Infringement of Religious Liberty


Last week I shared with you about a Supreme Court decision that happily reversed an attack upon religious liberty by our government, specifically the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This past week yet another threat to religious liberty in this country is preceded from the Obama Administration. They have through the new healthcare law mandated that religious churches and other organizations, specifically the Roman Catholic Church, are obligated to cover through their health insurance programs things such as contraception which violates the Church’s teaching.

Now it is very important for you to understand that the issue here is not contraception. I think most of us don’t hold the Catholic view that contraception is something that is sinful or contrary to God’s will though we would share the conviction that abortion of a fertilized egg – a fetus – is certainly morally wrong. But that is not the issue. This is an issue of government intrusion into religious liberty where the wall or the separation between church and state is being broken down not by religious people trying to get the state to authorize religion; it is being broken down from the other side by the state attempting to mandate parameters of religious organizations. This threat to the separation of church and state in this country is an assault upon religious liberty that needs to be addressed and taken seriously.

Here is the story as The New York Times reported it.[1]

The Obama administration said Friday that most health insurance plans must cover contraceptives for women free of charge, and it rejected a broad exemption sought by the Roman Catholic Church for insurance provided to employees of Catholic hospitals, colleges and charities.

Federal officials said they would give such church-affiliated organizations one additional year . . . to comply with the requirement.

. . .

Leaders of the Roman Catholic Church had personally appealed to President Obama to grant the broad exemption. He made the final decision on the issue after hearing from them, as well as from family planning advocates, scientific experts and members of Congress, administration officials said.

. . .

“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

. . .

Other opponents of the rule said they would seek legislation to block it and might challenge it in court as well.

The rule includes an exemption for certain “religious employers,” including houses of worship. But church groups said the exemption was so narrow that it was almost meaningless. A religious employer cannot qualify for the exemption if it employs or serves large numbers of people of a different faith, as many Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies do.

. . .

Under the government’s narrow criteria, the bishops said, “even the ministry of Jesus and the early Christian Church would not qualify as ‘religious,’ because they did not confine their ministry to their co-religionists,” but urged compassion for the sick and the poor, regardless of faith or creed.

The New York Times goes on to report that,

The National Association of Evangelicals said that as a result of the White House decision, “Employers with religious objections to contraception will be forced to pay for services and procedures they believe are morally wrong.”

. . .

The 2010 health care law says insurers must cover “preventive health services” and cannot charge for them.

Now that sounds innocuous, doesn’t it? “Preventive health services.” You would think that is things like vaccinations and things to help people stay well, right? Preventive health. No! It says,

The new rule interprets this mandate. It requires coverage of the full range of contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Among the drugs and devices that must be covered are emergency contraceptives including pills known as ella and Plan B. . . .

The issue forced Mr. Obama to weigh competing claims of Catholic leaders and advocates for women’s rights.

And it was the women’s rights advocates who won out.

The administration said in August that it intended to require coverage of contraceptives for women, as recommended by an expert panel of the National Academy of Sciences. But the White House reconsidered the issue after hearing protests from the Catholic Church and many Republicans in Congress.

The protests prompted debate within the administration. Ms. Sebelius and the president’s health policy team strongly supported the new rule. But Democratic members of Congress who lobbied the White House said they believed that Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, William M. Daley, and his special assistant for religious affairs, Joshua DuBois, favored a broader exemption.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, described the final rule as a huge victory for women’s health. . . .

Representative Lois Capps, Democrat of California, said, “The administration deserves credit for standing its ground and following the science.”

Now what a world of implication is said in that sentence. The administration “stood its ground and followed the science.” It doesn’t matter about issues of conscience, it doesn’t matter about medical ethics or moral values, it doesn’t matter about religious liberty or the preservation of religious liberty, they “followed the science” as though scientific naturalism just dictates what is and is not the truth about these things.

Archbishop Dolan said he discussed the issue with Mr. Obama last November and came away reassured that the president understood the Catholic Church’s position. Now, the archbishop said in the interview, “The sentiments of hope that stemmed from reassurances that I thought I received in November were apparently misplaced.”

