Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Six more things

From the USCCB website (Hat tip: Father Z.):

Six More Things Everyone Should Know About the HHS Mandate

1. The rule that created the uproar has not changed at all, but was finalized as is. Friday evening, after a day of touting meaningful changes in the mandate, HHS issued a regulation finalizing the rule first issued in August 2011, “without change.” So religious employers dedicated to serving people of other faiths are still not exempt as “religious employers.” Indeed, the rule describes them as “non-exempt.”

2. The rule leaves open the possibility that even exempt “religious employers” will be forced to cover sterilization. In its August 2011 comments, USCCB warned that the narrow “religious employer” exemption appeared to provide no relief from the sterilization mandate—only the contraception mandate—and specifically sought clarification. (We also noted that a sterilization mandate exists in only one state, Vermont.) HHS provided no clarification, so the risk remains under the unchanged final rule.

3. The new “accommodation” is not a current rule, but a promise that comes due beyond the point of public accountability. Also on Friday evening, HHS issued regulations describing the intention to develop more regulations that would apply the same mandate differently to “non-exempt, non-profit religious organizations”—the charities, schools, and hospitals that are still left out of the “religious employer” exemption. These policies will be developed over a one-year delay in enforcement, so if they turn out badly, their impact will not be felt until August 2013, well after the election.

4. Even if the promises of “accommodation” are fulfilled entirely, religious charities, schools, and hospitals will still be forced to violate their beliefs. If an employee of these second-class-citizen religious institutions wants coverage of contraception or sterilization, the objecting employer is still forced to pay for it as a part of the employer’s insurance plan. There can be no additional cost to that employee, and the coverage is not a separate policy. By process of elimination, the funds to pay for that coverage must come from the premiums of the employer and fellow employees, even those who object in conscience.

5. The “accommodation” does not even purport to help objecting insurers, for-profit religious employers, secular employers, or individuals. In its August 2011 comments, and many times since, USCCB identified all the stakeholders in the process whose religious freedom is threatened—all employers, insurers, and individuals, not just religious employers. Friday’s actions emphasize that all insurers, including self-insurers, must provide the coverage to any employee who wants it. In turn, all individuals who pay premiums have no escape from subsidizing that coverage. And only employers that are both non-profit and religious may qualify for the “accommodation.”

6. Beware of claims, especially by partisans, that the bishops are partisan. The bishops and their staff read regulations before evaluating them. The bishops did not pick this fight in an election year—others did. Bishops form their positions based on principles—here, religious liberty for all, and the life and dignity of every human person—not polls, personalities, or political parties. Bishops are duty bound to proclaim these principles, in and out of season.

Here are USCCB's first "six things" on the HHS mandate.

This is clearly a grave threat to religious liberty; to label it partisan politics is to bury one's head in the sand. The results of this fight will determine many things in the years to come, as the battle over religious liberty collides with such things as the push for gay "marriage" and other attacks on Christian freedom. The warning signs are clear, for those with eyes to see.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

1) I approve.

2) Insofar as this refers to medical coverage provided by an employer to employees, as part of their compensation for services rendered, again, I approve.

3) The new "accommodation" is a concession that no law requires -- made, I might say, out of the goodness of the president's heart, and a desire to acknowledge the deep concerns expressed, without allowing those concerns to limit the choices available to employees.

4) Yes, the employer is still forced to pay for it, just like all other employers. That is as it should be. No employer is forced to deliver or perform any of these services.

5) There is no reason to accommodate insurers, or for-profit employers who have religious scruples, if it means imposing those scruples on the medical coverage available to employees.

6) Of course the bishops are partisan. They are princes of the church, and actively seek to mandate what they believe to be right. Fortunately, they no longer have the power to impose their mandate on others, without voluntary consent.

Religious liberty has always protected any church from interference as to internal matters of faith, doctrine and church governance. It has never protected the right of people who find some political, social or cultural development offensive to have it removed from their site. That is not "freedom of religion." That is "establishment of religion."

