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First Amendment freedoms don’t place churches above the law

Published: Sun, February 19, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

When the contraception issue first made headlines a week or two ago, the American Catholic Bishops went over the top to vigorously complain about their loss of religious freedom and liberty, and that the administration had “cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution.” The rule they were complaining about required all employers to provide various forms of preventive health care, such as vaccinations for children, wellness exams for seniors, and contraception for women of child-bearing age. Statistics show that insurance companies save money when they provide these preventive services.

While religious orders and churches were specifically made exempt from the contraception rule, independent church-related entities, such as universities and health care institutions, were not exempt. Those entities employ people of all religions or no religion and serve the general public without regard to religious affiliation, thus taking them outside of the exemption for purely religious organizations.

Because of these concerns, the rule was relaxed by the administration to expand the church exemption to religiously affiliated institutions. The employees will get contraception services without charge directly from health insurance companies. Thus, Catholic and Catholic-related institutions will not be required to pay for contraceptive services.

In continuing their complaints about religious freedom and the First Amendment, the bishops are not on firm ground. Their First Amendment rights are not absolute. The freedom of religion is subject to a balancing test among competing interests in any particular situation. A person or a church may have the right to preach about their doctrine that contraception is immoral, but they don’t have the same right to enforce that doctrine on unwilling individuals or non-believers. That is civil law, and the church should keep out of civil law. That’s called separation of church and state.

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops recently stated that the “nationwide mandate of insurance coverage ... is both unsupported in the law and remains a grave moral concern.” Since 1968, Catholic theologians from around the world have questioned the status of the church teaching on contraception. The threat here is not to the religious freedom of the church, but to the personal freedom and conscience of women who are entitled by law to have access to these benefits and the right to receive the highest quality of health care, including contraception, no matter who they work for. It is hoped the final details of this controversy can be resolved on that basis – women’s’ health.

Richard P. McLaughlin, Youngstown


1Photoman(1030 comments)posted 3 years ago

That buzzing sound you hear is created by our Founders spinning in their graves as the U.S. Constitution is being dismantled or, at best, ignored, by our governmental agencies and the White House itself.

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2peacelover(798 comments)posted 3 years ago

Gee, newsmaker, that's a great idea. But first let's make women who want to buy guns undergo mandatory counseling to discourage them from ever shooting and killing someone with their gun, and show them graphic pictures of dead people too. Of course if they are under 18 then their parents will have to be notified, too.
You right wingers just won't let this go, will you? Anything to try to cast President Obama in a bad light. Why are we even talking about contraception, this is 2012, not 1912. Too bad for you because according to a recent CBS/New York Times national public opinion poll, Americans back President Obama 61% to 31% on this issue. What happened to the jobs-and-the -economy issue? remember that?

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3peacelover(798 comments)posted 3 years ago

Here's the link to the article about the poll. Make sure you read the second paragraph.

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4peacelover(798 comments)posted 3 years ago

If that link won't work, here are the first two paragraphs:

"It's not even close: By a lopsided margin of 66 percent to 26 percent, Americans support President Barack Obama's proposal to require private health insurance plans to cover the full cost of birth control for women, according to a new CBS/New York Times public opinion poll.

Rephrasing the question to ask specifically about "religiously affiliated employers, such as a hospital or university," barely moved the needle, to 61 percent to 31 percent."

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5redeye1(4878 comments)posted 3 years ago

Everyone is talking about birth control . What about birth control for men There are men who don't want to have kids, so they have to buy their own condoms. WHY? Its decimination agaainst men. after all alot of women don't want to use birth control due to possible side effects..

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6peacelover(798 comments)posted 3 years ago

1. I don't know where you heard PP "brags" about killing 300,000 babies a year. That is nonsense, no one brags about abortion. It is never taken lightly by anyone. I am agreement with Bill Clinton when he said abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare".

2. No one is forcing women in this country to take birth control if they don't want to, not the President, any church, or any other institution. Even if we had a single payer plan, a woman still wouldn't be forced to take them if she didn't believe in it.

3. I agree that this election isn't (and shouldn't) be about contraceptives.

thank you for being civil, and have a good evening.

