If requiring religious institutions to make contraceptive care available to employees is unconstitutional, how can these things be?
1. Twenty-eight states require religious institutions to not only make contraceptive care available for employees but to PAY for it.
2. Most religious institutions in those states, including Roman Catholic ones, comply with those laws.
3. Catholic Bishops in some of those states have sued to block these laws and have always LOST in court.
As I have followed the debate over the contraception issue, I have observed that many people misunderstand the nature of freedom of religion as it is guaranteed by the First Amendment. Many seem to think it is an unlimited right. It is not. None of our constitutional rights are unlimited. For one thing, my rights are limited when they conflict with yours.
In the case of freedom of religion, every American is free to BELIEVE anything he or she wants, but no one is free to DO anything he or she wants. Limits on what we can do in the name of religion are many, and some of them should be familiar to everyone.
Christian Science parents are not permitted to deny their children treatment for life-threatening diseases, and if they do so they can be criminally charged. Breakaway Mormon sects are not permitted to engage in bigamy or marry off underage girls, and some of their leaders are in prison for doing so. Conscientious objectors, such as Quakers, may BELIEVE that their federal taxes should not help pay for wars, but if they don’t pay those taxes they face criminal charges.
And so it goes.
The farther a religious organization wanders from worship into other activities, the less it can claim those activities are protected as religious freedoms. That’s why the administration’s new contraception rule does not apply to churches but does apply to hospitals and schools, where what goes on is at least partially, if not predominantly, secular.
Anyone who operates a hospital or school is subject to a large number of federal, state, and local laws including building codes, medical standards, and business laws–and they must obey them regardless of whether they conflict with their religious beliefs.
Of course, Roman Catholics have every right to complain that providing contraception to employees would violate their moral beliefs. But this does not mean they have a legal right not to provide the benefit.
The constitutional claim here is weak, and so far it has been a consistent loser in the courts.