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David and Goliath

Picking up on a fact introduced by Lydia in an August post, I find from Catholic Vote.org that Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina is taking HHS to court over those new regulations mentioned by Lydia, which are a consequence of the Affordable Care Act. Why they are a consequence I don't know. Are the regs in the Act, or does it demand that such regs be drawn up at some future date now upon us? If so, it would have been nice if someone had noticed. In any case, what they require is that religious employers "pay for contraception, sterilization and drugs that probably cause abortions." Failure of said religious organization to cover these costs will further require that the organization's employees be kicked off their health insurance plan. And a lot of them will fail because the religious exemptions are so narrow that no Catholic school, hospital, or charity can possibly measure up.

In an article at NCR, President Obama was described as having


bragged to a St. Louis crowd about the recent Health and Human Services’ regulations that will require thousands of religious employers to pay for contraception, sterilization and drugs that probably cause abortions. The crowd cheered the president’s contraceptive mandate. He joined their revelry, shouting, “Darn Tootin’!” to the crowd’s delight...The same week, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addressed a NARAL Pro-Choice America fundraiser. She told the raucous crowd that “we are in a war” and boasted of the regulation that forces religious objectors to choose between violating their religion and kicking their employees off of health insurance.

Yes, it is a war, isn't it? It is a war against the Christian conscience perpetrated by an aggressor whose philosophy not merely maintains, but demands, that contraception and sterilization be understood as treatments for a medical condition rather than as choices people make about how they wish to live their lives. And, really, to believe otherwise is to be so stupidly behind the times, so brazenly obstinate in the face of obvious truth, that your conscience isn't worth the gray matter it's imprinted on. It's a public service to force you to violate it. It is equally obvious that the first amendment was not intended to protect a conscience like yours, which is in fact a false conscience. You may cleave to it in your private moments, but any public manifestation will be immediately quashed.

Should our current leftist, totalitarian, moral-monster-in-chief be re-elected, we can expect this war to be prosecuted with unrestrained fury. I would plead with my fellow citizens to see that such a re-election does not happen, but I have little faith in a populace that elected him in the first place. All the signs pointing to where he wanted to take us were there to read for anyone with eyes to see. He calls himself a Christian, too. It's his sheep's clothing.

I'm glad Belmont Abbey is joining the fight. But they cannot be the only Catholic school affected. Where are the others?
-------------------------------------

Some links of further interest:

The Becket Fund's press release announcing their filing of the lawsuit. If you have some spare cash this Christmas, they might be an organization worthy of your largesse.

An important article on the legal history of religious freedom in the U.S. at The Public Discourse, the precedents for which (I gather) do not bode well for Belmont Abbey.

An article at First Things asking when Evangelicals will stand with Catholics.

Another at the same place, in which we find Doug Kmiec taken to task for, again, defending the administration.

An opinion column in USA Today arguing against the mandate.

And at the very bottom of this page you'll find articulated by HHS itself the spurious exemptions for religious organizations.

Comments (47)

I rarely agree with anything said on this site, but I have to concede that Bill is basically right here (though his "totalitarian moral-monster in chief" talk seems a little bit over the top. In a really totalitarian regime you would be in prison or six feet under, Bill).
The mandate for health insurance is based on the idea of mutual solidarity in case of serious illnesses. To my mind, this is the only justification that can be given in favor of forcing people into it (though, arguably, a disputable one) This justification is completely undermined by including into the health insurance plan the unconditional covering or funding of other people's personal life-styles, like skiing or riding motor-bikes. The problem becomes even worse, when the life-style in question (contraception, sterilization ...) is deemed immoral by so many payers.

The evidence continues to mount. Our consciences don't matter, because conservative Christians are not moral agents in full standing in the eyes of liberals. Liberal accounts of conservative moral beliefs invariably take the form of psychologizing and pathologizing causal explanations. We are not entitled to moral respect in their eyes because we are really just morally and mentally defective liberals.

If you think this is hysterical, don't look at what liberals say when they are on the record. Look at how they talk and act when they are amongst their own. Browse the comments at a lefty site like crookedtimber, or dailykos, or newAPPS, or slate. Whenever conservatives, particularly social conservatives, are mentioned, liberals always use the language of moral disgust, mental illness and pathology. Conservatives are the hated "Other."

I _believe_--legal eagles can correct me if I'm wrong--that many regulations that we will "learn" about are not "in" the Act except in the sense that the Act empowers the secretary of HHS to make up regulations. This is arguably unconstitutional but is a model we've been living with for a long time, in which a "law" is really just a sketch of the law people will actually be living under and contains a mandate empowering unelected bureaucrats to make up the actual rules in detail. (Environmental regulations have this characteristic as well.) Presumably that's where these regulations came from--out of the secretary's head.

Lydia is correct. The Act does not say "everyone pay for contraceptives." It says "everyone pay for preventive services" and HHS gets to make regs that tell is what that phrase means. Now, like IRS regs, there may be room to argue that the reg does not mean the same thing as the lsw, but that's a hard row to hoe. It's HHS who decided that we all have to pay for contraceptives, but congress opened the door to let it do so.

Where are the other plaintiffs? Still marshalling resources, pursuing other avenues, or making perfunctory protests.

Wow. I could hardly even bear to read the quotations from Kmiec in that First Things article. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "sleazy sophistry." He outright states that this regulation is no violation of religious liberty and has the chutzpah to pretend that the only alternative would be for the administration to adopt the Catholic view of contraception. I have no printable words for how low that nonsense is. We've been managing to live for many decades during which no one was under the impression that the federal government adopted the Catholic view of contraception merely because it refrained from requiring Catholic organizations to fund contraception through their employee insurance plans. Gee, who knew? The Clinton administration, for example, must have held the Catholic view of contraception, because it didn't adopt this requirement!

Kmiec is...contemptible.

