National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

A Win In the Courts

Last Friday, a federal judge ordered a temporary injunction against the HHS contraception mandate for a private, but distinctly religious, employer, Tyndale House Publishing. There is an important distinction to be made here. I have long argued that the most important aspect of the entire controversy is to enlarge the exemption from the mandate for religious institutions such as Catholic schools and hospitals and charities. But, I also believe that private firms, not officially affiliated with any particular church, but engaged in pervasively religious work, should also be exempt.  For example, the Knights of Columbus is not an official arm of the Catholic Church, but I think they could, at bar, make the case that they are a pervasively religious institution and, so, should qualify for an exemption. This exemption should not only be available to non-profit companies. That said, I do not believe the Church should go to the mat on behalf of for-profit companies that are not engaged in pervasively religious work, e.g. Taco Bell.

Despite some rhetoric to the contrary, it is not at all clear when a religious exemption can and should be offered. When the Amish declined to pay taxes, including Social Security tax, the Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that no man can be a law unto himself and ordered the Amish to pay. The role of the federal government in shutting down the Mormon practice of polygamy is well known. It took the Jehovah's Witnesses several attempts before they were finally granted permission to seek conscientious objector status from the draft. Indeed, in the past year, I have come to realize that our nation's jurisprudence on the religious clauses of the First Amendment are something of a hash. But, in this instance, I think it is not asking too much to expect the federal government to find an alternative method for delivering the free contraception the HHS has deemed essential at least for religious institutions but also for employers unaffiliated with a given church but pervasively engaged in religious enterprise. Hinsdale Publishing publishes bibles and books that forbid the taking of human life and they understand some of the mandated drugs to be abortifacients. (Incidentally, Hinsdale said that they do not object to other contraceptives and already include them in their coverage.) For them to cover something their very work condemns is a different kind of intrusion on conscience from the intrusion upon a Taco Bell. The selling of tacos is not contradicted by the covering of contraceptives.

 

rectangular-logo.jpgVisit our new website, Global Sisters Report!

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

September 12-25, 2014

09-12-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.