In The Catholic Institutions vs Obamacare Showdown, Law and Ethics Trump Morality…And Should

The Christian Soldiers are on the wrong side of this argument.

A controversial rule, announced last month as part of President Obama’s health-care overhaul, requires religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals to provide female employees the full range of contraceptive coverage, including contraceptives, the “morning-after pill” and sterilization services. The measure has  Catholic Church-run institutions up in arms over a system that would force them would  to offer plans that contradict their teachings. Catholic bishops have been leading the growing criticism of the rule,  distributing letters and other materials for distribution to millions of worshipers. Talk radio is abuzz with talk of Obama’s escalating “war on religion.” Even the Washington Post editorial staff criticized the move.

Naturally, the Republican-run Congress announced, via Speaker Boehner, that it would protect Freedom of Religion and block the measure with legislation. All in all, it is a spectacular collision of law, morality and ethics the likes of which we seldom see.

As for simple-minded me, I don’t think this is an especially difficult problem from an ethical point of view. Politics? Practicalities? Culture wars? Yes, those are all extremely difficult considerations in this argument, but they are also not my proper realm. The ethics are clear.

President Obama is right.

The free exercise of religion cannot include the right to ignore, disobey, or be exempted from laws. We don’t want to set a toe on that slippery slope. If we allow Catholic-run organizations to avoid legal obligations because the Church believes conduct that is a U.S. citizen’s right is also a sin, then the U.S. can hardly prevent Muslim organizations from cherry-picking the laws they want to obey using the same argument. What is the catalyst behind the Occupy protests? Unfairness and inequality, a sense that privileged individuals and groups don’t have to live by the same laws and rules as everyone else. Why is there so much anger against unions in many parts of the country? Again, it is unfairness, a sense that union members  continue to get raises and pensions and guaranteed jobs regardless of financial constraints that are causing non-union workers to lose benefits and livelihoods. Religious organizations should be free to believe and worship as they please, but when their beliefs clash with the laws of the land, the laws must prevail over religious morality. Without the primacy of law, religious organizations have special status that the Constitution does not require, and the rule of law loses it integrity. Women have a right under the law for their contraception to be covered by their health insurance. Church-run organizations should not be able to restrict those rights, and the government should not permit “conscience” to outweigh the law. Obviously, laws targeting religions and aimed at making their religious observances difficult or impossible violate the Bill of Rights. Forcing church-run organizations to uphold individual rights, however, is very different.

It is, I think, similar to the pharmacist conscience clause problem. If one is a pharmacist, one must be obligated to provide the services of a pharmacist to all customers, and not discriminate according to religious moral codes. A person who believes that single women shouldn’t practice birth control is free to enter another profession, just as a Church that won’t obey the law regarding women’s heath insurance coverage may have to get out of the hospital business. Freedom of religion doesn’t, or shouldn’t, mean freedom to ignore the law.

118 thoughts on “In The Catholic Institutions vs Obamacare Showdown, Law and Ethics Trump Morality…And Should

  1. Romans 13:1 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
    On the other hand… Acts 5:27-29, “Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. ‘We gave you strict orders not to teach in this Name,’ he said. ‘Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.’ Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!’”
    The Sanhedrin was the government.
    So,if the law of the land orders the Christian to break God’s law then the Christian must be willing to be fined,jailed,whatever. But if the religious organization isn’t receiving state funds is it not exempt from being pressured? Just asking. As for your comment about the pharmacist,I think he/she has the right to refuse and still practice but that’s me. Otherwise said pharmacist should refuse and be willing to suffer the consequences.

    • There are plenty of things that have been claimed as “God’s law” that are now abandoned and ignored. God’s law is a remarkably flexible concept, especially for Catholics.

      I don’t think state funds should have anything to do with it. An employer is an employer.

      As for the pharmacist, the consequences should be a fine and firing. You think a young women should have the day-after pill withheld in the only pharmacy within 40 miles on the whims of a single pharmacist…when every minute counts? It’s simple—don’t take jobs that make you do things that violate your conscience, don’t make the job suffer instead.

      • Jack,there were people who entered the pharmacy profession before these things were offered.
        What’s the problem? I’m saying if the law of the land violates the law of God then the Christian has a duty to disobey AND suffer the consequences. When the pharmacist steps down,as he should,or is fired then another who will give the morning after pill can be hired. Problem solved. If a religious medical institution refuses to supply birth control,which I personally don’t have a problem with,then they can be shut down. I thought I was being reasonable. If people don’t like how religious people operate they are free to punish them,fine them,imprison them although,depending on the situation,that could be a violation of the 1st Amendment but the Constitution and the relatively new laws seem to be subject to whoever is making the laws at the time.

          • Jack,I have to ask. Do you believe the law of the land should be obeyed regardless even in the extreme? What if it were not a religious issue? In some nations the law might require you to honor kill. I’m just curious how far you’re willing to go with this.

            • Karla, versions of that question have been answered on Ethics Alarms many times, but the problem with your version is, “Extreme according to who?” The Constitution is the arbiter of what laws are too extreme. Many people think having an income tax is extreme, or allowing inter-racilal marriage.

                • You didn’t read what I wrote. If we accept government under the Constitution, such a law would be illegal, and you would be under no obligation to obey it. Your position is that citizens are only obligated to obey the laws they want to, That’s chaos and anarchy. And the health care coverage requirement doesn’t affect individuals in the least, so your argument is also a tangent. Deal with the issue. How would you distinguish between your “good” religious beliefs that justified an exception from the law, and other religions’ beliefs, like polygamy, the out culture believes to harmful and unethical?

                  • I don’t believe someone should willy nilly break the law just because they don’t like it. There are people who refuse to go to war, conscientious objectors,who believe it is wrong to kill regardless of the circumstances. People who believe abortion is killing a child aren’t being frivolous or thumbing their nose at the law. This issue is different than not paying your taxes or having more than one wife. If you honestly in your heart believe you are complicit to murder if you provide for abortions then you should not be forced to comply. These folks view abortion in exactly the same way as if you had murdered a infant,a toddler,an adolescent. That being the case,and even though you don’t see it that way,must people be so hard on them? This seems to go beyond just the fact they don’t want to provide these services but the thinking comes across as if they have no right to feel about it the way they do.

