Letters to the Editor

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BIRTH CONTROL: A much larger issue is at stake

Letter by Zona Flood, Edgewood on March 2, 2012 at 9:17 am with 53 Comments »
March 2, 2012 10:47 am

Re: “Contraceptives ‘war’ pushes women’s votes away?” (TNT, 3-2).

Yes, in one sense, this was a skirmish over contraceptives. But there is a much larger issue at the heart of it, which is largely being ignored.

Can Congress and the president strip away the right specifically put forth in the very first sentence of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? It says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (emphasis mine).

If Congress can ignore this very plain restriction, then nothing else is protected. The prohibition against Congress enacting any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion is the very heart and, yes, soul of the rights we (still?) enjoy as Americans.

Leave a comment Comments → 53
  1. No doubt you’ve made a huge leap of faith. I’d like to see you put into words exactly how Congress and the President are prohibiting your right to freely practice your religion. What aspect of your religion are you unable to practice?

  2. SandHills says:

    One would think there isn’t much difference between what the Taliban think about women and Rush Limbaugh other conservatives standing on religious beliefs to deny health coverage of contraceptives (and other women’s health issues these contraceptives impact).

  3. sumyungboi says:

    It’s a meaningless debate. Women no more have a right to free contraception than men have a right to free hookers. The progressives in this country don’t really care if they win or lose this debate, as long as we’re not talking about the economy, and any women who actually think that this is about them are being played like fiddles.

  4. sumy – but women have a right to have contraception covered by the health insurace which is what the President’s plan calls for.

    And BC pills are often prescribed for medical reasons other that contraception.

  5. pantomancer says:

    The government giveth, the government taketh away.

  6. Theefrinker says:

    As Bandito noted, this in no way would prohibit the free exercise of currently-established religions. One would still be allowed to believe in and pray to any invisible person in the sky as much as they want.

  7. Harry_Anslinger says:

    Even a brief internet search will show that Repubs from several prominent conservative governors to the right controlled congress, senate, and the presidency during the Bush 43 administration all backed the very same mandates without incident. Some of those very same politicians are apparently amnesiacs as they push this ‘attack on religion’. In fact many republican controlled legislatures approved the very same mandates without the exemptions for churches.

    This apparently was a non-issue for the right nearly a decade ago. The fact this is now being dusted off and presented with outrage by the right is desperation.

  8. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    Thanks for keeping the focus on the real issue, Zona!

    Only the dems and their lackeys , both here and in the press, want to deflect this away from the constitutional question that it is.

  9. old_benjamin says:

    Sheez, what muddle-headed thinking.

    The Catholic church holds that contraception is sinful. Ergo, supporting contraception in any way is sinful. To mandate that the church do what it considers wrong is a violation of its moral conscience and a violation of the First Amendment. Even Obama acknowledged that when he offered his cynical “compromise.” If the government told the church to insure sex therapy with hookers, would you consider that a violation of its right to practice its religion?

  10. jonathan says:

    It violates the free exercise of religion in that it requires you pay to have your beliefs violated. It is conscription of the soul. Obama’s agenda is defined by a culture of entitlement in which no standard can be too low, no moral code permissive enough, and no truth be spoken less it reveal the abyss he guides us towards.

  11. Theefrinker says:

    Basically, it needs to be all or nothing. The government should give religiously-affiliated employment institutions the choice to provide their workers with health care benefits or not. If they choose to provide it, then they cannot cherry pick it. If they choose not to provide coverage, they can instruct their employees to pray their ailments away.

  12. sumyungboi says:

    The White House mandated discussion of contraceptives is politics, nothing more, has never been an issue until… an election year with a democrat in The White House during a depression.

  13. By your logic it would be unconstitutional for Congress to pass any law that didn’t agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church.

  14. old_benjamin says:

    Wrong, it would be unconstitutional to pass any law that requires Catholics to violate their religious beliefs. There are already plenty of laws that the church doesn’t agree with. They don’t approve of abortion, but no law requires them to get one, not yet at least.

  15. sandblower says:

    Ms. Flood, I don’t know how many times it has to be said, but you obviously missed it. Freedom of religion is like freedom of speech. Neither one is completely free. Look it up in your spare time.
    Preventing a woman from obtaining health care is where your religious freedom disappears IMHO.

  16. old_benjamin says:

    Freedom of healthcare is like freedom of religion. Neither is completely free. Guess which one is explicitly protected in the U.S. Constitution.

  17. SandHills says:

    old Ben – its been stated that 98% of catholic women use contraceptives. And since that sect is run solely by men I can appreciate their ignorance of contraceptives being a women’s health issue, not just a woman’s sexual issue.