"Our consciences don't matter, because conservative Christians are not moral agents in full standing in the eyes of liberals."

Sure you are and this regulation won't matter because all Catholics will obey the teachings of the church regardless of what their plan offers and the Church surely wouldn't want to financially coerce non-Catholics into following those teachings.

"Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'sleazy sophistry.'"

Yes, it does as prior to a law requiring HHS to deal with the matter, HHS would have no reason to issue such rules. Referencing past decades is indeed sophistry.

"This is arguably unconstitutional..."

Not at all, The ability of the Congress to delegate rule making to the Executive is well settled law. There are many decisions - for a start we have,

"If the intent of Congress is clear, that is the end of the matter; for the court, [p843] as well as the agency, must give effect to the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress. [n9] If, however, the court determines Congress has not directly addressed the precise question at issue, the court does not simply impose its own construction on the statute, [n10] as would be necessary in the absence of an administrative interpretation. Rather, if the statute is silent or ambiguous with respect to the specific issue, the question for the court is whether the agency's answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute."

"The power of an administrative agency to administer a congressionally created . . . program necessarily requires the formulation of policy and the making of rules to fill any gap left, implicitly or explicitly, by Congress.

Morton v. Ruiz, 415 U.S. 199, 231 (1974)."

"If Congress has explicitly left a gap for the agency to fill, there is an express delegation [p844] of authority to the agency to elucidate a specific provision of the statute by regulation. Such legislative regulations are given controlling weight unless they are arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the statute. [n12] Sometimes the legislative delegation to an agency on a particular question is implicit, rather than explicit. In such a case, a court may not substitute its own construction of a statutory provision for a reasonable interpretation made by the administrator of an agency."

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/search/display.html?terms=environment%20or%20environmental%20or%20EPA&url=/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0467_0837_ZO.html

States have regulated all manner of things concerning employment for centuries if not millenia. Defining "religious freedom" as allowing any religion to set the boundaries of its "witness" so as to trump reasonable regulation so over defines the concept as to be laughable.

Having to pay out of pocket for contraception is a material burden for many. Covering contraception imposes no comparable burden on the employer.

Anyone who would put the economy and the nuclear football under the control of any of the parties who are likely to emerge from the current Republican clown show isn't in a position to lecture anyone on morality.

So if the HHS had not issued this expansive definition of "preventative services," the HHS _would_ be adopting a Catholic view of contraception? Really, Al? The minute the opportunity is presented to any administration to issue such a mandate to purchase contraception on all employers via an insurance plan, it must do so or else it is behaving as a Catholic administration? Please. You and Kmiec should do a two-man show.

May I ask which clown you want us to put in his place Bill?

All of the republican midgets I've seen who are vying for the nomination are for torture and seem to think that reducing the deficit and prosecuting a war against Iran are not mutually exclusive.

Furthermore Michelle Bachman thinks that nuking Iran is a live option, Perry's claim to fame is that he's sent over 200 people to their judicially mandated executions, Gringich tried to kid us that the reason he broke his marriage vows was "that he loved america too much", Mit Rommey has all the charisma of a roast chicken and Ron Paul thinks that the constitution trumps the Bible.

Against the republican nominees for president I think that Obama actaully looks pretty competent in terms of executing the duties of the office of the president.

My advice to my American friends is that you should try to retain control of the house and take control of the senate, that way you can make Obama's second term a misery and start thinking about getting a serious republican who actually has brains to run in 2016.

"The minute the opportunity is presented to any administration to issue such a mandate to purchase contraception on all employers via an insurance plan,it must do so or else it is behaving as a Catholic administration"

Every time I see this discussed I think of two things: A friend of mine who related that her health plan didn't cover contraception but she could get an abortion with a fifty dollar co-pay and one of my grandmothers who married early, had a kid every other year for twelve years, and then died. I have a family tree for one branch of my family that goes back to the 18th century. One of the striking things is the size of the families and early age at which many of the women died.

We are having this conversation because the reality of a world without family planning isn't any longer ours.

With all respect Lydia the wording of your statement is frankly strange as is William's fulminations. Contraception is already covered for a majority of the U.S. population under state insurance regulations. It seems reasonable that a national health care plan would go with that which a majority of the population already enjoys. How about explaining why taking that access away is the obvious and reasonable course?

A little more about this "religious freedom". Not all that long ago we Europeans lived in a world where folks murdered other folks over matters of pure belief. Being in the wrong place with with this or that view on matters like the Trinity or the Eucharist could result in all sorts of terrible things happening to one. Our concepts of religious liberty developed in the context of beliefs being subject to state sanction. The current topic is over matters of practice and the extent that practices will be allowed will always be balanced against other considerations. Elevating a practice honored in the breech by a solid plurality if not a majority of Catholics to the level of religious freedom is a bit much.

Al, blah, blah, blah. I called Kmiec's...material "sleazy sophistry" because of what he said. He definitely implied that people who object to this HHS rule are asking the government of the United States officially to adopt the Catholic view of contraception. That's sleazy sophistry. You don't even want to stick to the topic of whether this "either the government forces employers to provide contraception or the government is officially being Catholic" stuff is a blatant false dilemma. (False dilemma is a well-known fallacy, in case you didn't know.) You just want to rant about what you want to rant about. Why should I go off on your rabbit trails? No, please don't answer that.

How about explaining why taking that access away is the obvious and reasonable course?

"Taking that access" away is so rich. In case you didn't know, Al, these things are not currently covered in these healthcare plans. So not forcing the employers to add them isn't the same thing as taking them away.

Come to think of it, sophistry is pretty much characteristic of your comments, here, Al. Like that, for example. "Taking that access away." Gotta love it.

"You don't even want to stick to the topic of whether this "either the government forces employers to provide contraception or the government is officially being Catholic" stuff is a blatant false dilemma."