                    • If you honestly in your heart believe you are complicit to murder if you provide for abortions then you should not be forced to comply. These folks view abortion in exactly the same way as if you had murdered a infant,a toddler,an adolescent. That being the case,and even though you don’t see it that way,must people be so hard on them? This seems to go beyond just the fact they don’t want to provide these services but the thinking comes across as if they have no right to feel about it the way they do.

                      The solution is simple, get out of any business that requires you to support abortions.

                      Now, suppose someone honestly and religiously believed that gays should be put to death. Should they be exempted from murder statutes? That’s really what you’re arguing for.

      • Jack that was the thrust of John Paul II’s argument against pharmacist’s providing birth control drugs, condoms, and abortofacients (Sp?). It wasn’t just that they shouldn’t do those things; it was that they should re-think their choice of profession, if that was what the job required.

      • This country was founded In God We Trust, with Religious Beliefs and Practice guaranteed. This was well before the pill came to being. You do not just force people to go against there beliefs because they are not the same as yours. Separation of Church and State was meant to keep the State from forcing the people into a State run Church with the States beliefs as happened in England under King Henry the 8th. If you do not want to work in a Catholic Hospital or institution there are other hospitals. The Bible has been gutted enough by people who call themselves Christians. The Bible has been used in this country for generations, as our laws and in our courts,,but as we progress there are some people who think it to be a menu of pick and choose, it is not, The Bible has not changed since it was first inspired and written, the hospitals are not discriminating against one group, they are following the laws of the Bible. If you want more money or different privileges you go to the job that offers what you want. Some jobs do not give pensions are we going to force that on all employers and maybe everyone should make at least $20 an hour. Think about it, even in Prison, Prisoners are allowed to practice there faith and eat food that is allowed by there beliefs, but we would force the Catholic Church to swallow their beliefs and go against GOD.

        • If religious institutions decide to go into other, non-religious areas like health care, they can’t insist on religious exemptions to conduct required of everyone else. There may be a pragmatic reason for the government to give them wide discretion, but not an ethical or legal one. Freedom of religion has to do with belief and worship, not insurance and access to health care.

          The Church is on weak ground legally and constitutionally. Your argument would be used for stores that don’t serve blacks: after all, they can always go someplace else to shop. I’m unconvinced. Sympathetic, but unconvinced.

        • Random capitalization, lying about the founding of the country, appealing to prior bad acts, special pleading. Yea, this is a valid argument.

  2. And this is the conclusion I come to when I think about gay marriage. In my mind, it would be protected under the First Amendment.

    I am trying to think of a way to explain the gross ignorance of the church in this matter and I just can’t seem to form the sentences as I want to. I keep spluttering and rambling.

  3. I seem to remember Henry VIII had a “similar” problem. We all know how that ended. A few wives lost their heads, but he did manage to prove a point. If you are taking federal funds, then don’t you “render unto Caesar”? I think if no federal funds of any sort are involved, then maybe the Church has a point, but I thought we settled this ages ago.

    “…”wall of separation between church and state,” as written in Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. The original text reads: “… I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” Jefferson reflected his frequent speaking theme that the government is not to interfere with religion…” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_church_and_state

    But – I go back to Henry VIII. If we are to remain a free nation, I don’t see how Rome can call the shots for the US. The whole thing makes me very uncomfortable, but I’m beginning to suspect someone is starting to play Thomas a Becket and prove the Church is stronger than the state. That ended badly, also.

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

  4. The problem is that the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act is also law – and that, too, should be applied. Or is the argument that some ends (health care reform, gay marriage) justify the means of turning Catholics or others who object to or oppose supposedly “progressive” causes into de facto second-class citizens?

    Because that is where this is ultimately headed. There already are cases where attempts have been made to expel counseling students like Julea Ward – simply because they had views stemming from their religious beliefs. Now, it is as if some, via enactment of certain policies, are trying to hang signs in front of pharmacological schools that say “No Catholics Need Apply” for all intents and purposes.

    The Church of the Progressive Social Gospel seems to be just as willing as the Religious Right to impose their doctrines on everyone via the law – if not more so. It also seems to be just as intolerant of dissent or disagreement.

    With so many options, and open competition, there should be room to let the free market decide this. Yet the adherents of the Progressive Social Gospel would rather impose their views and ruin the lives and/or careers of those who disagree with them – and use the government to aid and abet them.

    That is what scares me more than a pharmacist declining to provide RU-486 or Catholic Charities not wanting to handle adoptions by gay couples.

    We can have the “progressive” version of “equality” in this country, or we can have freedom. But the two concepts appear to be mutually exclusive from where I sit.

    • 1. I very much doubt that the 1993 Act applies here at all, since it focuses exclusively on individual rights, not Church beliefs. Did you read the Act?
      2. Even if it did apply, the provision almost certainly wouldn’t violate it.
      3. You can’t just yell “freedom” in a conflict like this and walk away. Are you willing to, say, let hospitals run by certain Muslim sects to discriminate against women, for example? Why not? Should Mormons get to have harems? Why not? You’re not analyzing, you’re just ranting.
      4. Nobody’s “imposing views”. The government is imposing medical coverage of a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to every other American as interpreted through the Supreme Court,
      5. This comment doesn’t show very much “inquiring.” You don’t want me to have to call you “Knee-Jerking Blogger” do you?
      6. Hint: any argument that ends up suggesting that I am a “progressive” loses.,

      • There are people who believe the Supreme Court goes far beyond just interpreting the law. They do not have the power to legislate but they manage to do it somehow.
        There is also the matter of intent and I really don’t see how you can argue the Founders intended a law allowing millions of pregnancies to be terminated.
        If these laws are going to be passed,fine. Just don’t go waving the Constitution in my face. Am I the only one who’s noticed that this behemoth of a Federal government is a far cry from what it used to be or dare I say intended? The states grovel at it’s feet.

