Don't Christian Scientists object to pretty much everything?
Maybe the Supremes will take a hand in this and really **** things up.
Illinois Court: Pharmacists Can Refuse to Sell Morning-After Pill
Pharmacists with religious objections to "morning-after" emergency contraceptives cannot be compelled to sell the product, an Illinois Circuit Judge has ruled.
The Illinois Health Care Right of Conscience Act was passed in 1998 to shield health care workers from going against their own beliefs. In 2005, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued a ruling to force "pharmacies to fill prescriptions without making moral judgments."
Two pharmacists, Luke VanderBleek and Glenn Kosirog, sued for the right to not dispense the pills.
Circuit Judge John Belz wrote, in a ruling issued Tuesday, that the 1998 law "was designed to forbid the government from doing what it aims to do here: coercing individuals or entities to provide healthcare services that violate their belief."
Attorney Mark Rienzi, who represented the pharmacists with the help of the American Center for Law and Justice, called the ruling "a very good thing."
"The judge's decision makes clear that religious people don't have to give up their religion, don't have to check their conscience at the door, to enter the health care profession," Rienzi said.
Belz said Blagojevich's ruling was unconstitutional and ran afoul of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
"It has been a big burden on (VanderBleek and Kosirog) to not know if they will be able to continue to practice the only profession they have ever known," said Rienzi. "They are very happy to be out from under that burden."
Dear Brother Bishops,
Since we last wrote to you concerning the critical efforts we are undertaking together to protect religious freedom in our beloved country, many of you have requested that we write once more to update you on the situation and to again request the assistance of all the faithful in this important work. We are happy to do so now.
First, we wish to express our heartfelt appreciation to you, and to all our sisters and brothers in Christ, for the remarkable witness of our unity in faith and strength of conviction during this past month. We have made our voices heard, and we will not cease from doing so until religious freedom is restored.
As we know, on January 20, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a decision to issue final regulations that would force practically all employers, including many religious institutions, to pay for abortion inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraception. The regulations would provide no protections for our great institutions—such as Catholic charities, hospitals, and universities—or for the individual faithful in the marketplace. The regulations struck at the heart of our fundamental right to religious liberty, which affects our ability to serve those outside our faith community.
Since January 20, the reaction was immediate and sustained. We came together, joined by people of every creed and political persuasion, to make one thing resoundingly clear: we stand united against any attempt to deny or weaken the right to religious liberty upon which our country was founded.
On Friday, February 10, the Administration issued the final rules. By their very terms, the rules were reaffirmed “without change.” The mandate to provide the illicit services remains. The exceedingly narrow exemption for churches remains. Despite the outcry, all the threats to religious liberty posed by the initial rules remain.
Religious freedom is a fundamental right of all. This right does not depend on any government’s decision to grant it: it is God-given, and just societies recognize and respect its free exercise. The free exercise of religion extends well beyond the freedom of worship. It also forbids government from forcing people or groups to violate their most deeply held religious convictions, and from interfering in the internal affairs of religious organizations.
Recent actions by the Administration have attempted to reduce this free exercise to a “privilege” arbitrarily granted by the government as a mere exemption from an all-encompassing, extreme form of secularism. The exemption is too narrowly defined, because it does not exempt most non-profit religious employers, the religiously affiliated insurer, the self-insured employer, the for-profit religious employer, or other private businesses owned and operated by people who rightly object to paying for abortion inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. And because it is instituted only by executive whim, even this unduly narrow exemption can be taken away easily.
In the United States, religious liberty does not depend on the benevolence of who is regulating us. It is our “first freedom” and respect for it must be broad and inclusive—not narrow and exclusive. Catholics and other people of faith and good will are not second class citizens. And it is not for the government to decide which of our ministries is “religious enough” to warrant religious freedom protection.
This is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization—although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal mandated health care program. It is not about Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. It is about people of faith. This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty for all. If the government can, for example, tell Catholics that they cannot be in the insurance business today without violating their religious convictions, where does it end? This violates the constitutional limits on our government, and the basic rights upon which our country was founded.
Much remains to be done. We cannot rest when faced with so grave a threat to the religious liberty for which our parents and grandparents fought. In this moment in history we must work diligently to preserve religious liberty and to remove all threats to the practice of our faith in the public square. This is our heritage as Americans. President Obama should rescind the mandate, or at the very least, provide full and effective measures to protect religious liberty and conscience.
Above all, dear brothers, we rely on the help of the Lord in this important struggle. We all need to act now by contacting our legislators in support of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which can be done through our action alert on www.usccb.org/conscience.
We invite you to share the contents of this letter with the faithful of your diocese in whatever form, or by whatever means, you consider most suitable. Let us continue to pray for a quick and complete resolution to this and all threats to religious liberty and the exercise of our faith in our great country.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Most Reverend William E. Lori
Bishop of Bridgeport
Chairman, Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty
If a drug is legal, a pharmacist has a responsibly to provide the drug.
Why is contraception suddenly a big Catholic concern?