That is your take and attempting to narrow the conversation in that manner is a red herring. I believe this to better describe the topic:

"Yes, it is a war, isn't it? It is a war against the Christian conscience perpetrated by an aggressor whose philosophy not merely maintains, but demands, that contraception and sterilization be understood as treatments for a medical condition rather than as choices people make about how they wish to live their lives."

Hence my reference to "fulminations". The topic is that you all wish to elevate a religious practice more honored in its breech to the level of national policy by leveraging that practice through our long standing commitment to religious freedom. How some wish to constructively describe it seems besides the point to me.

"In case you didn't know, Al, these things are not currently covered in these healthcare plans."

"At least 26 states have laws requiring insurers that cover prescription drugs also provide coverage for any Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contraceptive. These states include: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin."

" * An additional two states—Michigan± and Montana—require insurance coverage of contraceptives as a result of administrative ruling or an Attorney General opinion.
* Two states—Texas and Virginia—require that employers be offered the option to include coverage of contraceptives within their health plans."

http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=14384

As you can see the idea that insurers should have to cover contraceptives is hardly new.

But Belmont Abbey evidently would be covered only by the new _federal_ law.

By the way, I'd be curious as to how religious exemptions play out in those states. Do they _all_ follow the federal govt's brand-spanking-new definition of a religious organization?

If they do, then, yes, that's objectionable in those states as well, Al. As usual, you seem to think nobody has a right to object to anything that isn't "new." But if you want to stick to what's new, it's the HHS regulations that are "new," and the would _expand_ these requirements all over the country. That's what prompted Bill's post. Wanna stick to the status quo ante where it varies from state to state? I didn't think so. As usual, you want to change the subject. "Hey, let's not talk about these *new* HHS regulations. Let's talk about state regulations and then say that the people at W4 want to 'take something away'."

So cute.

Oh, look, an answer to my question:

http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1103146.htm

"But Belmont Abbey evidently would be covered only by the new _federal_ law."

That's a feature for their workers, not a bug.

"That's what prompted Bill's post. Wanna stick to the status quo ante where it varies from state to state?"

That's silly. A national plan requires national standards. I understand that you don't want a national plan but that's another discussion. I really don't get (and I suspect i'm not alone) your hanging your hat on the newness of the regulations. The law is new. Change is hard for some - I get that but the United States is way behind the times on a matter that Teddy Roosevelt tried to address and Bismark addressed in the century before last..

I note you refuse to answer my question - if the new law requires a new, now national standard why would the default not be that which is closest to that under which a majority of the population is currently insured?

"Twice in the past decade, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear appeals of state court rulings that said church agencies could not be exempt from laws requiring coverage of contraceptives. In 2007 it let stand New York state's Women Health and Wellness Act of 2002; three years earlier it rejected a similar appeal by Catholic Charities of Sacramento of a California law requiring prescription coverage to include contraceptives."

That's from the article to which you linked. Using the term a majority of states is misleading and besides the point. Wyoming may be equal to California in the Senate but that's a constitutional bug not a feature. Again, you are left having to explain why the Federal rules shouldn't reflect a narrower as opposed to a broader religious exemption?

You all don't like it, mere preference, not high principle.

if the new law requires a new, now national standard why would the default not be that which is closest to that under which a majority of the population is currently insured?

Well, we cd. start with the fact that it's medically stupid and misleading to refer to contraception as "preventative medicine," given that "preventative medicine" normally refers to preventing an illness or other medically pathological condition not to preventing any condition, such as pregnancy, that the person doesn't want, even if it is not medically pathological. And that's the pretext under which this is being done at the federal level.

We could move on to the fact that forcing Catholic and other organizations who are opposed to doing so into providing birth control for their workers is *already bad policy* because of the totally unjustifiable and unnecessary coercion of conscience involved and that expanding this coercion to yet more employers and to self-employed individuals throughout the country is therefore even worse policy.

Lydia, thanks for putting up with al, reading his interminable comments and mastering his occasionally garbled syntax. The important thing to remember when he points out that "26 states have laws requiring insurers that cover prescription drugs also provide coverage for any Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved contraceptive" is that the instance of that law in North Carolina obviously provided a religious exemption for Belmont Abbey that the new regs take away. So the Obie admin is doing something different - coercion of conscience - and al likes it. I would add that such laws are bad laws anyway for the reason given in my post - treating lifestyle choices as preventative medicine.

When he says "that you all wish to elevate a religious practice more honored in its breech to the level of national policy by leveraging that practice through our long standing commitment to religious freedom," he is simply lying, as though Belmont Abbey were trying to sneak a bill through Congress called HS Humanae Vitae, rather than trying to avoid being compelled to finance someone else's sexual liberation.

In short, he doesn't care anymore than Obie or Sebelius about your rights of conscience and is what you long ago identified him as: leftist, totalitarian and, on certain rather crucial issues, a moral blank slate.

A post involving Al and Doug Kmiec. I don't think I have the mental energy for this at the moment. The only thing I can do (after sitting through a day of CLE seminars and with a brief still to finish) is present a question: what does living in America mean? If the essence of the American experiment is only that cossacks will not come in the middle of the night to burn our houses and carry off our wives, then sure, Belmont Abbey should go stuff it. But if the Constitution and the American concept of ordered liberty mean anything else, Belmont Abbey is right. American history, even the simultaneously turgid and loopy history of modern American jurisprudence, suggests that Belmont Abbey is right.

I like the way you put it, Titus. Untenured, too, way back up top.

"as though Belmont Abbey were trying to sneak a bill through Congress called HS Humanae Vitae"

That's a great line, Bill.

Al, can you tell me why your preference against plutocracy is any more legitimate or rational than my preference against abortion? You don't like successful capitalists; mere preference, not principle.

Morality is reduced to preference in all that you write, except when it isn't, like on the issues you care about.