        • There are people who believe the Supreme Court goes far beyond just interpreting the law. They do not have the power to legislate but they manage to do it somehow.

          The first statement is true, but useless. Just because people believe something, that doesn’t make it true. The second statment is incorrect. Just because you call it legislating doesn’t mean it is.

          There is also the matter of intent and I really don’t see how you can argue the Founders intended a law allowing millions of pregnancies to be terminated.

          By this logic, I can argue for banning any gun that can shoot accurately at 20 paces or that can shoot 2 bullets in less than 30 seconds.

          If these laws are going to be passed,fine. Just don’t go waving the Constitution in my face. Am I the only one who’s noticed that this behemoth of a Federal government is a far cry from what it used to be or dare I say intended? The states grovel at it’s feet.

          So, it’s cool if individual state’s passed this legislation, or are you moving the goalposts?

  5. This is a fascinating issue. Jack, thanks for bringing it up here, and for your considered analysis. Now, let me state why I partially disagree with it.

    We see in this case an outstanding example of the flustercuck that is modern government. The health care bill, like many other major pieces of legislation in recent history, sets general outlines and authorizes revenues, but then cedes authority for specific rulemaking to federal agencies. These agencies are led by political appointees who owe their allegiance to the executive branch, not to the legislative bodies which (at least in theory) represent the people (over time, and as executives change, new appointees may or may not change rules or simply ignore existing ones, but in general the rulemaking and enforcement continues to grow like Topsy courtesy of the career worker bees in these agencies).

    The idea that public institutions run by religious organizations must provide birth control services was never enshrined in the health care law – indeed, if it had been, the odds of its passage would have been greatly diminished due to the large number of Catholics who typically vote Democrat. This is why you’re hearing the howls of outrage now, especially from the Catholic Dioceses, many of which worked extremely hard for the passage of Obamacare. They feel (and I would argue, with some validity) betrayed.

    Adopting a cloak of political sang-froid, I could agree with you to the extent that this is useful as a matter of tactics: this situation is our best example yet of the intrusive nature of the health care law and its overreach, and it’s a far more emotionally powerful one than… oh, say, all the waivers already doled out to the politically favored. So from that standpoint, one could say “Hey, there’s your law, and this is what it brings. Now get rid of the damned thing.” That this calculation has been made and some are exploiting it for that purpose shouldn’t be a surprise.

    From a standpoint of pure ethics, one could also certainly argue something else: until this dreadful law was enacted, women who were offered employment by a religiously-based organization had a choice: accept the job and the benefit package as is (and either forego birth control or pay for it out-of-pocket) or find another employer with a less-restrictive policy.

    So yes, President Obama is “right,” but only within the constraints of a horrendous piece of legislation opposed by the majority of the nation. there is such a thing as bad law, and unethical law. Is it not ethical to oppose unethical law?

    • A different issue, though. Those howling supporters of the bill unethically voted for a monster they did not read, couldn’t understand, and that was so complicated it can be used for all sorts of mischief. I have no sympathy for them. The health care reform law is indeed horrible, but it’s everyone’s horrible law.

      • Ah… but did not one Pelosi, N. (D-Calif.) say something to the effect of “We have to pass the law in order to find out what’s in it”?

        No one read it, no one understood it, including those who crafted it. As I said, sang-froid…

      • Ah! Thanks Jack, you’ve pointed out where the real need is. The country needs a “Obligations of Legislators to Understand the Damned Laws They Pass Before Passing Them, Including Being Able to Explain What the Hell The Laws Mean to the Complete Understanding and Satisfaction of Illiterate (English-Speaking) Persons of Under Eight Years of Age” Act.

        I know, I know. I can already hear Donald Duck warning that even if the Act is passed into law, the Supreme Court will strike down the entire Act because the title contains “pronoun trouble.” Not to mention that hateful, discriminatory implied English requirement.

        What can I say? My paid work involves so-called implementing regulations, and by this time of day, I can get kinda grumpy about it all. But I would SO love to be the author of implementing regulations for an Act like that! I would SO enjoy seeing legislators subjected to federal regulations that fist-up right into their rear ends everything they cram-down on the rest of us.

    • The idea that public institutions run by religious organizations must provide birth control services was never enshrined in the health care law

      Yes it was. The access to birth control was in the bill. Religious organizations are not exempt from general laws.

      This is why you’re hearing the howls of outrage now, especially from the Catholic Dioceses, many of which worked extremely hard for the passage of Obamacare. They feel (and I would argue, with some validity) betrayed.

      Or they didn’t realize what they were backing…or thought they were going to get special treatment. What does it take for an American Christian to feel persecution? Being treated equally.

      this situation is our best example yet of the intrusive nature of the health care law and its overreach

      Clearly, equal application is overreach? I think you’re making my previous point for me.

      From a standpoint of pure ethics, one could also certainly argue something else: until this dreadful law was enacted, women who were offered employment by a religiously-based organization had a choice: accept the job and the benefit package as is (and either forego birth control or pay for it out-of-pocket) or find another employer with a less-restrictive policy.

      So, you want the power back where it belongs…in the hands of robber barons.

      Is it not ethical to oppose unethical law?

      If you find the law unethical, oppose it, but the individual question we are discussing here (applicability to catholic organizations of a genueral rule) is clearly not unethical.

  6. This one’s an easy call for me, and it has 0% to do with my religious beliefs and 100% to do with my occasional libertarian streak.

    Where does the federal government get off telling me that I have to provide ANY heath insurance for my employees, let alone telling me what sort of coverage will be provided? That is a PRIVATE matter between me and my employees, to be decided in whatever manner we agree upon.

    Private. Contract. None. Of. Your. Business.

    –Dwayne

    • As you might guess, I have no problem with that point of view. But if you have to do it, so does the Catholic down the street. Equality. Integrity. It may be a bad law, but everyone should have to follow it. Giving the people who are most likely to oppose a law immunity from it just makes it more likely that the law will survive.

