Mike DeWine and a dozen other state attorneys general have an expansive view of religious freedom. They argue that the Affordable Care Act violates the right of business owners to exercise freely their religious beliefs by mandating coverage of contraception in company health plans. They have suggested to Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, the agency back away from the requirement.
DeWine rightly points out that part of what has defined the country and all but erased religious strife is “our commitment to religious freedom.” Oddly, the Ohio attorney general would encourage clashes by allowing business owners to impose their religious views on employees.
Already the Obama White House has carved exemptions for churches and similar religious institutions. It then made changes to broaden the exemption. DeWine and his colleagues go too far in saying businesses should be accommodated, too. The religious freedom allowed a business owner is the one all of us enjoy, the right to make personal choices about what faith to hold or not.
In putting together a package of guaranteed benefits, the federal government made choices driven by health outcomes, among other things, contraception resulting in fewer unintended pregnancies and abortions. More, the decision to include birth control reflects its widespread use, across many faiths, no doubt, and the important role it has played in women’s lives.
How many firms would limit the pool of potential workers to those who share the religious beliefs of the boss or owner? Not many, if the aim is to attract the highest caliber of employee. They may even include birth control in their health coverage as part of attracting a wide range of applicants. This is the practical understanding of an increasingly diverse workplace. It hardly infringes on personal belief or religious freedom.