But let me refresh readers' memories that despite Al's often strident moral tone (no one accuses countrymen of treason more frequently than Al), he stubbornly refuses to enter into moral discussions. He promises to do so, and then conveniently never does:

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2011/12/sunday_verse.html#comment-168789

Note well that despite the "unseasonable dry spell," Al managed to find plenty of time to post a handful of his normal heckles here in this thread.

You all don't like it, mere preference, not high principle.

Um, I think that has been explained multiple times already. This seems to be your ultimate response to any argument. I, Al, being of liberal mind (the we're right and we know what to do group) am the final arbiter of all high principle. If you disagree with me, it is just because you don't like my high principles and are arguing from preference. I would explain further, but I now need to do salt of the earth type work to burnish my everyman credentials.

Al is the typical DWL. Once you get beyond the superficial nice and reasonable exterior, you find someone who wants to have the government impose their morality and provide for their every desire. There is rarely a post where Al doesn't throw in some little snarky term about those he opposes or some triumpalist propaganda for his side.

Wyoming may be equal to California in the Senate but that's a constitutional bug not a feature.

Well, this just shows you don't understand the Constituion.

The snarky reference of Al's to the idea that, hey, all the employees of Belmont will refrain from using this aspect of the insurance anyway, so...

Wonder how that would work if payment for insurance for prostitution services were mandated: "Hey, this 'service' is now being offered at reduced rates to your employees, at your expense via premiums, but why complain? None of your employees will take advantage of it, will they?"

Ever curious and always open to correction I refreshed my memory on this issue.

For William and Lydia this concept seems at the core of things.

"...coercion of conscience "

This raises the obvious question, whose conscience?

The answer seems to be one man's,

""In 2007 the college’s administration removed healthcare coverage for “abortion, contraception, and voluntary sterilization” after discovering that these were covered by the college’s healthcare policy. Eight faculty members responded by filing complaints to the North Carolina Department of Insurance, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the National Women's Law Center. The latter threatened a lawsuit on behalf of the eight faculty members."

""Dr. William K. Thierfelder [who is a jock, not a theologian or scholar] is a self-proclaimed orthodox Catholic. He further proclaims himself as one with complete allegiance to the Magisterium. His presidency of Belmont Abbey College is the source of much controversy because he chose to remove contraceptives from the medical policy of the college, in accordance with Catholic moral law. He is highly favored among some Catholics for his transformation of Belmont Abbey College."

The linked article makes this observation.

"So the monks at Belmont Abbey can preach against contraception and sterilization all they like on Sunday morning. But on Monday, Secretary Sebelius will make them pay someone else to send the exact opposite message."

My bs detector went off here. Exploring we find the college isn't some monastery-like institution in the hinterlands. It's an 1,800 student, highly ranked liberal arts college on a very nice, slightly more than a square mile campus convenient to Charlotte. Google maps shows a well developed campus adjacent to an interstate. The board of trustees as well as the faculty are overwhelmingly not clergy. As I have already pointed out the president is a jock whose career seems to have centered around sports. Tuition is 26,000/yr and the school has a $13 million + endowment.

It's open to all,

"Belmont Abbey College admits students of any race, color, age,
Discrimination religion, national and ethnic origin, sex, or disability to all the rights, Policy privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, religion, national and ethnic origin, sex, or disability in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs."

A physical plant this size is going to employ a goodly number of support staff whose compensation is hardly going to be princely.

This item is interesting and blows the "conscience" argument out of the water,

"After the student newspaper, The Crusader, published an article in May 2008 pointing out that the Abbey profits from the sale of contraceptives at two stores on its land, the Abbot responded by stating that: “"[They] are preponderantly good operations, i.e. 99 percent or more of their business is not problematic, and the employment generation and economic stimulation they provide for the community of Belmont are worth tolerating a small amount of evil. The Abbey is not willing to lease to them because they sell contraceptives, but despite it."

But it would outrage the conscience of one man for a custodian to get what should be basic coverage.

As is all too usual for things on the right, this brouhaha resolves to you all hopping on one man's religious and political hobby horse.

Fair question Titus and under some circumstances you would have a point but the facts and theory here just don't support all this fuss.

One man with an agenda ended coverage for things that 98% of Catholics who would benefit from them use regardless of official doctrine.

There has always been a divide between belief and confession on the one hand and doctrine translated into practice that conflicts with secular law - just ask our LDS friends.

Once we are into practice, conscience is not and never has been dispositive.

"Wonder how that would work if payment for insurance for prostitution services were mandated:"

Now that's a shark jump! If that's the best you come up with,..

Sorry Paul for getting distracted.

I've been to Belmont Abbey for a conference. It's a thoroughly Catholic institution, with a large church and monastery on campus. Trying to make it into some nominally Catholic college or some liberal school that's Catholic in name only won't fly.

Presumably that's where these regulations came from--out of the secretary's head.

I would have ventured they came out of another part of her anatomy.

Really, that's the best you can come up with - it's all about one man's view (which happens to be in line with the Catholic view, and this happens to be a Catholic institution).

What you argue is that principles don't matter; practice does. If 98% of the population agrees that enslaving a certain minority is right, then the fact that one person has a contrary view doesn't matter, even if that person is charged with executing the principles of an institution that agrees with his view. S***w him and his institution - they shall allow slavery and pay for us to have them.

"Really, that's the best you can come up with - it's all about one man's view (which happens to be in line with the Catholic view, and this happens to be a Catholic institution)."

That's what it boils down to. New president ended an already existing benefit. Some faculty sued. New regulations moot the whole thing. Turns out most Catholics disagree with their hierarchy in this matter and simply disregard the rules. If one is going to raise the conscience issue, I don't see how one can avoid considering the views and practices of the faculty, students, and general laity. What this isn't is a group of pious monks having their consciences being run over roughshod by HHS.

