February 3, 2012

A Dialogue: Obama, Contraception and the Catholic Church

By Glenn

The following was a Facebook conversation with a friend. As with all matters of faith and politics, the issues are complex. I decided to share it with you and let you make up your own mind. The format will be different since it was a dialogue. I’ll start with Thomas, since his post promoted the conversation and the show the back and forth as it happened, and eventually ended.  I hope you find it useful.

Thomas D. Schwartz:

The atheist libertarian Stephen Chapman writes well: “When the military relied on the draft, Quakers were allowed to opt out because of their pacifism. When a Seventh-Day Adventist was fired for refusing to work on her Sabbath, the Supreme Court said she was eligible for unemployment benefits. Prison officials have to accommodate the religious practices of inmates. Why? Out of respect for religious freedom and diversity. Most Americans regard that tradition as a mark of civic health. In this case, the administration treats it as an illness to be cured.”

It has been my unfortunate experience that too many who wrap themselves in the banner of “tolerance” are actually among the least tolerant people whom I have ever encountered. They demand tolerance for themselves and their point of view, but are intellectually dishonest and logically inconsistent when confronted with the need to tolerate perspectives with which they do not agree.

Glenn Melancon

Religious institutions can opt out. Public institutions can’t. If a religious organization chooses to hire people not affiliated with it, then it has already decided that the material world is more important than the spiritual world. That was a choice religious officials freely made not government officials.Finally, regardless of whether or not the birth control is covered, no one is forcing people to use them. Individuals are free to use contraceptives or not. This is really the issue for clerics. Our constitution denies them the authority of law. They must convince their flock that they speak with a higher authority. It’s sad to watch my church the Catholic Church fall back on the old medieval crutch, the authority of the state, to force compliance with moral codes.

Health Reform, Preventive Services, and Religious Institutions | The White House


Beginning in August of 2012, most health insurance plans will cover women’s preventive services, including contraception, without a co-pay. Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, explains how this policy affects religious institutions.
Wow. Talk about “darned-if-you-do, darned-if-you-don’t.” So Roman Catholic institutions went the wrong direction when they decided to employ people of any religious background, rather than restricting employment to just Roman Catholics. Why do I find that argument less than compelling, considering the fact that persons who hold your point of view — not you personally, Glenn — would likely rake them over the coals for being so closed-minded and insular? I thought liberals were committed to ecumenism.

And another thing: Many *churches* — yes, those that are “exempt” from the new rules — hire people who come from different Christian denominations. The administrator at our congregation is Southern Baptist, and is not a member of our church. So if that’s really the reason for this rule, then I guess Immanuel United Church of Christ should be forced to submit to any federal edicts as well.
Sorry, Thomas, but medicine is a science and not a religion. Religions are protected by the constitution but the material world is governed by reason. This principle is already at work in anti-discrimination law, family law and family health. Do you believe parents whose religions oppose blood transfusions should be able to deny one to their child? Or should the state be able to overrule the religious objects of the parents in favor of the health of the child?


And, of course, we all know that — unlike religion — medicine is inerrant and science is infallible. Therefore, we have to submit to their authority in all matters. Of course there are instances in which the state has a right to intervene in matters of religion — the example you cite, or to save the lives of adherents from harm (e.g.: Jonestown). Religious liberty is not absolute. But this is an entirely different situation. The federal government is telling Roman Catholic institutions that they are required to do something that violates church doctrine and teaching. I have the feeling that you rightly wouldn’t be comfortable with efforts in the 1950’s and 1960’s of state governments to interfere in the matters of churches involved in the civil rights movement. But your opposition would be logically inconsistent with your stated position here. Simply put, Glenn opposes state intervention when Glenn supports the church’s position. That’s okay, but at least be intellectually honest enough to admit it.

I’m a Protestant, and I have no biblical, ethical, or moral objections to birth control. But I also have no business telling Roman Catholics what to do or not to do in these areas.
‎”I have the feeling that you rightly wouldn’t be comfortable with efforts in the 1950’s and 1960’s of state governments to interfere in the matters of churches involved in the civil rights movement.”

Great example. When the Civil Rights Act was passed did the federal government force Mormons to rewrite it’s racist scripture and allow the ordination of black priests? Nope. Is the Catholic Church required to ordain or to elect female bishops? Nope. For me, the line is crossed when it becomes science.
So there’s no science suggesting that racist views are not credible? That will be music to the ears of bigoted extremists.
Sorry, for the misunderstanding but that is not what I meant to say. If the Catholic Church burned females at the stake for its view of women or the Mormons sacrificed blacks, the state could do step in. But simply telling they are not worthy is not the same as denying a worker proper medical care.


There are a large number of psychologists who would strongly disagree with your viewpoint. Some followers of Vygotsky, for example, would argue that such church teachings were far more injurious to the mental and therefore physical health of those were the targets of such discrimination and prejudice. Denying the intrinsic worth of a human being, in their view, would be far more damaging individually and socially than not providing insurance for contraception. And those social psychologists making these arguments would do so citing evidence from research using the scientific method. You are in a logical bind here, my friend, because your argumentation is internally inconsistent. Again, that’s okay — inconsistency is widespread in thinking today. But, what it really and truly boils down to, is this: You disagree with the Catholic teaching on the subject, so you support the Obama administration’s position.


My solution is simple, but probably not acceptable to your small government views but here we go.

1) Eliminate the Medicare eligibility age. Any person who wants coverage can buy it immediately. Employers could then replace their coverage with a voucher to either purchase Medicare or a private insurance.

2) Any doctor or hospital, operating in a competitive market, that wants to put faith over science would have to disclose it to their patience. For example, “Warning this facility makes medical decision based on faith first and science second.” Individuals could then choose to utilize those facilities or not.


Actually, I don’t dislike your proposed solution. In fact, I think it would be not only workable, but a very good approach. So we have found common ground — which is what a healthy dialogue should do! 🙂
Well, thank you. It helped that we didn’t call each other a fascist or a communist. 😀
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