    Catholics, of all people should look to their own house (pedophilia comes to mind) rather than declaring Papal authority.

    My, how the world has changed – when the declaration of JFK to uphold the constitution rather than follow Papal authority can make one of our candidates sick.

    But let the GOP conservatives push this issue hard – it will come back to bite them in the general election, not only the election of President (which is almost a forgone conclusion for Obama), but congressional majority in the House.

    Bad politics to put make contraceptive policy dictated by Rome a major issue.

  18. sumyungboi says:

    I will say that this latest tactic of bringing contraception out of nowhere was very well thought out by The White House and the left. They know very well that, first, it would be easy to sucker conservatives into a constitutional debate, and they have. Look at otherwise well-meaning conservatives (judging by your comments) right here in this comment section who’re talking about contraception and health rights and religious rights, and are not talking about the economy. Conservatives hold The Constitution dear, and baiting them in this way was easy. Second, by replacing God with the government would be a sure fire way to rile up religious conservatives, and it has.

    Newsflash: Obama and the democrats driving the economy over the cliff with a pit stop in Greece, and want nothing more than for the kids to fight in the back seat rather than watching the road ahead. Don’t fall for it, they know that their little mandates are unconstitutional, and they don’t care. Do you have any idea how fast this whole thing will fade after the election?

  19. @old_benjamin – Same difference.

  20. Pacman33 says:

    For too many on the left, access to free contraception is regarded as a fundamental human right, and “treatments” that pre-empt a potential pregnancy like Plan B and ella are morally indistinguishable from the treatments that combat a stroke or a tumor or H.I.V.

    Apparently, if you are not a Democrat, or more generally, a person on the left side of the political spectrum, then you are not a woman who counts. Inciters like divisive leftists are the ones denying women’s rights. According to them if women are religious or women in the position of an employer of self-insured organizations like religious hospitals and universities, you aren’t entitled to Constitutional Rights: The First Amendment’s bar against the ‘free exercise’ of religion” but also the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

    I can’t seem to find “The Right to Contraception, Plan B and ella on your fellow American’s dime” anywhere in the Constitution.

  21. alindasue says:

    Theefrinker said, “If they choose to provide it, then they cannot cherry pick it.”

    Employers “cherry pick” the insurance they are going to provide all the time. Religion can be one reason they do it, but more often than not its economical reasons. The insurance companies present several different plan packages to the employers and they choose which options they will offer their employees. What is offered to the employees depends on what the employer is willing to pay into.

    Over the years, we have had Blue Cross coverage twice. Both times, we had a modest co-pay ($15-25) for visits to the doctor. Both times, the insurance wouldn’t pay for ANY drug available for sale without a prescription, even if the doctor prescribed it. (That would probably include Plan B, by the way.)

    Our current Blue Cross insurance also won’t pay for durable medical goods like crutches or glucose monitors (or the test strips), nor will it pay for any treatments to improve fertility. However, it will pay fully for preventative check-ups, lab work, and vaccines, while the prior Blue Cross policy we had had required co-pays for those as well as the other doctor visits.

    Neither insurance policy covered or covers every drug on the market. There is a list of drugs that they will not cover because they are considered too expensive compared to other alternatives.

    Anyhow, the point of all this as that employers “cherry pick” what insurance coverage they will provide all the time. To create rules intent on preventing religious employers specifically from “cherry picking” which drugs they’ll pay for is in fact discriminatory against their religions.

  22. EXACTLY alindasue, and this bear repeating:

    “Anyhow, the point of all this as that employers “cherry pick” what insurance coverage they will provide all the time. To create rules intent on preventing religious employers specifically from “cherry picking” which drugs they’ll pay for is in fact discriminatory against their religions.”

    Excellently stated!

  23. sandblower says:

    hey ben, guess which one was protected before the Constitution was written?

  24. pantomancer says:

    Oh, I absolutely believe my rubbers, lube, and penicillan should be covered… by golley.

  25. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Stop the ‘free’ stuff. Stop complicating business, healthcare, and the economy. Ditch the unwanted BHOcare.

    This is not a huge issue, but it is a slippery slope and principled.

    Using the 98% logic, we should always ignore the rights of the 2%?

  26. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    Sayeth Kardy:

    Cardinous
    FEB. 27, 2012 AT 8:00 AM

    Again, VoxK, I quote SandHills, the conservative laureate of the TNT

    “But let the GOP conservatives push this issue hard – it will come back to bite them in the general election, not only the election of President (which is almost a forgone conclusion for Obama), but congressional majority in the House.”

    LMFAO! “Conservative laureate” indeed.

    “Bad politics to put make contraceptive policy dictated by Rome a major issue.”

    HUH?