For William and Lydia this concept seems at the core of things. "...coercion of conscience "

Recall, al, that it was Sebelius who said "We are at war," and is positively gleeful at the prospect of forcing an institution to violate its principles. I don't think Belmont went looking for this fight. Rather, they find themselves under attack.

This raises the obvious question, whose conscience? The answer seems to be one man's

Yes, we can be absolutely certain that he's the only person at Belmont who thinks that a Catholic college ought to act like one. But you probably find Catholic notions of how people ought to act quaint in the extreme.

This item is interesting and blows the "conscience" argument out of the water

If the monks were profiting from the sale of contraceptives, they shouldn't have been. But it's irrelevant to the point of the post, which is that people ought to be hypocrites of their own free will, not compelled by the gov's sexual gestapo.

But it would outrage the conscience of one man for a custodian to get what should be basic coverage.

As has already been pointed out, forcing people in an insurance pool to fund other people's sexual lifestyles is not basic coverage. I'm sure that repeating this will make no impression.

If one is going to raise the conscience issue, I don't see how one can avoid considering the views and practices of the faculty, students, and general laity.

Well, see, when I entered the education system as a kid, I didn't think I got to tell the teacher how to teach her subject or what rules ought to govern the classroom. I understood I was to abide by them. I don't recall any of them ever putting it up for a vote. When I entered the work force, I didn't feel free to tell my employer how to run his business. If I thought he was being unfair or engaging in unethical practices, or that the benefits sucked, I could look for work elsewhere. Thus did I avoid the local drug dealer and write 'pimp' off my potential career paths. When I joined the Catholic Church, I knew ahead of time what I was in for: I didn't get to have a say in what constituted the tenets of the Faith. If I didn't like the tenets, I could find another church or start one of my own (you know, the Church of al Saints or something). When my parents told me I was an American, I gradually came to understand that I didn't get to pick and choose which parts of the Constitution I wanted to keep, or scrap altogether in favor of the Communist Manifesto. When I was ready to get married, my fiancee's family wanted to take a vote on whether or not I was worthy of her (I'd have lost) but she put her foot down and said that some things just aren't up for a vote. She might be wishing now that she had taken a different position but, being possessed of a sensitive conscience, she knows she was right.

Bill, you're on a roll, brother.

"Recall, al, that it was Sibelius who said "We are at war," and is positively gleeful at the prospect of forcing an institution to violate its principles. I don't think Belmont went looking for this fight. Rather, they find themselves under attack."

Of course Belmont, under the leadership of its current president, is looking for a fight - they're the ones suing and its president chose to terminate existing coverage which led some of the faculty to file a claim against the school. This guy was totally looking for a fight.

BTW, your read on Sebelius' speech is based on the NCR story and same one that framed the story as "lo the poor monks".

"Yes, we can be absolutely certain that he's the only person at Belmont who thinks that a Catholic college ought to act like one."

I assume that he isn't alone but I also assume that a canvas of the staff and faculty would find a majority preferring the coverage.

"But you probably find Catholic notions of how people ought to act quaint in the extreme."

Yours, definitely and 98% of the Catholic population who would benefit from contraception agree with me.

"If the monks were profiting from the sale of contraceptives, they shouldn't have been. But it's irrelevant to the point of the post..."

Sigh. Back to the monks again. Bill, the story was written to elicit an emotional reaction and you are still falling for it. There are still resident monks on campus but the overwhelming majority of the Board of Trustees (the folks who legally run the school) and the president (the former CEO of a barbell company) are lay folk. But, I'm glad you can at least see their hypocrisy.

"...which is that people ought to be hypocrites of their own free will, not compelled by the gov's sexual gestapo."

Noting the emotionally driven "gestapo" thing and moving on, we find ourselves back at the conscience thing. It is possible to over-define a concept to the point of nihilism and that is what has happened here. Reacting to a necessary regulation that falls well within current state regulation and is hardly out of step with the majority, as an existential matter is really just an adolescent "you're not the boss of me" excess of attitude.

"As has already been pointed out, forcing people in an insurance pool to fund other people's sexual lifestyles is not basic coverage. I'm sure that repeating this will make no impression."

That point fails as there is no way to avoid all such funding as pregnancy is sure to be covered (as it should be) as will STDs. The issue isn't "if" but "what" and you are simply in the overwhelming minority here as to the "what" which gets us back to the "you're not the boss of me" thing.

We also have to note that while the president and the Trustees (most of who are lay and seem to be quite prosperous) see it proper to derive funding from the sale of contraceptives they (and you) see the prospect of covering contraception for working folks considerably less well off as an intolerable violation of their consciences.

"I didn't feel free to tell my employer how to run his business. If I thought he was being unfair or engaging in unethical practices, or that the benefits sucked, I could look for work elsewhere."

How soon we forget that people died over working conditions we take for granted. We should be glad they had a different attitude.

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2011/12/paul-robeson-sings-joe-hill.html

"When I joined the Catholic Church, I knew ahead of time what I was in for: I didn't get to have a say in what constituted the tenets of the Faith. If I didn't like the tenets, I could find another church or start one of my own (you know, the Church of al Saints or something)."

An attitude you are free to have; it's just that most of your coreligionists disagree with you.

"I gradually came to understand that I didn't get to pick and choose which parts of the Constitution I wanted to keep, or scrap altogether in favor of the Communist Manifesto."

Of course we do, that's why the Founders incorporated the amending process and why the Supreme Court developed as it has. Your alternative is curious and begs the question as different folks see different meanings to the Constitution as is. Only folks in the thrall of ideology would disallow different possible readings of some sections.

"...she knows she was right."

Mazel tov!

"Al, can you tell me why your preference against plutocracy is any more legitimate or rational than my preference against abortion?"

There is nothing irrational to your opposition to abortion. The irrational comes into play when you make the unavoidable choices that confront one who lives in present day America and opposes both plutocracy and abortion and who isn't (presumably) a closet totalitarian.

