Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Religion and Health Insurance

Ken O'Brien

Last Sunday in Catholic churches around the country priests told their congregations that they opposed new government rules that would require church sponsored institutions to offer contraceptive services in their health insurance programs. Other Christian denominations also vented their opposition to this requirement.

America's newest demagogue-in-chief, Newt Gingrich, seized on the subject to rail against "Obama's war on religion".

This latest furor reminds me of the old observation about the difference between an ethical man and a moral man. The ethical man knows that he shouldn't cheat on his wife; the moral man won't cheat on his wife.

The debate over making contraception available through health insurance in church sponsored institutions (the churches themselves are exempted) does nothing more than point out the failure of the churches. If the members of these institutions subscribed to the morality preached by the church there would be no concern because the availability of such an option would not induce people to avail themselves of it, just as the truly moral man would not cheat on his wife even if given the opportunity.

The requirement to make coverage for contraceptive services available applies to all and is non-discriminatory. What the churches want to do is to require a discriminatory practice against those employed in institutions that they sponsor and have it enforced by the government.

When a religion uses its influence to have the government enforce its view of morality we take one more step down the slippery slope toward theocracy. At what point does the matter of degree distinguish us from an Iran or a Talibani Afghanistan? Or is it just a matter of  a theocracy being alright as long as it is Christian?

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