  7. The Amish are exempt from the healthcare bill as a whole. All businesses and churches. They will not be punished in any way for not complying with the new law. That gives precedent for the Catholic institutions to also get an exemption. It will have to be fought in court but it’s there.

    • I’ll take your word for it, but if true, it’s a bad precedent. There is no reason for a community to be immune from laws the rest of us have to follow just because they have quaint traditions.

  8. Jack, you are right in your analysis, in my opinion. What we have here is a powerful non-ethical consideration, and the Catholics have the clout to get their way eventually, just as Muslims would if they were as significant a minority as Catholics.

    Is it ethical to require Catholics to fully participate to the same extent as everyone else? Of course it is. But as we all know, powerful non-ethical considerations like this can often trump straight-line ethics calculations.

    We force the religious to accept all kinds of laws that fly in the face of their beliefs. Muslims are canoniacally forbidden from being involved in transactions where interest is charged, but here in America, they are forced to accept our system regardless of religious beliefs. Some lenders oblige them by offering loans that meet Sharia requirements, but others don’t.

    But they are all non-ethical considerations. From an ethics standpoint, it seems pretty sound to me, even if my personal mores reject what the administration is doing in this case.

  9. Sorry to be entering this debate so late, Jack. I wondered when you would bring it up. I don’t really have the time necessary at this moment to really wade into this, but… As an individual employed by the Catholic Church, I have this to say — I have the right also to work elsewhere than the Church if I expect the Church to go against its morality by funding services that it considers to be “inherently evil” (term of art). This is where I think the issue stands. Unfortunately, that means that prospective employees of the Church would probably have to take a loyalty oath or promise to never ask for anything that the Church feels it can’t provide. OK. Other than the fact that I hate taking oaths, I don’t see the problem. What I fear, as a current employee of the Catholic Church, is that the condition will prove intolerable for the Church, and I will lose my health insurance, or will be forced to pay exorbitant amounts in order to maintain my coverage. That really makes me angry. More later.

      • Ok, here is some more (but much more percolating). From an ethical/philosophical point of view, can we make a distinction between taking an action and dissenting from the requirement to take an action? IOW, the law would require institutions that disagree with certain medical situations to provide insurance coverage to their employees for these medical situations, and these religious institutions merely wish to NOT participate, i.e., to NOT ACT. Whereas, some of the arguments against this conscience exemption (right here in these blog responses) are that the slippery slope would then allow religious institutions to act, our of this conscience objection, in ways that are against the law, e.g., discriminate against an ethnic group, or, as in the Beatles movie “Help,” sacrifice Ringo to the goddess Kaili, i.e., to ACT. What do you say, Jack?

        • Here’s an action example for you: It is against my beliefs to have my picture taken, so I should be exempt from being required to have a driver’s license that shows my face, exempt from having a picture on my passport, exempt from needing a picture ID to purchase alcohol, etc…

          Prohibitting an action vs requiring an action is not much of an actual difference. Deciding not to do X is just as much a decision as deciding to do X. I tend to fall pretty far into libertarianism, but that’s just silly.

          • You are not, in fact, required by law to have a driver’s license*, a passport, or to purchase alcohol.

            –Dwayne

            *particularly if you want to vote. 😉

    • that means that prospective employees of the Church would probably have to take a loyalty oath or promise to never ask for anything that the Church feels it can’t provide.

      Even with the wide latitude given to religious organizations, that would be unconstitutional.

      What if a specific sect thinks it’s evil to allow gays to live? If they believed the bible ordered gays be killed, should the sect be forced to obey murder laws?

  10. So you would have agreed with Nazi Germany. It was the law to deport Jews to concentration camps and to exterminate them. You said, “free exercise of religion cannot include the right to ignore, disobey, or be exempted from laws.” Also, “when their beliefs clash with the laws of the land, the laws must prevail over religious morality.” You are saying that the state should come first, regardless of the dictates of our consciences. Evidently, you believe those, who enforced Hitler’s laws were right to do so, regardless of whether or not they thought it was immoral. I am sorry, but when it comes to a choice between government and my concience and religious beliefs, they will come first . I don’t care what government orders it.

    • I don’t see that argument. Asking for your group to be exempt is not the same as arguing that the law, in general, is bad. A conscientious objector fights to change the whole law, not just that it applies to him or her.

      I’d also argue that if your basing your sense of right and wrong on faith, your position is inherently invalid, but that’s not even necessary here.

    • Yes, Jose, I’m sure that’s what everyone thinks I’m saying…that requiring Catholic institutions to follow reasonable regulations that everyone else must follow is the same as exterminating the Jews. And there, in a nutshell, is why morality is great for people who don’t want to bother to have to deal with details and nuances and all the factual problems that make determining right and wrong an ongoing challenge. You don’t have to think..it’s meat-axe ethics. The Church says, and when the Church says, it doesn’t matter whether the law that contradicts the church is or who it helps or hurts—a law that favors genocide is the same as a law that allows women to prevent unwanted pregnancies, because reason and consequences don’t matter, all that matters is that the law is in opposition to morality. A chimp could make the choice. Church Good, any thing opposing, Bad.

      By the way, I consider conscience a matter of reason, not blind compliance. And that’s why, as a matter of conscience, so many Catholics ignore the Church’s 12th Century morality when it makes no sense.

      • “Yes, Jose, I’m sure that’s what everyone thinks I’m saying…that requiring Catholic institutions to follow reasonable regulations that everyone else must follow is the same as exterminating the Jews. ”
        Jack,what you can’t seem to understand is that,for Christians, killing unborn children is exactly the same as exterminating the Jews.

        • That might be a germane comment Karla, if the provision under discussion had anything to do with “killing unborn children.” Do Christians believe that contraception is the same as exterminating Jews? That losing a sperm is like killing Ann Frank? That would be odd, since the vast majority of Christian women practice some form of birth control. How is a vasectomy “killing Jews”? How is an IUD “killing Jews”?
          Come on.