    Neither conservative nor laure, this clone could make a rino turn right.

  27. bobcat1a says:

    Why wasn’t it an attack on religion when Arkansas Governor Mile Huckabee signed the exact same requirement into law? Double standard much? Why no hue and cry when 28 states enacted these same requirements in the last decade? Couldn’t be “hate Obama” syndrome could it? How do you American Taliban even look at yourselves in a mirror?

  28. concernedtacoma7 says:

    Let the people of the Gov’s state deal with that. We are talking about federal issues.

    GOV Huck never represented me, WA, or the nation, so his policies (approved by a state Congress representing their citizens) mean nothing to the nation at large.

  29. Excellent letter Zona. The key point being the part of the First Amendment that states… “of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

    To force a religious organization to violate its core beliefs is to “prohibit” the members of that religious organization “the free exercise” of their faith, and that is clearly unconstitutional. That issue is not being ignored, however. It is very much part of the controversy.

    P.S. You have a cool name. It must have created some comments when you were called out as “Flood!” =pause= “Zona!” =pause= “Is there a Flood, Zona here?”

  30. hypocritesuntie says:

    I was under the impression that we DO restrict certain religious practices. Very clearly we have stated that Mormon polygamy will not be tolerated. Also, we’ve interjected when certain religious sects have withheld medical help from their children. In fact, here in WA, charges were just filed last month against parents who allowed their son to die of a ruptured appendix when their faith healing attempts failed. Holier-than-thou Warren Jeffs is in jail even though he adhered to his religion perfectly. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans find child rape objectionable. If we truly believe that religion is completely free of our laws, then we best watch out for the murderer who kills our children and then says it was a human sacrifice to God. We restrict, and rightly so. But none of this has a thing to do with the REAL issue. That is a BUSINESS issue – the Catholic Church fully maintains its ability to disallow birth control coverage to its actual church employees. But those employed by the church BUSINESS interests are now being fairly covered. In order to understand why this is fair, you need only ask yourself if you would receive a blood transfusion or an organ transplant in order not to die. Now imagine that your employer didn’t provide that coverage because of religious beliefs. Most of us would think that reprehensible. We work, we pay the insurance, why do they get to decide what we receive in return? They shouldn’t. But, if I worked in a rectory, rather than a rehab facility, I would understand the exemption. The exemption if fair and the requirement is just.

  31. “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,…….”

  32. pantomancer says:

    … and free condoms for everyone else.

  33. While the Court has consistently affirmed that the Free Exercise Clause protects religious beliefs, protection for religiously motivated conduct has waxed and waned over the years. The Free Exercise Clause ”embraces two concepts– freedom to believe and freedom to act. The first is absolute, but in the nature of things, the second cannot be.”

    http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/amendment01/05.html

    In other words…Catholics are free to believe whatever they want but the freedom to act upon those beliefs are less fully protected by the 1st Amendment.

  34. Limbush apologized. Anyone else?

  35. pantomancer says:

    I haven’t been following Limbush… throw me a bone Pubic. :)

  36. pantomancer says:

    blic

  37. Alindsue – unless you work for Blue Cross it is not your employer that cherry picks your benefits it is the insurance company. Also I would point out that many women need hormonal birth control medications to treat diseases not just prevent pregnancy. But bottom line, Obama just said that religious organizations don’t have to pay for birth control directly just their insurance companies, just like it has been required by many states up till now.

  38. Limbaugh claimed that calling someone a slut and a prostitute wasn’t meant as a personal attack….perhaps because he is proud to be a slut and a prostitute.

  39. Of course….his “apology” most likely was an attempt to stave off losing any more advertisers who withdrew after this incident.

  40. A Statement from Rush
    March 03, 2012

    For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week.  In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

    I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.

    My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

    http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2012/03/03/a_statement_from_rush

    IF YOU ASK ME (but of course I know that nobody did, so I will give my opinion anyway): This is kind of a non-apologetic apology. He apologizes for a poor choice of words, ONLY after first justifying the original intent he had in using those words in the first place. He’s not really apologetic at all. Pretty lame!

  41. pantomancer says:

    Sure wish other public figures were scrutinized as much as Mr. Limbaugh seems to be. Anybody heard Bill Maher lately ?

  42. muck, I’m happy that you recognize the insincere nature of Mr. Limbaugh’s so-called apology. All you have to do is read the part about “personal sexual recreational activities” to realize that he is not serious. For him to ignore the fact that BC drugs are used for far more than preventing pregnancy does tell us his argument is disingenuous and designed to spin it his way in an appeal to placate his rabid base. Disgusting!
    I don’t listen to Maher either.

  43. MaryEllen2 says:

    “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (emphasis mine).”

