Tag Archives: Catholic

Catholics and the Health Care Mandate: A Case Comparison

I will warn you at the outset here that I have no intention of providing any sort of solution to the debate raging in Catholic circles and elsewhere over the health care mandate. What I hope to do here, though, is offer some food for thought on this debate and spur thinking in new directions by comparing the current situation to other situations that we might want to act differently.

To begin, let me outline the contours of the primary debate… The new federal health care regulations require that all employers of a certain size provide their employees health insurance. Included in the regulations is a mandate that this health insurance must cover, among many other things, contraception. Contraception is officially understood as illicit by the Catholic church and so this causes a conflict for Catholic organizations. Now, in the bill, religious institutions such as churches, dioceses, etc. are exempted from having to provide anything that goes against their avowed religious or moral beliefs. Religious schools, universities and hospitals are not considered under this exception. Thus, the mandate for contraception still applies to them.

Now, consider the following questions and parallel cases. Are these the same? Should We follow the same logic?

  1.  If a religious university or hospital should be able to claim religious exemptions to government mandates, then why shouldn’t Catholic owned ‘mom and pop’ business owners be able to claim the same right? Is there a fundamental difference between an institution that claims religious beliefs as part of their mission (like a university) and an individual shop owner whose business may not have anything to do with Catholicism, but which is owned by a Catholic? And if an individual shop owner can make such a decision, then what of  corporations – can a Catholic majority on the board of directors of an organization make the same claim? What about an organization with a Catholic majority of shareholders?
    • [Update] One of the outcomes of the recent supreme court case Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission was that corporations were to be understood as persons before the law, and therefore corporations held the same rights (namely, in the Citizens United case, the right to free speech) as an individual would have.  Consider this in light of the health care mandate.   If corporations are people, then  shouldn’t individual people  be protected just as corporations are under this mandate?  So if the rule is expanded to include religious hospitals schools (corporations in their own right), should it also not include religious individuals (including Mom and Pop shopowners)? Continue reading