          • “The solution is simple, get out of any business that requires you to support abortions.”
            That’s what I said.Unfortunately for these institutions they’ve been here long before Obamacare and now suddenly, after Obama suggested he wouldn’t require them to supply these services to get them to go along with him,he reverses on them.

            “Now, suppose someone honestly and religiously believed that gays should be put to death. Should they be exempted from murder statutes? That’s really what you’re arguing for”
            So you’re saying that murder is a religious concept? Not killing a fetus is not the same as killing a gay person ethically speaking.

            • “Not killing a fetus is not the same as killing a gay person ethically speaking.” Or so you say. There is nothing to prevent a religion from holing the belief that killing a gay person is fine—indeed, the Old Testament has language endorsing it. Both decreeing homosexuality as a crime against God’s Law (morality) and requiring execution and saying that God’s Law forbids abortion are moral precepts that, according to you, man’s law cannot contradict.

              • What? Wait a minute. Not killing a fetus isn’t a crime. Killing a gay person is indeed a crime. I’m not talking Bible here. Murder is wrong according to the law of the land so it isn’t just a religious concept.
                “That might be a germane comment Karla, if the provision under discussion had anything to do with “killing unborn children.”
                I got off topic. They do believe the morning after pill is killing though. But my comment about abortion why are Christians so hated for being against it? It’s not anything like killing gays. Not even remotely.
                Jack,being that it’s legal and all means that I have to accept it but do I have to view it in the same light as those who are for it? If I don’t like abortion I don’t have to get one. I don’t have to rake the morning after pill or any pill for that matter. I can avoid careers that involve those things. What more would you want from me?

                • What? Wait a minute. Not killing a fetus isn’t a crime. Killing a gay person is indeed a crime. I’m not talking Bible here. Murder is wrong according to the law of the land so it isn’t just a religious concept.

                  Restricting access to contraception is also wrong by the law of the land. Why should their be a religious exemption to this, but not to murder?

                  But my comment about abortion why are Christians so hated for being against it? It’s not anything like killing gays.

                  That’s further off topic. We’re talking about the arguments that are used to support exemptions. The same argument that is being used for avoiding being subject to providing birth control can be used to avoid being subject to murder laws.

                  If you want, we can talk about your suppositions here, but lets finish the original discussion first.

                    • Dicussing whether gays should or should not be killed is off topic, but explaining how it would be supported by the bishops’ argument is not.

                      It looks to me like you’re trying to change the topic. That’s not something people normally do when they have logic and evidence on their side

                    • “Dicussing whether gays should or should not be killed is off topic, but explaining how it would be supported by the bishops’ argument is not.

                      It looks to me like you’re trying to change the topic. That’s not something people normally do when they have logic and evidence on their side.”
                      No,I was through commenting on the topic. My questions were off topic but I know there will likely be no other forum to which they would be addressed.

                    • No,I was through commenting on the topic

                      Through because you realized the counter arguments were persuasive and you changed your mind, or through because you realized the counter arguments were persuasive and you didn’t want to change your mind?

                      I know, it wasn’t to me, but I’m going to respond to your new question anyway, just in a new thread.

            • and now suddenly, after Obama suggested he wouldn’t require them to supply these services to get them to go along with him,he reverses on them.

              Hwat? I don’t see a sudden reversal. This was in the bill to start. The church just assumed they’d get an exception.

              So you’re saying that murder is a religious concept? Not killing a fetus is not the same as killing a gay person ethically speaking.

              I’m saying that a religious belief is a BS reason to be exempt from law. We’ve been over this before, once you grant faith is enough reason for X, you have to let in A, B, C, D, .. that are based on faith.

  11. This just in….”Seeking to allay the concerns of Catholic leaders, the White House is planning to adjust its health care rule requiring religious employers to provide women access to contraception, a senior administration official said Friday.

    Women will be guaranteed coverage for contraceptive services, but would have to seek the coverage directly from their insurance companies if their employers object to birth control on religious grounds.”

  12. From Kara’s comment above:

    But my comment about abortion why are Christians so hated for being against it? It’s not anything like killing gays. Not even remotely.
    Jack,being that it’s legal and all means that I have to accept it but do I have to view it in the same light as those who are for it? If I don’t like abortion I don’t have to get one. I don’t have to rake the morning after pill or any pill for that matter. I can avoid careers that involve those things. What more would you want from me?

    First, Christians aren’t hated for being against abortion. They’re opposed because they want to make abortion unavailable to anyone. I’m perfectly fine if you’re against abortion for yourself, but when you try to tell someone who is not against abortion that they cannot have one, then you’re being theocratic.

    If, as you said, you are anti-personal abortion, but pro-choice for others, then you’d actually be praised by the people you are complaining want things from you.

    • Well,I suppose then when I say I’m a Christian people assume that I will kidnap women who try to get an abortion. I’m exaggerating a bit there. No I’m not pro-choice for others. I still would rather they didn’t get abortions but I don’t feel it’s my place (nor anyone’s) to intimidate or threaten them. I’m not one to shove picket signs in their faces.

      • No intimidation or threats = good.
        Backing that nobody should have the choice = bad.

        The position you’ve stated here shows that your previous statement was a misrepresentation of your position:

        If I don’t like abortion I don’t have to get one. I don’t have to rake the morning after pill or any pill for that matter. I can avoid careers that involve those things. What more would you want from me?

        You’re not simply disagreeing personally. You’re disagreeing that anyone should be able to make a decision.

        • But if someone sincerely believes that abortion is murder, the killing of an innocent human being without consent, that person cannot simultaneously believe that anyone should have the choice. That’s why crazies who kill abortion doctors have integrity and courage in their extremist insanity.. If you except their assumptions, their act is ethically defensible.

          • Ethically defensible on that person’s closed system, but it’s also ethical and appropriate for the rested of society to criticize them and hate what they stand for.

            We agree on the former, but Karla is denying the the latter part.

          • Speaking as a person who’s ok with legalizing at least a certain level of abortion, I wish more pro-choice people would understand this very, very simple concept; when they coach their support for abortion in terms of women’s rights, they’re mostly doing nothing but talking over the heads of people who see this issue as one involving just where “human” life starts.