We know from the charts that we all know and love that prior to the early 1920s plutocracy was ascendant, declined under the New Deal consensus, and resumed its ascendancy in the early 1980s. We can tie these events to achievable policy goals - should we develop the political will.

http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/delong120/English

Abortion, on the other hand, can not be anything other than class legislation in a free society. Criminalization was a failure - that is why the laws changed. Recent votes in Colorado and Mississippi clearly demonstrate that most folks see abortion as a personal matter when it comes to them.

Choosing to support the plutocratic ascendancy in the hope of being granted a few anti-abortion boons in return when that ascendancy harms everyone seem irrational to me.

"You don't like successful capitalists; mere preference, not principle."

I don't have a problem with successful capitalists and that you so define the plutocracy leads one to doubt, despite your many words on the topic, that you understand its nature. I don't like rent-seeking leeches whose gain comes at the welfare of the whole; why do you feel differently?

http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/7314

"Ever curious and always open to correction..."

Good to know. You've been corrected. Now give it up man.

BTW, whatever happened to all those court challenges to the constitutionality of Obamacare?

"BTW, whatever happened to all those court challenges to the constitutionality of Obamacare?"

Mixed decisions, mostly ruling that it's constitutional, accepted by the Supremes, s/b a ruling by next summer.

There is nothing irrational to your opposition to abortion. The irrational comes into play when you make the unavoidable choices...

Blah blah blah. You're just not going to make a moral argument, I guess. Fair enough. Just don't expect me to take your moral lectures seriously.

I don't like rent-seeking leeches whose gain comes at the welfare of the whole; why do you feel differently?

If mere feeling is what this is about -- passionate dislike, passionate interest, passionate indifference -- then why have a discussion at all? Maybe I like honest enterprise; or maybe I like sycophancy to financial power, which will give me money, women and fame while Al the sap goes on pouring concrete? Why not get rich easy, by usurpation, caring not a lick for who I step on?

I happen to think that this discussion, quite apart from the squalor of our age, is not about passion or instinct or feeling or interest at all. It's about reason. That is, it's about a standard by which things are judged right or wrong. You give no indication that you share this view of human conversation.

Seriously, Al, I'm asking you: can you give me a reason why "rent-seeking leeches" have committed an offense against justice, or against fairness, or against equity, or choose-your-own-word?

Why is a positive law that protects a tradition, a habit, a popularity in fraud, in self-dealing, in human chattel slavery, in fact no law at all, because something above us judges even our most sacred, our most ancient, or most passionately defended laws?

Or, to repeat the challenge you dodged a while back: why is Lincoln the natural lawyer right while Calhoun the positivist is wrong?

I don't see how one can avoid considering the views and practices of the faculty, students, and general laity....

An attitude you are free to have; it's just that most of your coreligionists disagree with you.

Al, I know you have trouble understanding the difference between an argument and a comeback, but please at least make the effort once in a while. It is not "most" Christians who fail to live up to the ideals of Christianity, it is ALL of them, here and there, at one time or another. All people sin, including Christians, even us Catholics (gasp!). Does that mean that the people who "in practice" just plain ignore the teachings of the Church are to be considered "in favor of sin", and therefore the Church ("in practice") isn't against sin? What complete rot and balderdash.

Belmont does not belong to the faculty or to the students, it is an institution whose proper authority is the board. If the board agrees that due to their acceptance of Catholicism the institution cannot go along with X, then "not going along with X" is, perforce, the institution's policy. It matters not in the least what the faculty or students think, if "think" is a word that can be used for the mass of conflicting impulses that inhabit a student's consciousness. It is doubly irrelevant that the institution accepts non-Catholics: if non-Catholic students want to become students of a Catholic institution, then that means they want to become students of an institution that works to comply with Catholicism more or less perfectly, and their non-Catholic perspective must submit to that or they should just leave.

If the institution correctly ascertains 99% of Catholic teaching that way, and misses on 1%, that means that it is imperfectly a Catholic institution, but such imperfection does not imply that they are wrong to comply with the other 99%. (I happen to think the Abbot made exactly the wrong judgment call for the drugstore: he should have negotiated the lease agreement, asked the lessee to put a price on the ability to deliver contraceptives, and then knocked that amount off the lease and putting no-contraceptives into the lease. But the fact that he screwed up here doesn't mean he is obliged to screw up in all other places.)

In such a case, a court may not substitute its own construction of a statutory provision for a reasonable interpretation made by the administrator of an agency."

That's true enough. It just so happens that the HHS reg is, truly, unreasonable. If the reason a hospital is built is because Catholicism holds as an especially high value the care of the sick, as a duty we have to God, and the Catholic board hires doctors and nurses and orderlies to carry out that task, the role they fulfill is a role that was designed in fulfillment of a religious duty. The hospital is a religious employer. The case is even stronger for a college: the most central reason Catholics run colleges is precisely to teach Catholicism, a world-view that pervades every discipline. All of the teachers are, then, entrusted with their individual tasks within the context of educating so as to pass on Catholic teaching, true to the Catholic identity. The college is a religious employer. It is damn idiotic to say otherwise, (except in the case of some of the Jesuit schools perhaps).

If you wanted to say that although the college is a religious employer, its janitors, groundskeepers, and clerical staff do not participate in the religious goal as such, and therefore they are not being employed in a religious capacity, _that_ might be reasonable. If the law then allows an interpretation so as to bifurcate an entity between religiously employed employees and non-religiously employed employees, that would be an avenue that could be explored (with much difficulty and disagreement arising). But to simply say that a college or a hospital isn't a religious employer just isn't reasonable.