(VALERIE SCHULTZ, The Bakersfield Californian, February 24 2012)
We Catholic women are often cast as "less than" by the policies of the religious hierarchy of our church. We are forbidden ordination, and yet we fill the pews, teach the children, run the offices, clean the parish facilities, care for the sick and minister to others in countless ways. We love our church. We trust that the Holy Spirit is moving among us in mysterious ways, and we attend to what is in front of us.
But enough already with the politics. Enough with the posturing about the Obama administration attacking the church, and the hyped-up outrage. This laywoman has a few things to say.
For me it is strange that contraception is suddenly a big Catholic concern. For over 10 years, while our own family was growing, my husband and I taught Natural Family Planning classes at our local parish. The Billings Ovulation Method is a scientifically proven way of charting the menstrual cycle in order to space the births of one's children without artificial contraception. It takes the guesswork out of the old Rhythm Method, and when taught and used correctly, is as effective as the pill in avoiding pregnancy. We used it ourselves, and it works. As Natural Family Planning methods are the only ones that are sanctioned by the Church, you might think that our classes were much in demand, standing- room only. The stark reality is that, in a parish of more than 800 families, we taught about 20 couples in 10 years. Twenty. And not all of them were even Catholic. Despite bulletin blurbs, newsletter articles and weekly announcements, our classes were usually individual tutorials. Judging by our experience, the reported statistic that 98 percent of Catholic couples at some point use artificial birth control rings true.
My point: In over 50 years as a Catholic, I don't think I have ever heard a homily on Natural Family Planning. I have only rarely heard a whisper from the pulpit regarding why the church opposes artificial birth control. Meanwhile, Catholic families have been shrinking, and Catholic spouses have been comfortable in following their consciences in the matter of family planning. And all has seemingly been well.
The ringing response by the Catholic bishops to the Affordable Care Act's stipulation that insured American women be covered for contraception at no cost, therefore, seems disingenuous. It reminds me of the scene in "Casablanca" where Captain Renault closes down the bar and protests to Rick, "I am shocked -- shocked -- to find that gambling is going on in here!" Just then, the captain is handed his winnings. The bishops simply cannot pretend to be shocked that contraception is going on in the lives of American Catholic women.
The face-off, it seems, is between religious freedom and civil rights. Sound familiar? We Catholics are continually thrust into the position that we must choose between our faith and our democracy. But it's a false premise. Decades ago, the first Catholic president eloquently answered the charge that a Catholic president would govern according to the dictates of Rome: "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act ... I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me."
Exactly. Thank you, President Kennedy. But the bishops of today might have liked you about as much as they like President Obama. They forget that America is a pluralistic society. It seems to me that the Catholic Church in America is growing ever more concerned with the things of Caesar. First of all, churches are exempt from the obligation to provide contraception at no cost. Second, the president has now given church-affiliated organizations, such as hospitals and universities, a loophole not to pay for any contraception that will still be provided. Third, see the first: Churches are exempt . Why is this not the end of the discussion? Employers, no matter their religion, are legally obligated to offer their employees health insurance. Contraception is part of the deal. Employers need not approve of an employee's medical choices. If church officials are able to refuse coverage of the pill for female employees, a drug that is sometimes prescribed for non-contraceptive health reasons , can a natural-foods store owner who is a committed vegan then refuse to pay for prescriptions to help a carnivorous employee with clogged arteries? The slippery slope has two sides, as do all conflicts.
Thinking adults understand this. They also understand that in a democracy that forbids the establishment of a state religion, the freedom to practice one's religion dictates only to oneself, not to one's employees.
One simple solution would be for the church to support a single-payer health care system: Remove the employer from the equation. Or, if the loud male voices were to articulate the actual teachings of the church as well as they sound their displeasure with an administration they are obviously hell-bent on bringing down, perhaps a huge majority of us Catholic women would not avail ourselves of the contraceptive coverage that is legally ours. Whether we do or not is between us and God.
Back to First Principles on Religious Freedom
(By DOROTHY SAMUELS, Editorial, The New York Times, February 25, 2012)
Catholic bishops, leading Republicans and other social conservatives persist in portraying the Obama administration’s new rule requiring employer health plans to cover birth control without a co-pay as an assault on religious freedom.
But the real departure from the Constitution is their specious claim to a right to impose their religious views on millions of Americans who do not share them. Virtually all American women, including Catholic women, use contraceptives sometime in their lives. In essence, the bishops and their allies are arguing that they are above the law and their beliefs should be elevated over pressing societal interests.
The political ruckus over the issue has tended to obscure a central fact: the legal case against the policy is remarkably weak. The contraception benefit is plainly constitutional and a proper exercise of government power under Supreme Court precedent and a federal law dealing with exercise of religion.
As with other church-state disputes, the starting point is the text of the First Amendment, which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The nation’s founders were seeking a protective balance, one that gave wide berth to religious belief but drew a line at government entanglement with religion or favoring one faith over another.
Deciding the proper balance in individual cases can be hard. However, by applying existing law and precedent, judges should have little trouble dismissing the argument that President Obama trampled on the religious freedom of employers like hospitals and universities with religious affiliations by having insurance companies provide free contraceptive coverage to the institutions’ employees.
