Okay, first, take a deep breath.
The New York Times’ Gail Collins’ hostility towards the Catholic Church, which rings so loud and clear in her column this morning, isn’t the point. That is her right.
As somebody who has gone into that little box with the grille she writes about this morning many times, I must just say for the record that I have never had an experience as awful as the one her mother-in-law claims to have had. But that is not an issue for this blog either.
The issue for this blog is that Ms. Collins completely misrepresents what is going on in the Obama administration’s battle with the Catholic hierarchy and other faith-based organizations over whether faith-based organizations can be forced to pay for health insurance policies that provide procedures that violate their consciences.
Ms. Collins generously concedes that the wacky ol’ Church has a right to teach whatever it wants on the matter of contraception. She concedes that it has the right to "take out ads. Pass out leaflets. Put up billboards in the front yard.” Thanks, Gail.
But, adds, Ms. Collins:
The problem here is that they’re trying to get the government to do their work for them. They’ve lost the war at home, and they’re now demanding help from the outside.
Oddly enough, Collins has it backwards. Nobody is disputing whether women have legal right to use contraception—they do. The Church is simply saying it doesn’t want to be complicit in paying for something it regards as sinful. Groups that support the HHS mandate forcing faith-based groups to pay for such services are the ones trying to force the government to do their work.
Collins and her ilk argue that faith groups that find contraception objectionable seek to violate women's consciences–they are not. They're simply saying they don't want to pay for what they regard as a wrong choice.
But Collins and others are lobbying hard to make sure that an HHS mandate, which would cause institutions to go against deeply-held beliefs or pay ruinous fines, stands. This is not about contraception—it is about freedom. It should be noted that these questions are being raised because government has entered the business of health care. The actions of Collins and people like her show once again why this is so dangerous.
The churches themselves don’t have to provide contraceptive coverage. Neither do organizations that are closely tied to a religion’s doctrinal mission. We are talking about places like hospitals and universities that rely heavily on government money and hire people from outside the faith.
We are arguing about whether women who do not agree with the church position, or who are often not even Catholic, should be denied health care coverage that everyone else gets because their employer has a religious objection to it. If so, what happens if an employer belongs to a religion that forbids certain types of blood transfusions? Or disapproves of any medical intervention to interfere with the working of God on the human body?
Collins is saying that churches don’t have to pay for services they find immoral if they do it at one remove, through institutions they have founded, staffed, and continue to support.
Sorry, Gail, that is too subtle for me.