Dear Ms.Rose Berger, Mr. Jon Botten, and Mr. John Patton,
It is a permissible reading of the 1st Amendment to say that if prohibiting the exercise of religion is not the object of the Affordable Care Act but merely the incidental effect of a generally applicable and otherwise valid provision, like requiring insurers to provide contraception coverage, then the First Amendment has not been offended. To make an individuals obligation to obey such a law contingent upon the laws coincidence with his religious beliefs, except where the States interest is compelling-permitting him/her, by virtue of his/her beliefs, to become a law unto himself, contradicts both constitutional tradition and common sense. To adopt a true compelling interest requirement for laws that affect religious practice would lead towards anarchy.
As with its ruling in Lying v. Northwest Indian Cemetery Association, the Court warned of the perils of allowing a religious group to have veto power over laws. The neutrality of laws and their general applicability protect them from First Amendment challenge.
So Please Vote NO on House Joint Resolution 7!
My Primary Concerns:
• The HHS rule on essential services is not about government mandates. This is about the importance of reproductive medical care and women's health. HHS heeded the findings of an independent panel of experts, the Institute of Medicine, which recommended that birth control be included as a preventive health care benefit.
• Forcing women to pay out-of-pocket for contraceptives puts an unfair, discriminatory cost burden on a certain segment of society, and women may choose not to use the most effective form of birth control due to cost concerns.
• Birth control pills are sometimes prescribed and used for many other medical conditions. Allowing employers to exclude contraceptives from health insurance plans could also prove costly to individuals with such conditions.
• Contraception helps prevent unintended pregnancies, improves the quality of women's lives, and reduces the need for abortion.
The problem is that birth control is legal in the United States, and birth control pills are used for other purposes than contraception (in fact, contraception may not even be the purpose of the majority of prescriptions). Contrary to what Santorum and others allege, the prescriptions are relatively expensive for poor and working class families.
Religious practices in the United States are trumped by secular law all the time when there is a conflict. Thus, Native Americans who believe in using peyote as part of their religious rituals were fired from their government jobs for doing so, and the US Supreme Court upheld it in 1990.
The arguments the Catholic Bishops are making about the balance between conscience and the obligations of civil law should be welcomed by all Americans as part of our national dialectic.
President Obama is to be applauded for at least trying to find a compromise that doesn’t dragoon Catholic institutions into betraying that conscience. In the end, of course, civil law must uphold equitable treatment of all women, and a satisfactory compromise may not be possible. We will be the better for having the debate, and attempting to find a modus vivendi.
What isn’t helpful is to have loud-mouthed hypocrites who reject all the humane principles for which the Catholic Church stands getting on a high horse about a third-order teaching such as artificial birth control (on which the position of the church has changed over time, and may change again).
Thank you for your time and any consideration given to me regarding this issue. And please vote NO on HJR 7! Thank you.