Insupportable claims of religious infringement are being made in other contexts, too. Religious service providers say it is religious discrimination to deny them government contracts to help human-trafficking victims or arrange adoptions because of their unwillingness to provide emergency contraception or stop discriminating against qualified gay couples.
Several lawsuits challenging the contraception rule have already been filed, and two main legal elements come into play: the Supreme Court’s 1990 ruling in Employment Division v. Smith and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (R.F.R.A.), which Congress passed in response to that ruling.
The Smith decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, involved two workers who sought unemployment benefits after they were fired for using peyote, an illegal drug. The court found that Oregon could deny the benefits — even though the workers said their use of peyote was part of a religious ritual — under the general principle that Oregon’s ban on peyote was a “valid and neutral law of general applicability.”
The justices said the First Amendment’s protections do not mean individuals are free to violate valid laws simply by claiming a sincere religious objection. To “make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land” would have the anarchic effect of permitting “every citizen to become a law unto himself,” Justice Scalia wrote. The court said the state could exempt religious peyote use from drug laws, but was not constitutionally required to do so. Under the Smith case, the administration policy on contraceptive coverage is clearly constitutional: it is a neutral regulation enacted with no motive to discriminate against religious interests.
The R.F.R.A. statute, however, uses a far stricter standard. Any federal government actions that “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion,” it says, must advance a compelling interest and be the least restrictive means of doing so. Even under that test, the new contraceptives policy should survive legal challenge. It clearly advances the government’s compelling interest in promoting women’s health and autonomy, and broad participation is the least restrictive way to carry out a complicated national health reform.
But courts should not even reach that question since the provision of preventive services without a co-pay does not interfere with a religious practice or ceremony. There is no impediment to the exercise of religion, especially since the administration has revised its original rule, which exempted churches, mosques and other houses of worship — and now also relieves colleges, hospitals, charities and other religiously affiliated groups from having to provide contraceptive coverage directly. The rule does not interfere with church governance, prevent anyone from voicing opposition, or force anyone to use contraceptives in violation of religious beliefs.
The administration’s decision to put the burden on insurance companies to offer women contraceptives free of charge to accommodate the objections of religious employers was a retreat under pressure. But that move made the policy even less susceptible to any plausible constitutional attack.
Opponents of the contraception rule claim the fight isn’t about birth control, but religious liberty. It’s about both, though they are right that the battle for religious exemptions goes well beyond birth control coverage — to employment discrimination, zoning, mandated reporting of child abuse, a pharmacist’s duty to fill valid prescriptions and that of hospitals to give life-saving emergency care. And now, the bishops and conservative religious groups are lobbying to get Congress to pass a law that would let any private employer opt out of covering any medical treatment as a matter of faith. That is an outrageous assault on the First Amendment.
The political ruckus over the issue has tended to obscure a central fact: the legal case against the policy is remarkably weak.
Congress intended the rule against retaliation to apply to churches as it does to secular groups. Ms. Perich’s suit does not interfere with religious freedom. It will give her a basic protection of the disabilities law — the chance to have her day in court.
Poll: Most Americans Support Contraception Rule
Six in ten Americans, including Catholics, said they support a requirement by the Obama administration that health plans supply free contraceptives as a preventive benefit for women, according to the latest tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Women were divided, with 85 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Independents supporting the requirement but only 42 percent of Republicans. Women across the political spectrum typically are closer together when it comes to supporting contraception rights.
"This is a time where the party attitudes about the role of government seemed to be a greater factor than necessarily being a woman," said Mollyann Brodie, the foundation's director of public opinion and survey research.
Birth control exemption bill, the ‘Blunt amendment,’ killed in Senate
( N. C. Aizenman, The Washington Post, March 1, 2012)
By a largely party-line vote, the Senate on Thursday blocked a move to exempt virtually any employer with moral objections from the Obama administration’s controversial birth control health coverage rule.
The measure, an amendment proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to a highway funding bill, was tabled—and therefore effectively killed—by a vote of 51 to 48.
Only one Republican Senator, Olympia Snowe of Maine voted against the measure. Three Democratic senators supported it, Robert Casey (Pa.), Joe Manchin (W.V.), and Ben Nelson (Neb.).
The measure was among the most sweeping of several congressional efforts to broaden the current religious exemption in the birth control rule, which only fully exempts explicitly religious organizations such as churches from its requirement that worker health plans include contraceptive coverage with no out-of-pocket charges.
Under the Blunt amendment, not only would church-affiliated organizations such as Catholic hospitals, universities, schools and charities have been free to opt out of the coverage, any non-religious employer with a moral objection would have qualified.
The amendment would also have allowed such employers to refuse to cover any other preventive procedures required under the administration’s rule if they had a religious or moral objection.
The rule has sparked a national debate about the limits of religious freedom.
Churches have always been exempt from the mandate, but Catholic and other religious leaders had complained that the rule would force church-affiliated institutions to pay for health services that violated their beliefs.
Trying to defuse the controversy, the Obama administration last month amended the rule. Under the revised rule, women who work for such organizations would still be guaranteed contraceptive coverage, but they would obtain it directly from their insurance companies, which would not be allowed to charge additional premiums.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops remains opposed to any compromise on the issue.