Take a comparable situation: education is one of the leading "charitable" reasons you can have a 501(c)(3) organization. However, there are plenty of schools that are for-profit enterprises. The fact that the activity can be carried out for profit doesn't mean that it is essentially a for-profit sort of activity. No, it is still a charitable activity when operated by a charitable organization. Likewise, the fact that there are plenty of non-religious colleges that operate doesn't mean that a Catholic college isn't a religious operation doing a religious activity. It is possible that sub-components of the operation are non-religious, such as a coffee shop, or a book store. The reasonable way of regulating might be to single out such sub-components for separate treatment - which is EXACTLY what federal regulations do in other contexts (Tribal employers are treated as governmental employers with respect to governmental operations, but not with respect to casino or gas station operations.)

My own perspective is that no employer should be forced to do this against conscience even if the employer is non-religious. Suppose that the requirement was to provide coverage for abortions (or even assisted suicide)? Wouldn't it be possible for a secular employer to believe that abortion is murder and not to want to provide coverage for it as a matter of conscience? Of course. The exemption should be _broader_ rather than narrower.

Yup, Lydia. Say you were a Catholic who owned a secular business. The impression I'm getting is that most of those state laws would require that Catholic to include contraceptives in the insurance plan. For example, the N.C. law (from the link al supplied) "requires insurers that offer prescription drug coverage to include coverage for contraceptives and outpatient contraceptive services. A religious employer may request a health benefit plan that excludes coverage for prescription contraceptives drugs and devices that are contrary to the employer’s religious tenets." I don't see any wiggle-room there for an individual, non-religious employer's conscience. I note that the law "requires insurers," but that effectively ties the employer's hands.

Btw, if HHS wins the court fight, abortion will be next.

Tony, i understand the whole "we all fall short" thing but my reference was to contraception and, assuming they are being truthful, it seems that 2% of Catholics who would benefit from the use of contraceptives cleave to the Church's teaching.

Likewise, I understand the role of the BOT. In fact, the role and composition of the Board was part of my argument that the NCR article was misleading and designed to appeal to readers' emotions.

As to arguments in general, you all haven't provided any. Merely assuming and asserting the primacy of "conscience" in, it seems, all matters that strike your fancies.

In determining the free exercise of religion under our Constitution there has always been a distinction between belief and conduct. With the former ones freedom is absolute and no one is going to be compelled to confess a belief that offends his conscience. We likely both agree with this.

We also likely agree at the extremes in matters of practice. No one should fear a knock at the door because one is holding a prayer meeting while the Dark Lord Moloch should never get his due of rug rats.

Between those extremes we need to discern where the society as a whole can allow an individual's conscience to prevail over the need for collective action. Just as allowing a state to nullify a federal law or regulation would make a nation an impossibility so would allowing an individual to exempt himself from a demand based solely on his own decision would make civil society impossible. Hence my claim that your conscience claims are nihilistic.

We allow individuals to use conscience claims to exempt themselves from military service. They still have to pay the share of their taxes that go to the military. Give us an argument that makes conscience alone dispositive in matters concerning employment.

"If the law then allows an interpretation so as to bifurcate an entity between religiously employed employees and non-religiously employed employees, that would be an avenue that could be explored (with much difficulty and disagreement arising)."

I think that's what is happening here. Most of the staff and faculty are engaged in non-religious pursuits. The analysis of many real world situations will involve the de minimus factor.

...who would benefit from the use of contraceptives...

Rinse and repeat, al. You use this phrase like a mantra. Whatever benefit you're referring to, it's not one that results from medical treatment of a genuine malady, and thus should not be covered by insurance.

As to arguments in general, you all haven't provided any. Merely assuming and asserting the primacy of "conscience" in, it seems, all matters that strike your fancies.

Another lie, perhaps unintentional, since you're afflicted with moral acuity hyper-affective disorder. There's no treatment that I'm aware of, though I hear the Damascus road is open to all.

Between those extremes we need to discern where the society as a whole can allow an individual's conscience to prevail over the need for collective action. Just as allowing a state to nullify a federal law or regulation would make a nation an impossibility so would allowing an individual to exempt himself from a demand based solely on his own decision would make civil society impossible.

I don't think that you understand the first amendment very well. The whole point is that religious obligations affect the conscience in such a way that the person is NOT "exempting himself from a demand solely on his own decision". True religious adherence is not something that is solely from himself. On the basis of that deep foundation which roots a Christian's faith and will force the Christian to pick religion over the state when they are at loggerheads, respecting even the imperfectly developed adherence of a believer in a false religion is beneficial to the state. That's why the second part of the freedom of religion clause is there. (By the way, your liberal Endarkenment theories of religion are part of what is in dispute, we don't accept your characterization of religious belief).

We allow individuals to use conscience claims to exempt themselves from military service. They still have to pay the share of their taxes that go to the military. Give us an argument that makes conscience alone dispositive in matters concerning employment.

Under well-analyzed principles of cooperation with evil, paying a _general_ tax obligation is not of the same nature as paying a specific fee for a specific service, and does not bear on the payor's moral stance the same way. If insurance is today sold at $1000 with contraception covered, and at $950 without contraception, and tomorrow you buy insurance at $1000 with contraception covered, then you are paying $50 specifically for contraception coverage. It is a morally distinguishable circumstance of your (employerly) act of buying insurance. Since a moral act requires good object, good motive, and right circumstances, the circumstance of this act of buying insurance impacts the moral quality of the act: it constitutes immoral cooperation with the evil act of contracepting.

What's simply jaw-dropping is Al's notion that mandating insurance-covered contraception for all is such an essential government function that the conscientious objections of employers can't be allowed to get in the way of it. It would be like, I dunno, maybe letting people sacrifice children to Moloch or something. At least it would be moving in that direction. These liberals discover new imperatives every day. How did anyone previously survive without this "necessary" government "protection" from not having contraception paid for by insurance? The resilience of the human race in dealing with privation of essential goods and services, provided by someone else at a deep discount to the individual, is amazing.

"How did anyone previously survive..."