        • See that’s what I don’t understand, why I should have to sacrifice my principles. That’s my question really in a nutshell. If I don’t prevent a woman from getting an abortion why must I say that it’s right and good?

          • No one’s saying you have to sacrifice your principles.

            It’s not that you want to believe things that is a problem, it’s that you think your beliefs should be immune from criticism.

            Nazi’s can believe that jews shouldn’t be allowed to live, but they don’t get to complain when people call them hateful bigots.

              • Aside from being based on falsities, and supporting faith in general (both enough reason for criticism on their own), your belief (which you have argued for in this space) would deny rights to other people.

                I don’t hate you, but I hate your belief.

                • So it’s not my belief on abortion per se but my reasons for that belief? So if I weren’t religious but still against abortion that would make a difference?
                  Where have I said I would deny rights to people? I have said that anti-day after pill pharmacists should step down and be replaced or,now,not enter the profession at all. I have said I would not stand in a woman’s way to get an abortion. I’m certainly not going to shoot abortion doctors. Why must I believe,then,that abortion is ok?

                  • So it’s not my belief on abortion per se but my reasons for that belief?

                    It’s both.

                    So if I weren’t religious but still against abortion that would make a difference?

                    Depends what your new logic is. Throw out religion, but still claim that “life beings at conception (and this implies that this life should have the full rights of a human being)” and that “a fetus looks like a baby” and then there is no actual change. As I’ve said over and over, faith is bad, whether it’s religious or non religious.

                    Where have I said I would deny rights to people?

                    You have advocated (on ethics alarms) that abortion is immoral and the abortion laws in this country should be changed.

                    Why must I believe,then,that abortion is ok?

                    Straw man, and a particularly stupid one at that. As I have said repeatedly, you can believe whatever you want.

                    A bigot doesn’t have to acutally do anything bigotted to be called out on their belief.

                    • So if I weren’t religious but still against abortion that would make a difference?
                      Depends what your new logic is.

                      Okay, I’m game. Try this on for size:

                      Science has made all sorts of advances in the field of understanding and identifying humans via DNA.

                      Since the DNA of a single newly-fertilized ovum cell has DNA which is unmistakably homo sapiens and that DNA can be clearly identified as distinct (though similar) from the mother’s DNA, it is inescapable that the cell is not a part of the mother’s body and that it has its own unique identity as a separate and distinct person.*

                      Therefore, for a mother to end the life of, or create conditions that inevitably cause the end of the life of that single cell, is equivalent to killing another living human being.

                      Discuss.

                      –Dwayne

                      * Yes, the picture gets muddy when identical twins/triplets/etc. are involved.

                    • “Since the DNA of a single newly-fertilized ovum cell has DNA which is unmistakably homo sapiens and that DNA can be clearly identified as distinct (though similar) from the mother’s DNA, it is inescapable that the cell is not a part of the mother’s body and that it has its own unique identity as a separate and distinct person.*
                      Yes,thank you,Dwayne. Human being. And a 20 week old fetus certainly looks it too. But having the DNA and the looks doesn’t make it so,right tgt? Just admit that humans are being killed and you’re fine with it. Why do you keep having to dehumanize it? A fetus is not a human while it’s in the womb but a few hours later at birth it is? A fetus can be terminated hours before the mother would have gone into labor but you aren’t killing a human? Size and age determine whether or not it’s human?
                      As the saying goes,”If it’s not a baby you aren’t pregnant.”

                    • ” faith is bad, whether it’s religious or non religious.” So you have no faith in anything. That is a truly stupid remark. Everybody has faith in something sometime. If you didn’t you’d be too paralyzed with fear to get out of bed in the morning.
                      “Straw man, and a particularly stupid one at that. As I have said repeatedly, you can believe whatever you want.

                      A bigot doesn’t have to acutally do anything bigotted to be called out on their belief.”
                      You are truly unreasonable. Unless I believe as you do then I’m not acceptable. Funny,I’ve heard that charge made against Christians. Where is your tolerance of others who believe differently than you?
                      There is nothing wrong in believing that killing the unborn is wrong. Just because it was made legal is not going to change that. I believed it was wrong before I was a Christian and I believe it now.

                    • Dwayne, Your argument is trivial. No one’s arguing that the fetus is not a human fetus.

                      So it’s a human fetus and it’s life… you then just aver that it’s equivalent to a fully grown human being. That’s the step where you need to show your work.

                      Karla,

                      ” faith is bad, whether it’s religious or non religious.” So you have no faith in anything. That is a truly stupid remark. Everybody has faith in something sometime. If you didn’t you’d be too paralyzed with fear to get out of bed in the morning.

                      You’re equivocating on the word faith. I have faith the sun will rise, that my mailman won’t break into my house, that my car will start. That kind of faith is not belief without evidence. It’s belief based on evidence.

                      “Straw man, and a particularly stupid one at that. As I have said repeatedly, you can believe whatever you want.

                      A bigot doesn’t have to acutally do anything bigotted to be called out on their belief.”
                      You are truly unreasonable. Unless I believe as you do then I’m not acceptable. Funny,I’ve heard that charge made against Christians. Where is your tolerance of others who believe differently than you?

                      If you have irrational beliefs, then yes, those beliefs are unacceptable. I don’t see what the issue is. I’m not ostracizing someone because of their beliefs. I’m attacking the beliefs and reasons for them.

                      There is nothing wrong in believing that killing the unborn is wrong. Just because it was made legal is not going to change that. I believed it was wrong before I was a Christian and I believe it now.

                      ..and if your reasoning is stupid, then it’s a stupid belief.