    What about the free exercise of religion on the part of the employee who has no problem with contraceptives? Is their belief system protected, or only the employer?

  44. The Supreme Court bases their 1st Amendment decisions, in part, on the principal that religious beliefs can never be limited, however, actions based upon those beliefs can, in certain circumstances be restricted. Since providing full contraceptive care insurance benefits is an action not a belief, it is definitely arguable whether or not the Church-owned businesses are guaranteed an exemption due to 1st Amendment protections.

    It is much harder, however, to argue that the Church-owned businesses deserve an exemption from insurance coverage that provides contraceptive benefits that the business is not paying for – this is the regulation that is currently in place.

    Then the Constitutional question ISN’T about the 1st Amendment, rather it is whether the Government can put forward regulations upon the Insurance industry which, since there is a clear past practice of doing so, it is very likely they can.

    The remaining Constitutional question is whether the Government may require all citizens to have insurance……and, again, this goes to the question of single payer (muckibr seems to think that the availability of SUPPLEMENTAL plans makes it not single payer) – just like Social Security and Medicare, the premiums could be collected through a payroll tax.

  45. MaryEllen2 “What about the free exercise of religion on the part of the employee who has no problem with contraceptives?”

    If you can identify, with documented proof, at least one real employee who belongs to a real religion that requires its followers to use artificial birth control, then and only then is when you realistically can make the argument that their religious beliefs may somehow be violated if their employer does not pay for their BC drugs or products.

    Until you can point to a real person in a real religion, who is being denied “religiously required” artificial BC, then you really have no argument at all.

    The only religious argument in this entire situation is that of a government organization, creating a rule or law that requires a religious organization to violate its core beliefs by promoting and paying for birth control, which in its deeply held religious view is in the same category as performing abortions. That is the ONLY religious issue here.

    You cannot willy-nilly make up other religions or religious issues that do not exist.

  46. sumyungboi says:

    disregard this comment if it appears. I seem to be barred from commenting for now.

  47. “Anybody heard Bill Maher lately ?”

    Yes I have, what a great entertainer! Never has he ever claimed to be anything other than a comic. He has Never been called the “de-facto leader” of any political party. His show has no sponsors and isn’t on the national PUBLIC (that’s your and mine) airwaves.

    So what was your point?

  48. alindasue says:

    afret said, “Alindsue – unless you work for Blue Cross it is not your employer that cherry picks your benefits it is the insurance company.”

    I think you misunderstood my post.

    I was not talking about Blue Cross “cherry picking”. I was talking about two different employers who chose to provide different plan options from the same insurance company to their employees based on what they were willing to pay the insurance company for.

  49. pantomancer says:

    Sorry you missed it extrordinaire dude. ;)

  50. pantomancer says:

    Being an independent I have expectations of both parties, and that extends to public outrage about what high profile people say. Sometimes (lately, more often than not) our side (the center) seems to have a sudden case of new found outrage about what a comedian says… surely you get the picture, being a middle of the roader so to speak.

  51. Vox_clamantis_in_deserto says:

    disregard this comment if it appears. I seem to be barred from commenting for now.

    I’m having trouble posting in some threads too – even ones in which I have made previous comments – specifically “LIMBAUGH: Comments insulting, insensitive” and “NEWS: Where’s CNN’s Fox-like balance?”

    This isn’t the first time its happened to me since the last change in format here.

    Anybody else having trouble?

  52. yearofthewoman says:

    “If you can identify, with documented proof, at least one real employee who belongs to a real religion that requires its followers to use artificial birth control, then and only then is when you realistically can make the argument that their religious beliefs may somehow be violated if their employer does not pay for their BC drugs or products.”

    Does a religion have to spell out all of its beliefs to qualify for protection under the First Amendment? It would appear that if an employer’s moral belief forced an employee to do something with which they disagree, that would quite simply be a violation of rights.

    If a religion does not oppose contraceptives, are they required to fill out a form or something to qualify for First Amendment rights?

  53. yearofthewoman, you are attempting to make the same non-arguable argument as MaryEllen2.

    A religion that “does not oppose contraceptives” is not the same as one that requires the use of contraceptives.

    If my religion does NOT oppose my watching NFL games on TV during football season, then when my employer requires me to work on Sundays so that I can not watch NFL games, is my employer “violating my religious beliefs”? By your argument my employer is “violating my religious beliefs.” Now do you see how stupid your argument is?

    The original challenge stands: Just name one religion that REQUIRES it’s followers to use artificial birth control, and provide proof that it does REQUIRE it. That is the ONLY qualifier that would count for any of those people on these blogs who claim that “their religious beliefs are being violated” by an employer that simply refuses to pay for their birth control.

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