In the hours just before January 1st, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor blocked an Affordable Care Act provision that required birth control to be covered by all employers. An exception for certain religious groups was later added and the provision was reworked, so contraception would be included in every insurance policy as a basic policy provision after religious groups, most notably those affiliated with the Catholic Church, argued the mandate violated their First Amendment Rights, because the use contraceptives violate their religious doctrines.
In that spirit, it is important to remember there are one to two million Jehovah Witnesses who are also US citizens mandated to buy health insurance and view blood transfusions as violating their religious doctrine, because it is the consumption of blood. If the Obama Administration’s compromise is invalided, this could mean other religious groups have the right to demand health insurance policies exclude any offensive provisions, including essential treatment options like blood transfusion.
Obviously, a failure to cover emergency services like blood transfusions would be problematic and endanger lives. In tandem, interpreting the First Amendment protections of Catholics, and other groups that view birth control as immoral to include any indirect financial support of a mandate they find offensive would have far-reaching effects. Certainly, Catholics, whether a religious institution or individual, should not be mandated to violate their religious beliefs; however, the First Amendment does not prevent society from creating legislation and other mandates, which indirectly affect individuals, just because a religion finds certain provisions offensive.
Although Catholics may indirectly pay for birth control through mandated health insurance, which all religious individuals pay for activities potentially offensive to their religious beliefs, such as war, through various taxes and fees, it is not a violation of their First Amendment freedoms. Say someone views the color red and the imagine of a ram to be Satanic. While he always has the choice to not buy a Dodge, his insurance company, no matter what insurance company he chooses, probably, with a near one hundred percent certainty, provides a policy for at least one Dodge Ram and will just as likely end up paying out a claim on a Dodge Ram. Because insurance is mandated by State law, we can ask if he and his church have the right to demand their premiums are not used to cover red vehicles and vehicles with imagines of rams on them. I don’t think so.
Meanwhile, the need to protect one’s individual First Amendment Rights does not make it acceptable for the state to violate the rights of other individuals. In this case, the government cannot respect the Catholic Church’s right to not pay for birth control by restricting the rights of women, even if they work for the Church, to have the same access to birth control as afforded by law to others, i.e. Equal Protection. Consequently, the Supreme Court would be in the wrong if it should eventually judge this indirect implementation of the birth control mandate be stripped away.
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