In recent Obamacare news, The Catholic Diocese of Nashville is in the headlines. They are suing the federal government over the mandate that requires them to provide contraceptive coverage and morning-after pills as part of their employees’ health insurance. Seven other Catholic institutions have also joined the suit which is now reigniting the debate about healthcare reform infringing upon religious freedom.
The Diocese claims that the mandate violates their rights. The suit states, “It is not about whether people have a right to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. Those services are and will continue to be freely available in the United States, and nothing prevents the Government itself from making them more widely available.” It continues, “But the right to such services does not authorize the Government to force the Plaintiffs to violate their own consciences by making them provide, pay for, and/or facilitate those services to others, contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.” The Director of Communications for the Diocese of Nashville, Rick Musacchio, calls the mandate among other things, “morally objectionable.”
At issue is the federal government’s place–in its attempt to provide preventative healthcare for women–to mandate certain institutions (regardless of beliefs or affiliations), to cover all female employees by offering preventative care as part of group coverage. Since this is just another suit in a recent flurry of legal challenges by prominent institutions including Wheaton College, Hobby Lobby, The University of Notre Dame and the Catholic media network EWTN to name just a few, this hot button issue is only likely to get flaming red as we near the peak of election season. The number of law suits is now above 30 and likely to increase with new affiliations joining forces almost monthly.
The sentiment on the left is simply that employees’ private lives should not be a factor in the workplace and thus they should have the same rights to all the same healthcare that a traditional company is required to offer–per the current mandate. The sentiment on the right is basically that a religious institution shall retain their right to practice religious freedom even if that means denying female employees certain rights to preventative healthcare if it directly conflicts with the company’s religious doctrine. The right believes that the government has no place violating those constitutional religious freedoms allowed to all of us as United States citizens. Obama has not taken the mandate off the table in the wake of the controversy, but did give religious organizations one additional year until August 2013 to make the changes. A fact not lost on both parties–the country is in one of the most divisive places in many years and in the height of campaign season. Conservative leaders wasted no time jumping right all over this controversy claiming that this mandate illustrates President Obama’s insensitivity to religious beliefs. Although Romney has not specifically addressed the Nashville suit as of today, there are no shortage of ads running from his camp aimed at Catholics and Catholic organizations, warning that they are in danger of losing religious freedom. Paul Ryan has made his position abundantly clear as far as the morning after pill even in cases of rape. Ryan recently co-sponsored a bill with Rep. Todd Akin to ban the morning after pill.
In an election year, this issue is not likely to fade into the political background any time soon.