And right now, the USCCB want us to know they are Very Seriously Concerned for religious liberty in this country, because their will is not being implemented on the rest of us speedily enough, which is a violation of their religious liberty to be the boss of everyone. If your beliefs include that you should be in charge, I guess not putting you in charge is a violation of your religious liberty, right? The USCCB thinks so, anyway! Check out the horror show of quotes from them this past week or so...
“We see in our culture a drive to neuter religion,” Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops conference, said in a news conference Monday at the bishops’ annual meeting in Baltimore. He added that “well-financed, well-oiled sectors” were trying “to push religion back into the sacristy.” (via)Oh noes! How dare we try to maintain our separation of church and state by making sure religion remains in the church where it belongs?! Don't we know that's Bad and Wrong and religion belongs in both the sacristy AND the Oval Office?!?! Dirty little heathens be we, I suppose.
"There is no religious liberty if we are not free to express our faith in the public square and if we are not free to act on that faith through works of education, health care and charity," [Bishop William E.] Lori said in his first address to the bishops as chairman of the newly formed Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (via)"If we cannot get government subsidies and contracts to carry out our religious works while still being protected from having to follow the law within our organizations, we are being OPPRESSED I TELL YOU! And we know about oppression. We've been practicing on everyone else for centuries, so that we would recognize this moment when it came."
"For some time now we have viewed with growing alarm the ongoing erosion of religious liberty in our country. Among the challenges we see is a pattern in culture and law to treat religion merely as a private matter between an individual and his or her God,"...This is beyond even my considerable reservoir of snark. I, um...yeah, I'm sorry, I got nothing. When they're talking about "treating religion as a private matter between an individual and their god" like that's horribly, desperately inappropriate and oppressive, what is there to say? Is it Opposite Day again or something?
But what caused this bout of hand-wringing and pearl-clutching, you ask? Well, like all big corporations, the Catholic church is campaigning for a more favorable regulatory environment - that is to say, fewer or no regulations at all. Specifically, they're upset because of the new HHS rule that, as part of the health insurance reform package, would require nearly all employers who offer healthcare plans to employees to cover hormonal contraception without a copay as "preventative care". There is a religious exemption in the rule already - an organization which A: has religious values as its primary purpose, B: primarily employs people who share the religious tenets of the organization, and C: primarily serves people who share the religious tenets of the organization, would be exempt from the rule. Meaning that churches themselves are safe from the horror of being forced to make it easier for their employees to access contraception under the employer-subsidized health-care plan.
The problem, of course, is that Catholic hospitals do NOT primarily serve people who share their religious tenets. In many places, Catholic hospitals are the ONLY hospitals within a reasonable distance, and thus serve the entire general populace of the area, Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Under the new rule, that would disqualify them from a religious exemption, and the health-care plans offered to employees of the hospitals would have to include the option of contraception. That's the option, by the by, not a requirement; no person would be required or even encouraged to use it. It would simply be made available to those who want or need it, free of copay. (I'll remind everyone that even if Catholic hospitals did employ primarily Catholics, Catholic women use hormonal contraception at about the same rate as non-Catholic women, that is to say, almost universally (98%). So it's not like making contraception cheaper to access is really controversial for anyone except the actual church hierarchy.)
The idea that they might have to make it easier for women in their employ to get ahold of hormonal contraceptives, instead of making it harder, is giving them all conniption fits, and they're doing their damndest to lobby President Obama to throw us under the bus again by widening the exemption to suit the USCCB.
Righteous fury at the fact that the President seems to be taking the USCCB's lobbying seriously aside for the moment, I just want to return to one of their ludicrous displays of pretzel-logic about "religious liberty" for a moment, as it's extremely telling of what's really going on here:
There is no religious liberty if we are not free to express our faith in the public square and if we are not free to act on that faith through works of education, health care and charity,Because they are framing the issue so that it sounds like the government is going to force Catholic health care and education organizations to shut down, thus denying them the ability to act on their faith in that manner, when actually the government is in no way impeding their ability to act on their faith "through works of education, health care and charity". It's simply saying that if they want to employ people to do those works, they need to provide those employees with access certain baseline services. Which is a totally different thing.
Catholic organizations walk a strange line in this country. They (ostensibly) employ and (ostensibly) serve the general public, not only Catholics, but they expect to be able to impose their religious doctrines on those members of the public who rely on their employment or services - and again, remember that in many areas there are no other options for some of the services Catholic organizations provide - and they expect to receive special dispensation from the government to restrict both employees and clientele in ways ordinary businesses aren't allowed to, because, in essence, "Jesus told us so". Especially since they're claiming that their religious doctrine requires them to do certain works, they really are using the kind of argument I facetiously posited in the first paragraphs of the post: If my religion says I have to be in charge of things, not putting me in charge of things is violating my religion!
It follows logically, in the strictest interpretation of the statement, and yet it's clearly and obviously ridiculous to expect such treatment. Why? Because the government's sole purpose is not to protect religious liberty. That is an important part of its duty, but it is still only *part*. The government is of much wider scope, tasked with ensuring the welfare and well-being of all its people, and when push comes to shove and a single organization's doctrinal need to impose their views on other people - like, say, employees and clients - is harming members of the general public, religious liberty must give way to protecting the people. It's called "compelling government interest", and it's why we wouldn't allow a person to go about murdering other people even if it was a legitimate requirement of their religion, because the safety and well-being of others has to come first when the two principles are in conflict.
Yet the USCCB isn't satisfied, and won't be satisfied, until their right to impose their doctrine on everyone within reach is enshrined in law as being of more importance than the needs and safety of the "everyone within reach" they're trying to impose their will on.