Friday, February 10, 2012

The Catholic Church vs. Obama

Soon-to-be Cardinal Nolan, Archbishop of New York, has objected to the Obama administration’s ruling that the health plans of all employees of the Roman Catholic Church must include coverage for birth control. The Catholic Church believes using “artificial” means of birth control (pills, condoms) is morally wrong, so forcing the Church to pay for and provide coverage is interfering with the practice of religion, according to Nolan.

No matter what you think of the Catholic Church or its policy on artificial birth control, the fact is that Obama is setting a very dangerous precedent by his action. No religious institution should be forced to pay for something it believes is morally wrong. The government rarely intrudes into internal church affairs, so what Obama is doing goes against both tradition and the Constitution.

In the First Amendment of the Constitution contains the so-called “Establishment Clause”. It has been misinterpreted by the Supreme Court since 1947. The purpose of the clause is twofold:

(1) First, its purpose is to prohibit the establishment of a state-sponsored religion like you had in most countries of Europe in those days (such as the Church of England). Often those people choosing not to be a part of the official state religion were persecuted or discriminated against.

(2) Second, its purpose is to protect religious expression from government interference. President Jefferson wrote a letter to some Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut, in answer to their question as to what the clause means. He coined the phrase “wall of separation” (which has been misused since 1947) which he said was a “wall” to keep government out of religion. Today it is interpreted to mean keep religion out of society as much as possible – to protect society from religion and religious influences. Note that the phrases “wall of separation” and “separation of church and state” are not in the Constitution.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say Obama is “declaring war on the Catholic Church” or on religion, as some are saying. I believe the problem with what he’s doing is twofold:

(1) First, he’s telling a church to pay for something it believes is morally wrong, and this sets a dangerous precedent, as I said earlier. This goes against the spirit of the U.S. Constitution.

(2) Second, the federal government shouldn’t be telling private insurance plans what they must cover. The government can provide general guidelines, such as plans must cover preexisting conditions, but not get into specific things they must cover.

You may want to write your representative or senators and let them know how you feel on this subject.

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