In the same way we did prior to antibiotics, sewers, and the iron horse (Thirty miles per hour! Well, I never! if the good Lord had intended...) we did without and put up with the downside. It's called progress Lydia. (Oh noes, not that!!!) We invent things that make life better and we become more prosperous. This leads some of us to see great benefits in a community acting in concert on some matters. We tax ourselves and get rid of the outhouses, we subsidize the railroads, and we make medical advances widely available.

Because we are also tolerant, we allow folks prone to vertigo should things move too fast to opt out if others aren't harmed. Hence our Amish friends can keep to their ways as long as they put tail lights on their buggies, while one doesn't get to opt out of the sewer tax and sewer system and that iron horse is coming through.

Likewise outdated, idiosyncratic and unrealistic attitudes regard, say, human sexuality are not going to be indulged if the resulting harm to others exceeds the benefits to those mired in the past. In the case of contraceptives, as with things regarding TEH GAY and abortion, there is no benefit beyond the smug satisfaction some seem to get from meddling in the private lives of strangers.

"Another lie."

Bill, if you provide evidence to the contrary, i'll be happy to apologize. Otherwise all you have done is make yet another unsupported assertion.

Tony, here is Madison's original text of the First Amendment,

"“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretence, infringed.”

Here is the adopted amendment,

"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."

Now, I believe that Madison's Use of "conscience" refers to folks being required to confess to beliefs that they didn't hold but regardless of that the word itself was left out. If you review the case law (this a constitution, after all) you will see that there has always been a distinction between belief and conduct.

Asserting that contraception is evil is simply another way of asserting that conscience should be dispositive in conduct which gets us back to where we started.

If we decide that we are going to have a national health care system then that consideration and not the particular method of organization and funding should guide us.

If we had adopted a NHS or a single-payer system funding would be like we fund the military. That we have chosen to use insurance companies as intermediaries shouldn't be used as an excuse to short-sheet benefits.

if the resulting harm to others

Yes, terrible harm to others, not getting your contraception subsidized by insurance. I mean _come on_, Al. There are _secular_ employers who don't include contraception in insurance, just for cost reasons and because it's regarded as medically non-necessary, similar to diet pills (which are also not covered). The high horse is totally silly. People who *disagree* with the Catholic position on contraception should be able to see that it's totally silly to get all solemn about the alleged "harm" of not *requiring* that this be included in insurance coverage. Liberals have _zero_ sense of perspective. Once they've gotten their heads together and decided to push on something, it suddenly becomes a matter of life and death. Give me a break.

"Al. There are _secular_ employers who don't include contraception in insurance, just for cost reasons.."

Which is why 28 states covering a majority of our fellow citizens have laws such requiring coverage. The reason why we have government regulation of insurance companies is because absent such regulation, insurance companies will maximize profit (and executive compensation) instead of the general welfare. The mandate shows that a majority of the states governing a majority of the population consider such coverage to be medically necessary. You disagree and that's your right.

As for harm: Congratulations on doing so well. However, most of your fellow citizens are not in a financial situation that allows them to be so sanguine about paying out-of-pocket costs (at the much higher rates that the uninsured pay) for what most of us consider should be routine coverage for a medically necessary service.

You might ponder this: I already related the story of my friend who pointed out that her plan didn't cover contraception but allowed for an abortion with a fifty dollar co-pay. Do the calculus on that one.

"Once they've gotten their heads together and decided to push on something, it suddenly becomes a matter of life and death."

If your position were to prevail, the abortion rate would likely go up.

Bill, if you provide evidence to the contrary

You said we were Merely assuming and asserting the primacy of "conscience" in, it seems, all matters that strike your fancies.

That's a lie. We only assert it in certain very crucial areas where our consciences are actually being coerced, such as in having to finance someone else's sexual habits, or the consequences of said habits, as in abortion coverage.

for a medically necessary service.

There you go again.

Do the calculus on that one.

Why should we do the calculus on a stupid plan? If you don't like the plan, agitate against it.

the abortion rate would likely go up.

Not if murdering innocent human beings were against the law, and the law were enforced. The other possibility is that people would be more cautious in their sexual dalliances. But I admit it's only a possibility.

Lydia:

The high horse is totally silly. People who *disagree* with the Catholic position on contraception should be able to see that it's totally silly to get all solemn about the alleged "harm" of not *requiring* that this be included in insurance coverage. Liberals have _zero_ sense of perspective.

Al:

Congratulations on doing so well. However, most of your fellow citizens are not in a financial situation that allows them to be so sanguine about paying out-of-pocket costs (at the much higher rates that the uninsured pay) for what most of us consider should be routine coverage for a medically necessary service.

Lydia, the liberals' perspective is accurate: anything and everything having to do with the left's sacred life of sex free of children is mandatory because that's their religion. It doesn't have to make sense for crying out loud, its a RELIGION, don't y' know? The prophylactic holy rite preventing children, and the penitential holy rite to get rid of the children after the fact that slip through, are "medically necessary" even if nobody who just practiced the virtue of self restraint would actually need these medically necessary services. See, it's all a word game, if you can change the game from virtuous living to medical procedure, then you can slip in "necessary" because so much else in medicine is necessary.

But why is it medically necessary to "fix" the properly functioning human body? Well, that's all got to do with Kennedy's dictum that everyone gets to make up their own reality and make it mean whatever they please today, be damned to yesterday, tomorrow, or your nearest neighbor. Well, as far as I am concerned, in my reality it is abortion that is to be damned. But Kennedy's dictum doesn't seem to include pro-lifers in the "everybody" who gets to make up their own reality.

Yeah, Tony, I guess I just don't get that "sex as religion" attitude. I wonder why by their own lights they can't put contraception in a similar category to vacuum cleaners and ipods--something they don't think wrong, something they might find useful and convenient, but obviously not a *medical necessity*, for crying out loud.

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