And again I just want to emphasize – this is not an issue about contraception. This is an issue about religious liberty and freedom of religion from government intrusion, government mandate, and government control. So this is, I think, a matter of very grave concern which I certainly hope that evangelicals and other Christians, and really persons who hold to constitutional liberties in this country regardless of their personal faith, will address in the courts.[2]

[1] Robert Pear, “Obama Reaffirms Insurers Must Cover Contraception,” The New York Times, January 20, 2012. See (accessed October 8, 2013).

[2] Total Running Time: 9:09 (Copyright © 2012 William Lane Craig)

Legacy Comments

  1. Lion IRC says on Feb 1, 2012 @ 05:58 PM:

    When governments try to force voluntary, non-profit Christian entities to conform to a political agenda rather than God there are really only two possible outcomes.

    1. The Christian organization complies and ceases to provide that charitable support the way it used to.

    2. The Christian organization acts according to its (biblical) conviction and defies the government in civil disobedience.

    Either way, the government (the tax payer) loses. This principle underpins all exemptions and tax breaks for religious charities. If you prevent the religious organization from helping to provide health care, the government then has to pick up the bill - or ignore sick folk who cant afford health insurance.

    What hypocrisy for anti-religious politicians to allow churches to fund orphanages, hospitals, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, single mothers' refuges, etc and demand that The Church "stay out of politics".

  2. KStret says on Feb 1, 2012 @ 07:14 PM:

    "If you prevent the religious organization from helping to provide health care, the government then has to pick up the bill - or ignore sick folk who cant afford health insurance."

    I believe that is the general idea. If you want socialized medicine you must eliminate the competition. One of the things that the Obama administration proposed right from the beginning was to eliminate the charitable donations tax deductions.

    The catholic church appears to be fighting back. Many Catholic churches across America read a letter to congregants on Sunday stating that they would not comply.

    If you are a politician why would you pick a fight with a the Catholic Church right before an election?

  3. Tim says on Feb 2, 2012 @ 11:28 AM:

    Here's the official White House position from the WH website:

    Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans will cover women’s preventive services, including contraception, without charging a co-pay or deductible beginning in August, 2012. This new law will save money for millions of Americans. But more importantly, it will ensure Americans nationwide get the high-quality care they need to stay healthy. Under this policy, women who want contraception will have access to it through their insurance without paying a co-pay or deductible. But no one will be forced to buy or use contraception.

    On January 20th, Secretary Sebelius announced that certain religious organizations including churches would be exempt from paying their insurers to cover contraception. Other religious organizations, including those that employ people of different faiths, can qualify for a one-year transition period as they prepare to comply with the new law. In recent days, there has been some confusion about how this policy affects religious institutions. We want to make sure you have the facts:

    •Churches are exempt from the new rules: Churches and other houses of worship will be exempt from the requirement to offer insurance that covers contraception.
    •No individual health care provider will be forced to prescribe contraception: The President and this Administration have previously and continue to express strong support for existing conscience protections. For example, no Catholic doctor is forced to write a prescription for contraception.
    • No individual will be forced to buy or use contraception: This rule only applies to what insurance companies cover. Under this policy, women who want contraception will have access to it through their insurance without paying a co-pay or deductible. But no one will be forced to buy or use contraception.
    •Drugs that cause abortion are not covered by this policy: Drugs like RU486 are not covered by this policy, and nothing about this policy changes the President’s firm commitment to maintaining strict limitations on Federal funding for abortions. No Federal tax dollars are used for elective abortions.
    •Over half of Americans already live in the 28 States that require insurance companies cover contraception: Several of these States like North Carolina, New York, and California have identical religious employer exemptions. Some States like Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin have no exemption at all.
    •Contraception is used by most women: According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, most women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used contraception.
    •Contraception coverage reduces costs: While the monthly cost of contraception for women ranges from $30 to $50, insurers and experts agree that savings more than offset the cost. The National Business Group on Health estimated that it would cost employers 15 to 17 percent more not to provide contraceptive coverage than to provide such coverage, after accounting for both the direct medical costs of potentially unintended and unhealthy pregnancy and indirect costs such as employee absence and reduced productivity.
    The Obama Administration is committed to both respecting religious beliefs and increasing access to important preventive services. And as we move forward, our strong partnerships with religious organizations will continue. The Administration has provided substantial resources to Catholic organizations over the past three years, in addition to numerous non-financial partnerships to promote healthy communities and serve the common good. This work includes partnerships with Catholic social service agencies on local responsible fatherhood programs and international anti-hunger/food assistance programs. We look forward to continuing this important work.