                    • “If you have irrational beliefs, then yes, those beliefs are unacceptable. I don’t see what the issue is. I’m not ostracizing someone because of their beliefs. I’m attacking the beliefs and reasons for them.”
                      No tgt,I think you have a problem with the people themselves. You made a slip once then corrected yourself when someone called you on it. Something to the effect that religious people are idiots but when it was pointed out that religious people could also be intelligent you changed it to their beliefs were idiotic. I can feel the hostility of atheists such as Richard Dawkins. You aren’t so bad but it’s there.
                      “I try to unplug during the weekends. Keeps me sane.” I know what you mean. I don’t know how Jack puts up with us all.
                      You know tgt,I don’t like hostility or even people merely disliking each other. And of course I like to be liked. When possible,I try to be an arbiter for peace but that doesn’t work where religion is concerned. Me,I wouldn’t care if someone believed the Sun was god or the grass was blue and the sky green. It doesn’t make me boil inside.

                    • “If you have irrational beliefs, then yes, those beliefs are unacceptable. I don’t see what the issue is. I’m not ostracizing someone because of their beliefs. I’m attacking the beliefs and reasons for them.”
                      No tgt,I think you have a problem with the people themselves. You made a slip once then corrected yourself when someone called you on it. Something to the effect that religious people are idiots but when it was pointed out that religious people could also be intelligent you changed it to their beliefs were idiotic.

                      If one has idiotic beliefs, calling them an idiot may be mean, but it isn’t inaccurate. We humans are really good at compartmentalizing our thought processes. Someone can be a complete idiot about some things while being extremely intelligent about others.

                      I can feel the hostility of atheists such as Richard Dawkins. You aren’t so bad but it’s there.

                      Really? Dawkins is hostile? I’ve never seen that. He’s blunt. Very, very blunt.

                      You know tgt,I don’t like hostility or even people merely disliking each other. And of course I like to be liked.

                      I don’t disagree, but I’ll take accuracy over peaceable wrongness. At least I try to. Sometimes I fail.

                      When possible,I try to be an arbiter for peace but that doesn’t work where religion is concerned.

                      Staking out the middle ground between true and false is still false.

                      Me,I wouldn’t care if someone believed the Sun was god or the grass was blue and the sky green. It doesn’t make me boil inside.

                      …or gays are bad or patriarchy is good or killing infidels is necessary…

                    • “Really? Dawkins is hostile? I’ve never seen that. He’s blunt. Very, very blunt.”
                      Come on. He takes the issue personally but then you aren’t on the receiving end. Christopher Hitchens was equally blunt but I never sensed a smoldering below the surface with him.
                      “…or gays are bad or patriarchy is good or killing infidels is necessary…”
                      But I don’t believe that but I know you lump all religions together. If a group of atheists believed Christians should be killed should I lump you in with them? Millions died under a similar atheistic system. You and those atheists had one thing in common,lack of faith which is your foundation stone. Religious people aren’t the only ones with irrational beliefs or who are capable of violence. Of course you may tell me that the comparison isn’t valid but it still remains that some non-religious people have strong world views that are totally irrational.

                    • “…or gays are bad or patriarchy is good or killing infidels is necessary…”
                      But I don’t believe that but I know you lump all religions together. If a group of atheists believed Christians should be killed should I lump you in with them? Millions died under a similar atheistic system. You and those atheists had one thing in common,lack of faith which is your foundation stone. Religious people aren’t the only ones with irrational beliefs or who are capable of violence. Of course you may tell me that the comparison isn’t valid but it still remains that some non-religious people have strong world views that are totally irrational.

                      I’m not lumping you in with believers of horrible ideas. You said you didn’t care what people believed. Clearly you do…so long as you deem their beliefs harmless.

                      You say “lack of faith” like it’s a bad thing. I also build my world on a “lack of stupidity” and “lack of immorality”.

                      Yes, some non-religious people have views that are irrational. I’m against them as well, moreso when they claim their views are off limits to criticism. I believe I’ve been clear on this point: religion isn’t special in it’s wrongness, just more common, and more commonly given a pass.

                    • “You say “lack of faith” like it’s a bad thing.” No I didn’t. I just stated it as the one thing that atheists have in common. Not all atheists have a problem with religion. I know some. Some atheists in history killed people who disagreed with their form of government. Others want to live and let live.
                      Criticizing someone’s beliefs,opinions is one thing. Attacking the person’s character,motives,intelligence is another. That’s something people are quite good at.
                      Do you have any “irrational”friends? You come across as so superior that I figure you must think keeping company with them is beneath you.

                    • “You say “lack of faith” like it’s a bad thing.” No I didn’t. I just stated it as the one thing that atheists have in common.

                      The phrasing has an inherent implication. The “lack of” implies a negative.

                      Not all atheists have a problem with religion. I know some. Some atheists in history killed people who disagreed with their form of government. Others want to live and let live.

                      First, without talking about the why of it, it’s irrelevant that some people killed. That’s poisoning the well.

                      Second, accomodationism is an even less defensible position than religious belief. Faithists tend to be honestly mistaken. Accomodationists know what’s right, but don’t deal with it. The good man who does nothing.

                      Criticizing someone’s beliefs,opinions is one thing. Attacking the person’s character,motives,intelligence is another. That’s something people are quite good at.

                      I’m confused by this. If your beliefs are stupid, how is it wrong to call the person stupid? That’s evidence based accusation, not ad hominem. Is it mean? Yes. But is it wrong? No.

                      Do you have any “irrational”friends? You come across as so superior that I figure you must think keeping company with them is beneath you.

                      I do have irrational friends. We ignore the topic of religion completely, or have entertaining arguments on the subject. Just like intelligent religious people, I can compartmentalize.

                    • ““You say “lack of faith” like it’s a bad thing.” No I didn’t. I just stated it as the one thing that atheists have in common. The phrasing has an inherent implication. The “lack of” implies a negative.”
                      Ok.how should I have put it? I know what was in my mind but obviously it comes across quite differently in my conversation. Regardless,I shouldn’t worry about it,right?
                      ” Second, accomodationism is an even less defensible position than religious belief. Faithists tend to be honestly mistaken. Accomodationists know what’s right, but don’t deal with it.”
                      So a murdering atheist is worse than a murdering Muslim? Is that what you’re saying?
                      “If your beliefs are stupid, how is it wrong to call the person stupid? That’s evidence based accusation, not ad hominem. Is it mean? Yes. But is it wrong? No. ”
                      Ok but the reason why someone might call another “stupid” or some other name is not to be instructive or to engage in debate. It’s sole purpose is to insult,to be dismissive. Ask anyone how they view being called stupid. Or call them stupid. They would either punch you or ask if that’s the best you’ve got. Being reduced to name calling has a certain connotation and it’s not flattering.

