Even though the media are trying to sell the new healthcare law as a Catholic issue, it is not. The new law requires all employers to pay for birth control methods that include surgical sterilization and abortion inducing drugs. The only groups who get an exemption are churches. Every other employer must provide this coverage. So this is more than a Catholic issue, it is a Protestant issue, a Jewish issue, an Orthodox issue, and an issue for every other religious group you can think of.
But there is one facet of this dispute that has been largely overlooked. This is not just a religious liberty issue for groups, but also for individuals. How many Christian business owners are there in the United States who have a conscientious objection to using their company’s revenues to fund abortions? I would imagine there are many. But a broader exemption for religious hospitals and universities wouldn’t help Christian business owners at all. They would still be forced to violate their consciences or face steep fines that could destroy their businesses. Why should a Christian who owns a car dealership, for instance, be forced to purchase something that is abhorrent to his most deeply held religious beliefs?
The rumors are that the President will soon back down from his draconian policy and offer some kind of compromise with broader exemptions. Everyone needs to realize, however, that the exemptions won’t be extensive enough until they cover every American with a conscientious objection to paying for contraceptives, surgical sterilization, and abortions. I have not seen or heard any party to this dispute contemplating an exemption of that scope. Why not?
If the President’s proposed compromise falls short of an exemption for all religious groups and individuals, then this dispute will be far from over.
President Obama said in his campaign that he wanted to unite America. In the last week, he has done just that. Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, liberals, conservatives, and almost every other ideological subgroup have united in their opposition to President Obama’s new healthcare regulation. In some ways, the country is looking more united than ever.