(Gay marriage isn't an infringement on "religious liberty" either. No legislature has the power or jurisdiction to force any church to recognize or host a marriage it does not wish to. The "constitutional right" arguments for gay marriage, however, are a tortious stretch of the doctrine of "equal protection of the laws.")

Rebecca in ID said...

Siarlys, I find it interesting how you replace the founding fathers' word "conscience" with the word "scruples". Conscience is something which could be respected, scruples refers to something unreasonable. You think you are being objective, but the fact is, you think the refusal to cooperate with abortion and contraception is unreasonable, and therefore the forced compliance is to you reasonable.

Your idea that respecting the right to refuse to participate, for example, in killing human beings is "establishment of religion" is absolutely jaw-dropping. I don't even know what there is to say to that, except that you are turning language inside out.

Rebecca in ID said...

"No provision in our constitution ought to be dearer to man that that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority". --Thomas Jefferson

Onepony2002 said...

The WH has been very successful in making the argument all about contraception, not about abortifacient drugs and sterilization and the freed om to refuse to support them. See all the comments in blogs by the leftists. Hear all the hour and half-hour news broadcasts, even from the so-called friendly new services. If you can redefine the terms of the argument, you win.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Rebecca, which founding fathers, other than Jefferson, used the word "conscience" in what context, and are you sure they never used the word "scruples"? I was not aware that "scruples" was either a negative term, nor that is was otherwise synonymous with "conscience."

Whatever the facts may be, I did not substitute one word for another. I simply used the word whose commonly accepted meaning fit what I was trying to say.

I will affirm, in slightly different language, that there is no reason to accommodate insurers, or for-profit employers, who object for reasons of conscience to providing employees medical coverage available to all employees generally. No doubt there are some employers who object for reasons of conscience to signing union contracts -- this does not exempt them from the National Labor Relations Act. INDIVIDUAL EMPLOYEES may opt out of JOINING a union, for reasons of conscience, but they still pay the equivalent of union dues for the benefits of being covered by the union contract.

The point at which one person's freedom of religion ceases to be of legal standing is when it infringes on some other person's freedoms. That is precisely why the bishops' claim to "freedom of religion" fell flat.

The bishops are attempting to perpetrate Establishment of Religion because they are asking the government to modify provisions of law which establish certain benefits for employees, on the grounds that these benefits conflict with the bishops' notion of what is religiously acceptable. Imposing one person's religious notions on another person, in law or commerce, is an Establishment of Religion.

Red Cardigan said...

Siarlys, under that interpretation, Chick-fil-a would be guilty of trying to establish a religion because they don't let any of their employees, even the non-Christian or non-churchgoers who might like to, work on Sundays. They are closed on Sundays. They make it clear that they close on Sundays for faith reasons, too.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I don't think so Erin. Chick Fil-A closes its business on Sundays. There is no generally applicable law that entitles an employee to work on a day the business is not open. Chick Fil-A could close its business Tues and Thurs also, and no employee would have a valid complaint.

Chick Fil-A is not a government entity, nor has it been pressured by a government entity to close. No bishop has intervened with a government entity to MAKE Chick Fil-A close on Sunday, nor to require it to stay open. It remains true that a private business owner can close the business on any day he or she wishes, for any reason or no reason. Barber shops close on Sunday and Monday. The reason is obvious, and not subject to civil rights laws.

I would support a law requiring an employer to make reasonable accommodations of employee's various religious obligations. Ideally, Muslims and Jews would work Sunday (if the business is open), Christians and Muslims on Saturday, Jews and Christians on Friday, and everyone divide up the hours the other four days.

Of course the law would have to be carefully written, so that the adherents of the Flying Spaghetti Monster didn't claim the right to Wednesday off, the the authors of the Seven Aphorisms to Tuesday.

I suggest that to qualify, an employee had to show that the obligation was according to a doctrine accepted by an organized religious assembly, in existence for at least 150 years, with continuous adherence to this day of obligation from the beginning, and which meets at least weekly. Mormons could still squeak by.