                    • Karla,

                      (1) I’ll take your word for your intent with “lack of faith.” Coming from the religious though, that’s normally a put down.

                      (2) If you grant me that Islam (and religion in general) is a mental disorder that keeps people knowing ethically right from ethically wrong, then I’ll agree with you. I actually used the word “wrong” to mean not true, so your response only followed by equivocation.

                      (3) I disagree. I call people idiots not to insult, but to be accurate. Invalid beliefs should not be validated. Your comment about “being reduced to name calling” is also wrong. That applies to ad hominem attacks, not blunt, but accurate, labels.

                    • “Karla, (1) I’ll take your word for your intent with “lack of faith.” Coming from the religious though, that’s normally a put down. ”
                      “(3) I disagree. I call people idiots not to insult, but to be accurate. ”
                      Thanks. And I will take your comment about calling people idiots at face value as well. Normally it’s a put down.

    • To avoid being criticized by this side, yes. Of course, you’ll then be criticized by the anti-abortionists. The issue is that you think it’s wrong and bad for your ideas to be criticized.

      • In other words,I not only have to allow for abortions but I have to like it.
        “To avoid being criticized by this side, yes. Of course, you’ll then be criticized by the anti-abortionists. The issue is that you think it’s wrong and bad for your ideas to be criticized.”
        I didn’t think anyone actually liked abortion.

  13. I would like to buy a health care plan that explicitly does not cover abortions.

    Because I’m a MALE and will never ever need it.

    –Dwayne

  14. Sir Jack,
    “A person who has all the answers is better known as Barack Obama”
    Hail to the King, for he shall make peasants of us all. Simple logic should be apllied to extreme examples, but our legal system given an inch takes a mile.
    Here’s a precedent for you, “The Constitution”. Read it and weep. The acts of a tyrannical leader who at every step circumvents combined Congress and the Supreme Court should scare you no matter what political party is in power.

    • Well, Stan, that wasn’t ethics commentary but a political rant, and Ethics Alarms isn’t your soap box. So applying my “one rant if I feel charitable at the time and it’s not too long and unforgivably vile” rule, I won’t delete this trash, but your next post had better have some substance, and not consist of silly generalizations and name-calling. And your concept of the Constitution is, to say the least, infantile. Say thank-you, and then bone up on ethics before your next attempt at a comment. And read the comment policy while you’re at it, please.

        • What does that have to do with anything? All Presidents make decisions in good faith belief that the Constitution allows what they are doing…even Richard Nixon, whose position was that if a President did it, it couldn’t be illegal. The issue of whether an act in unconstitutional or not is matter of debate, unless some act is blatantly and openly an intentional and admitted violation. This isn’t one, no matter what Sean Hannity says. The Constitution says that the US can’t establish a religion, and that people can worship as they please, not that church-run hospitals are immune from Federal law. Now, a court might agree with you and not Obama,,,but I wouldn’t bet the rent money on it if I were you.

  15. So if I go to any Catholic hospital because I need some form of brain surgery done, and they tell me that they “don’t do that here”, are they in violation of the law? Why not?

    Why is it automatically unethical for a hospital to not provide every service that can be provided, regardless of the reason? Why is “We don’t have any doctors on staff here who are trained and qualified to perform this procedure” not a valid and ethical reason?

    Or is there something special about abortion that IT gets a specific call-out in the law, but a Corpus callosotomy does not? Is just a little bit possible that this is a 100% political issue?

    –Dwayne

    • I haven’t gone through the threads to check, but I don’t think anyone said that a hospital had to do abortions, I don’t see anything in law or ethics that requires a hospital to do specific procedures. The conscience issue comes up when it involves withholding specific procedures from specific patients, while giving them to others

      • ” I don’t see anything in law or ethics that requires a hospital to do specific procedures. The conscience issue comes up when it involves withholding specific procedures from specific patients, while giving them to others.”
        Then why is it unethical for a pharmacist to withhold day after pills to everyone? She is being required to dispense a specific medication.

        • A specific pharmacist worker is not the same thing as a pharmacy business.

          That aside, the real issue is that a pharmacist’s job is delivering prescriptions. What the exact pills treat or cause is pretty irrelevant.

    • Probably because it only mentions the procedures that some organizations refuse to cover. If there was the same kind of situation with setting broken bones, I’m sure that would have been called out in the law.

      Now, what’s actually political is that no government money goes toward abortions.

    • Is there a corollary to Poe’s Law that states that real positions have gone so insane that they appear to be parodies?

      It’s not like that’s even close to a parallel.

  16. Is there a corollary to Poe’s Law that states that real positions have gone so insane that they appear to be parodies?

    It’s not like that’s even close to a parallel.

    How is that not a parallel?

    People need to eat, and some people eat pork chops. Should the government require a hunger insurance company to cover Friday night pork chop dinners? Should the government require employers to provide hunger insurance coverage that includes Friday night pork chop dinners?

    • How is that not a parallel?

      Jack is anti-ACA, so I’m going to go out on a limb and assume he’d be anti-Hunger insurance. Of course, we’re not talking about the appropriateness of the law, we’re talking about the appropriateness of exceptions to the law, so you’d have to propose that we have a feeding law on the books that already requires employeers to provide food for all their employees.

      We still haven’t hit a parallel situation yet. Next we’ll need agreement of nearly all food specialists and the association of nutrionists that friday-pork chop-eating is an important part of not being hungry for a selection of the population, and such can’t be simply replaced by nuts, mung beans, and other protein sources.

      Get all that, and then we have a parallel situation with. Care to venture what the response would be?

  17. Pingback: Conscience and the Law « Ethics Blog

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