comply.
On June 27, the 10th Circuit Court ruled en banc the Hobby Lobby company was granted a hearing and return to district court for a preliminary injunction to prohibit enforcement of the Obamacare act compelling Hobby Lobby to cover of abortifacients. The court reasoned Hobby Lobby has “established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm.”
The Founders of the United States, from its inception in 1786, realized the importance of religious freedom. Many of their ancestors included voyagers on the Mayflower who left England to pursue a culture and lifestyle that was not proscribed by a king. This included rights to practice religion that did not impinge on the rights of others. This was indeed one of the most important impetuses for the mass migration to the colonies during the 1600s. Many colonies, in fact, were set up as religious colonies, such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland, as “plantations of religion.” But the current law and the administration does not just believe in separation of church and state, but the subjugation of religious belief.
Thomas Jefferson is often quoted by those who proclaim the founders established a “strict wall of separation between state and religion.” But the following in the Virginia Act authored by Jefferson clearly states his and Virginia’s intent:
“Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities.” (Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom – 1786)
James Madison argued the “free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience,” was a “natural and absolute right.” In another quote, he stated, “Conscience is the most sacred of all property.” Furthermore, George Washington sent a letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, R.I. promising the United States would never support religious bigotry or persecution. Obamacare guarantees both bigotry and persecution for religious beliefs.
Certain exemptions based on religion have been part of American life. The best recognized is combat exemption classifying on religious grounds conscientious objectors, tax exemptions for churches and religious institutions, and exemptions from vaccination.
To illustrate how pernicious and antithetical to religious and humanitarian principles Obamacare is, the Catholic religious order the Little Sisters of the Poor, who care for the ill and the poor at no cost, were denied an exemption from the contraception mandate by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius. Obamacare mandates contraception services, abortions and sterilization, which is specifically forbidden by church doctrine. Such behavior and incompetence shows the uncaring nature so typical of this administration; both anti-religious and anti-humanitarian. Another example is the failure of the HHS secretary to offer a lifesaving lung transplant to a child with cystic fibrosis, finally forced to act by the order of a federal judge. The Little Sisters may have to leave the U.S. since they have taken a vow of poverty and could not afford the fine of $100 per day per female employee. Reward your political friends and punish those who “cling to their guns and bibles.” The multiple exemptions for Congress and their staffs, certain favored groups including 1,231 companies, representing 4 million citizens (3 percent of the population), and labor unions representing over 500,000 workers is a clear violation of the law as written.
A fundamental principle ensuring the uniqueness of the United States is based on the diversity that religious principles shall be respected as a counterweight to a totalitarian state. Unlike the divine right of kings that Americans rejected more than 200 years ago, tolerating the whims of a dictatorial executive, which we are witnessing, now are eroding not only religious freedom, but other freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Witness threats to freedom of the press (FBI investigation of reporter James Rosen), freedom of speech (IRS harassment of conservative organizations) as additional dangers to Constitutional government abetted by those sworn to defend and uphold it.
Dr. Westbrock has been in private medical practice for 35 years. He was the Republican candidate for the U.S House of Representatives in 1994 and 1996. He has written and lectured extensively on the subject of health care reform and health care policy. He can be reached at Dave.Westbrock@DaytonCityPaper.com.