Health Care and Religious Freedom

What word comes to your mind when we talk about a Catholic college that won’t allow abortion, sterilization, and contraception to be covered by its employees’ health care plan?

Is “conservative” a good word? How about “faithful”? After all, the church teaches that abortion, sterilization, and contraception are immoral. So it makes sense that a conservative Catholic college would make sure that its health plan doesn’t cover such practices.

Well, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a different word for Belmont Abbey College: “sexist.”

Using reasoning that could only be concocted by a consummate bureaucrat, the director of the agency’s Charlotte office has said that denying contraception is sexist “because only females take oral prescription contraceptives. By denying coverage, men are not affected, only women.”

The EEOC stepped in because eight college employees complained about the lack of coverage. The EEOC has now ordered the college to find a resolution. Even though North Carolina law protects religious institutions from having to cover contraception, abortion, and voluntary sterilization, the case could end up in the federal courts.

But as the president of the college, William Thierfelder, stated, “Belmont Abbey College is not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church.”

In fact, Thierfelder has said that he would “close the school rather than give in.” Good for him.

We’ve seen this before. In Boston, Catholic Charities was forced out of the adoption business because it would not place children with homosexual couples. Christian fertility doctors have been sued because they refused artificial insemination to a lesbian—even though they referred her to another doctor. Christian pharmacists have lost their jobs for not distributing morning-after pills. function fbs_click() {u=location.href.substring(0,location.href.lastIndexOf(‘/’));t=document.title;‘’+encodeURIComponent(u)+’&t=’+encodeURIComponent(t),’sharer’,’toolbar=0,status=0,width=626,height=436′);return false;}

When will this end? The more serious question is, however, when does the next round of government regulation against religious freedom begin? We’ll see soon enough in the current health care debate, and we need to be ready to do as William Thierfelder has done.

Congress, after all, has rejected every attempt to include language to protect the consciences of medical professionals in the health care debate. Pro-life groups have warned about the very real possibility of religiously based hospitals shutting down before being forced to provide services that violate their religious principles.

And back to insurance, current legislation being considered could also hand over to a “Health Choices Commissioner” the ability to regulate “basically all health insurance in America.”

Now, imagine a bureaucracy—completely unaccountable to voters—deciding what medical procedures must be covered by the insurance plans of a small Baptist day care center or a Christian high school. Frankly, I don’t even want to imagine it.

That’s why Christians need to insist that any health care system must protect religious freedom.

It’s sad to me that we have reached a state where we must insist on laws that specifically protect religious freedom and freedom of conscience from government bureaucracy.

Silly me, that’s what I thought the Constitution was for.

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