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7GnomeMad(22 comments)posted 3 years ago

What about women who are prescribed "the pill" for medical reasons aside from preventing pregnancy, such as regulating menstrual cycles or treating hormonal imbalances? Are they to be denied prescribed medication because that medication also happens to prevent pregnancy?

I just love it how a bunch of supposedly celibate old men in the Vatican can use a questionable interpretation of Bible verse to tell that they're not permitted to practice contraception. Most Christian denominations have no such "laws" regarding contraception. A recent poll showed 99% of women in general and 98% of Catholic women have no problem with the pill or with contraception in general. The poll is not implying that 99% or 98% of women actually *take* the pill -- just that they believe women should have access to it.

As for the men who are against the pill on religious grounds, you're going to have to stop playing with your privates because "spilling your seed" is specifically mentioned as a no-no according to the Bible. And here's another church law to consider: according to Catholic doctrine, sexual intercourse is ONLY to be engaged in by married couples for the express purpose of procreation. I find it very hard to believe there are many people who have lived up to that requirement. Spouses engaging in sex just for fun? Those old farts in Rome say you better stop it and get your butt to confession or you'll be in for a *very* hot time when kick the bucket.

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8CommonSenseGuy(37 comments)posted 3 years ago

Seperation of Church and State gives the Church freedom to practice its beliefs even if the government disagrees with those beliefs.

I personally see nothing wrong with blood transfusions. Blood transfusions save countless lives every year. I personally think it is a ridiculous belief that the Jehova's Witness will not permit blood transfusions. But, I respect their freedom of religion to believe what they want to believe. I do not think that the government should force them to violate their beliefs and get and pay for blood transfusions.

You may not agree with the Catholic Church teaching on the immorality of birth control, many forms of which actually cause abortion, but it is not right for Obama to force his agenda down the Church's throat. As Bishop Zubik of Pittsburgh stated, Obama basically said "To Hell With You" to the Catholic Church!

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9GnomeMad(22 comments)posted 3 years ago

"Seperation of Church and State gives the Church freedom to practice its beliefs even if the government disagrees with those beliefs."

On this point, I agree totally, but I'd add that it also gives individuals the right and freedom to *not* practice those beliefs. I can see where a church has the right to dictate certain things to *direct* employees as a condition of employment (i.e. church secretary, choir director, church daycare employment) because those employees most likely are there because they share the beliefs and mission the church stands for and play an active part in sharing those beliefs. But in a church-owned quasi-business that employs people of various faiths (or no faith) to perform essentially secular tasks -- an accountant, a doctor, a nurse -- and serves a public made up of various faiths, a public whose tax money makes up a significant portion of that hospital or university (or whatever's) revenues through Medicare/Medicaid, property tax abatements, and so forth -- then I believe the church has to play by the same rules as strictly secular businesses. Otherwise, all you have to do is slap a religious symbol on the front door of your business, then declare your business is church-affiliated and therefore exempt from whatever government mandated rules and guidelines you disagree with.

If churches are going to conduct business in the secular world -- and compete with secular businesses -- they need to follow the same rules. They can preach all they want, but they should have to offer the same benefits and rules secular firms are required to comply with.

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10GnomeMad(22 comments)posted 3 years ago

If they did shut their doors over something that's already been in place in several states without all this hoo-hah (it's just now being taken nationwide) that would show that they're commitment to those they serve isn't as great as a silly and outdated practice that many of their faithful ignore.

I highly doubt they'd close up their hospitals -- they're too big of a cash cow for them. Look around and you won't see many new Catholic churches being built -- if anything, they're closing and consolidating them -- but they sure do spend a lot of dough on new hospital wings (and new hospitals... St. E's in Boardman, for example). They wouldn't be doing that unless they were making some good money from them.

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11lib(12 comments)posted 3 years ago

Mr. Laughlin needs to run for office. He is not only a person who thinks but writes well and understands the Constitution. How can we have someone like Santorum running for office when there are brilliant people like Mr. Laughlin? Bravo, Mr. Laughlin.

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12jojuggie(1586 comments)posted 3 years ago

Mr McLaughlin did run for office many years ago.
It seems that I lived in the Youngstown area, about 100 years ago, and as I recall Mr McLaughlin ran as a liberal Democrat (which explains his liberal views) for some office. I don't recall if he ran for a local or statewide office, but as I recall, he lost.

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