  4. KStret says on Feb 2, 2012 @ 05:52 PM:

    Despite the ministry of propaganda's press release, it forces Catholic colleges, hospitals and other Christian groups to provide contraceptive drugs despite their opposition to them.

    Look at how they attempted to side step the issue; Churches are exempt, no one is being forced to buy contraception, and RU486 isn't covered.

    If a church funds a charitable institution is the institution exempt? Nope. That is the fundamental issue.

    Arguing that no one is being forced to get contraception is a red herring. RU486 isn't covered but the morning after pill is.

    The catholic church can either

    1. Comply and violate it's own philosophy
    2. Drop coverage for employees and suffer the consequences.

    They should file a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the law.

    The Department of Health and Human Services decided to cut off funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops which helps victims of human trafficking because of the church's stance on abortion and contraception. It is always a really bad idea to get in bed with the government.

    It is also important to note the Obama's health care bill does fund abortions.

  5. Daniel says on Feb 4, 2012 @ 05:21 AM:

    I am Catholic and listen to your podcast. While I don't agree with some issues, I personally view Dr. Craig as an invaluable member of Christianity in America. What some are now calling a moment of Catholic solidarity and political awareness can represent something much greater. We all can take this moment to take a stand as Christians. Not as Catholics or Protestants, democrats or republicans, or any other division. There exists only one Kingdom of God, ruled by the same eternal sovereign.

    This should be so much more than a massive voter revolt.

    More than anything else, Christianity is a religion born of state oppression against it and the fundamental morality inherent in its precepts. We all possess a strict moral imperative to bear witness to Christ, regardless of anything else. Every persecution, great and small, must we meet in solidarity and steadfast resolve. To remain silent, to consent in speech or in vote, is in some small measure to deny Christ; and yet every hardship done unto us in Christ's name is blessed to God.

    I would very much like to Christianity emerge in America, from the failure of secularization as anything but political compromise as governance, a single Christian movement representative of the entire Kingdom. Not to rule, or to impose, but to bear witness and to refuse to compromise. Our Church fathers did not suffer unimaginable sufferings for a silent and divided body. The Church, as it exists as the body of all Churches, and all Christians, is yet a single body in Christ.

    If the government backs down, then we are blessed. If the government carries out its threats to persecute, then we are still blessed -- as long as we faithfully bear witness and take a resolute stand against these totalitarian assaults upon religious conscience in the distinctive Christian outlook which is of peace, love, and unbending resolve.

  6. KStret says on Feb 5, 2012 @ 01:35 PM:

    I couldn't agree with you more. There are many disturbing trends that indicate that religious liberty is in danger. All faiths need to stand up and fight against this.

    Vanderbilt University is essentially outlawing religious groups with the university's non-discrimination rules. A student wrote an op-ed piece in one of the college papers that got my attention.

    One of the reasons Vanderbilt cited for the new non-discrimination rules was losing their federal funding. The student dismissed this. However, it is possible that someone at the federal level informed the University of this and they just rolled over like a puppy for a milkbone instead of standing up.

    The federal government now totally controls student loans. This could be a preview of new government policy they can enact in two steps.

    1. Any University that doesn't adopt non-discrimination rules loses it's funding.

    2. Students can not get a loan to attend a University that doesn't follow federal non-discrimination rules.

    This would eliminate Christian universities and Christian groups on campus.

    The Obama administration is also attempting to set up a partnership between the government and churches to promote a green agenda. In other words, the government wants churches to promote a green agenda.

    Why is it that activists become unhinged at prayer during graduation ceremonies but say nothing when the government is attempt to get churches to promote a political agenda?

    In last weeks blog about the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. E.E.O.C. Supreme court ruling I asked the question, why would the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pursue this case? Why would a politician pick a fight with the catholic church before an election? Why would the government attempt to form a partnership with churches to promote a political agenda? Why would the Obama administration want to eliminate charitable tax deductions?

    The possible answers to these questions are disturbing.

    On that note, I am going to eat my weight in wings, throw up, eat more wings, throw up again, eat more wings, and then chew up an entire bottle of Tums and wash it down with a bottle of Pepto bismol.