One aspect of conservative Christianity that initially got me questioning the whole program is the persecution complex. Someone or something is always out to get conservative Christians – (a few) public schools are out to get conservative Christians by giving children comprehensive sex education, gays are trying to destroy the Christian institution of marriage, TV shows are attacking us by portraying people living secular lives without all hell breaking loose, etc. During my time in conservative Christianity, I largely didn’t understand the big deal about comedians who poke fun at Christianity, or a public school not having prayer, or gays being protected from employment discrimination in a non-religious business. The way I saw it, we can do our thing, people of a different or no religion can do their thing, and neutral settings like public schools shouldn’t take a side one way or the other. But, I came to realize that the persecution narrative is a key component of the greater conservative Christian narrative. I’ll delve more into that as a whole in the future, but I want to address some recent events that have solidified my exit.
Recently, some Catholic groups have challenged the provision under the Affordable Care Act that mandates employers who offer health insurance as a benefit cover contraception for their employees. Well, the institutional Catholic Church (along with a minority of practicing Catholics) is opposed to contraception use. They shouldn’t have to pay for something that they are morally opposed to. That would be an infringement against the free exercise of religion. But guess what? They don’t have to:
A religious organization that objects on religious grounds to including coverage for contraception in its health plan may so inform either the entity that issues or administers its group health plan or the Department of Health and Human Services. Delivery of the requisite notice extinguishes the religious organization’s obligation to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for any coverage that includes contraception. The regulations then require group health plan insurers or administrators to offer separate coverage for contraceptive services directly to insured women who want them, and to inform beneficiaries that the objecting employer has no role in facilitating that coverage.
All Plaintiffs must do to opt out is express what they believe and seek what they want via a letter or two-page form. That bit of paperwork is more straightforward and minimal than many that are staples of nonprofit organizations’ compliance with law in the modern administrative state. Religious nonprofits that opt out are excused from playing any role in the provision of contraceptive services, and they remain free to condemn contraception in the clearest terms. The ACA shifts to health insurers and administrators the obligation to pay for and provide contraceptive coverage for insured persons who would otherwise lose it as a result of the religious accommodation.
Well, there you go – if you object to contraception, you just have to fill out a two-page form or even just send a paragraph-long letter stating that you’re opposed to it, and you don’t have to cover contraception. Case closed, right? Apparently not. Some nuns in Colorado in addition to Priests for Life and the Archdiocese of Washington challenged the mandate, lost, and appealed. The appellate court already unanimously ruled against Priests for Life and the Archdiocese of Washington, and now Priests for Life plans to defy the legal ruling:
The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said it will refuse to follow the ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit after a three-judge panel ruled the priest group must write a letter or fill out a two-page form to opt out of the mandate.
But Father Pavone said filling out those forms acts as a trigger, which, according to Catholic Church teaching, would still constitute cooperation with any birth control the employees got. The church teaches both that contraception is always immoral and that directly helping others commit evil acts is itself immoral.
“As we have said from the beginning, Priests for Life will not obey the HHS mandate,” Father Pavone said. “To ask a group of priests to cooperate in the government’s plan to expand access to birth control and abortion-inducing drugs is about as contrary to religious freedom as you can get.”
And, I’m assuming the Little Sisters of the Poor will make a similar statement when their appeal fails. So, the objection to the mandate, even with the religious exemption, is that the Catholic entities’ religious freedom is being violated if their employees can get coverage for contraception at all. They want to control their employees’ bodies, and want to influence how others use their bodies by fighting against guaranteed contraception coverage as a whole. They are arguing that they are being forced to enable something they consider a “sin” by opting out of coverage of said “sin” because by opting out, their employees will be informed that they can get contraception coverage and they may take advantage of that. Talk about circular logic. What it comes down to is that they are arguing that their free practice of religion is being violated because their employees can make a decision contrary to what they want them to do.
This is something that turned me off to all of this nonsense in the first place. That your religious moral beliefs aren’t obligatory for everyone (including your employees) isn’t persecution. No one is forcing you, at the threat of imprisonment or death, to use contraception, or even pay for it. Gays getting married isn’t persecution – no one is forcing you to perform gay weddings or get gay married or get the couple a wedding gift. Giving Muslims a permit to build a mosque isn’t persecution (although denying them a permit is) – no one’s forcing you to be Muslim.
If your faith is so threatened by what other people do or believe, be it using contraception, getting married to someone of the same sex, or adhering to a non-Christian religion – maybe contraception, homosexuality, and Islam aren’t the problem. Maybe your faith is the problem.