We heard it when "conscientious pharmacists" boldly declared it was against their religious beliefs to dispense specific prescriptions as the job of being a pharmacist required. Pharmacists,...devout, exceedingly religious pharmacists,...told their employers, and their political representatives, that religious liberty, religious freedom, for a pharmacist, meant that they didn't have to do the job of being a pharmacist. If this or that prescription handed to "conscientious" pharmacists violated there personal religious superstitions, then, that "conscientious" pharmacist must be excused from filling those prescriptions on the grounds of individual religious freedom, liberty.
Naturally, if "conscientious" pharmacists can't do the job of being a pharmacist, then, they shouldn't be pharmacists at all...or at best....they should work for a purely religious employer where the public isn't faced with being turned away when they bring in a prescription, say, for birth control pills from their doctor. The public has the right, when they are seeking goods or services in the public square, to purchase those goods and services in the public square....and not be turned away on the basis of private and peculiar religious beliefs. Those peculiar religious beliefs can still be believed in by conscientious pharmacists, and he or she does not have to consume or ingest any pharmaceuticals they find offends their consciences.....but they do not have the right to determine which prescriptions will be filled for others. That thinking equates religious freedom with the public being forced to live or behave like the religion in question dictates. And that is the establishment of religion in the public square...which is clearly prohibited by the first amendment.
The same "logic" is now being used by Catholic Bishops and a host of other Catholic groups, 43 in all, who are now suing Health and Human Services for setting guidelines for health insurance policies under Obamacare which include contraception and female reproductive service coverage.
First, it is important to remember that Catholic Churches are automatically exempt from the ObamaCare mandate. If Obamacare sought to force churches to make contraception and reproductive service coverage available to their Catholic organist, janitor, or secretary....then....the state would be violating the free exercise of religion.
But that's not what's happening under Obamacare. Instead, the bone of contention is that other Catholic organizations and businesses....Catholic entities which take federal tax dollars to help serve the public good....must make contraception and reproductive service insurance coverage available to their employees.
Again, Catholic members are not forced by government to buy or use contraception. Catholic employers receiving millions and millions of federal tax dollars to serve the PUBLIC, and who hire employees to serve that PUBLIC, are being required to offer health insurance to their employees with no-co-pay contraception coverage included.
Here's a Catholic apologist writing in the Wall Street Journal explaining the Catholic position....
On Jan. 20....HHS announced it would not revise the mandate or expand its tight exemption, which covers only religious organizations that mainly hire and serve their co-religionists. Instead, the mandated coverage will continue to apply to hospitals, schools and social service providers run by groups whose religious beliefs require them to serve everyone in need.
Do you know what else "requires" Catholics to serve everyone in need besides "religious beliefs"? The fact that the Catholic employer uses federal tax dollars to pay for providing that service. That point is universally omitted by spokespeople in favor of the Catholic Bishops position. If Catholic employers falling under the jurisdiction of ObamaCare do not wish to offer contraception coverage in employee benefit insurance packages, then all Catholic employers need do is...quit taking federal tax dollars to "serve everyone in need."
There is no reason why the federal government needs to funnel tax dollars to religious organizations in the first place. Other entities, other non-profit, non-religious groups without contraception hangups, can just as easily take federal monies and "serve everyone in need" without discriminating against their employees.
One example to illustrate my point is Bob Jones University. Back in the day, Bob Jones University disagreed wholeheartedly with inter-racial dating and marriages. They did so on the grounds of "conscience," religious liberty. After Loving v Virginia, as long as Bob Jones U. did not take federal tax dollars, leaders there could prohibit inter-racial dating and/or inter-racial marriages. For years, that's exactly what happened. Bob Jones U. took no tax dollars to operate....and were free to discriminate at their university campuses.
But not both.
Bob Jones couldn't take federal tax dollars and ALSO discriminate against inter-racial couples. Once federal tax dollars are accepted by a religion-based institution, then that religious institution must abide by the secular laws our secular democracy has determined. That's the deal....and that has been the deal for quite some time.
And so what Catholic Bishops are asking for in their lawsuit is to be able to continue to take tens of millions in tax dollars from the federal government AND dictate the laws under which those tax dollars will be spent. In effect, what Bishops are asking for is special treatment by the government. Privileged treatment. Catholic Bishops are attempting to elevate religious rules and laws above secular, democratic law.
What Catholic Bishops are really requesting from the federal government is not an honoring of religious freedom.....they already enjoy religious freedom and ObamaCare does not infringe on that religious liberty in any way. What Bishops are suing over is their perceived right to spend tax dollars to "serve everyone in need" without obeying the laws of the secular government which provided the tax dollars.
In other words.....and I've never seen it any other way....what Catholic Bishops and their apologists are fighting for is special, above the law, treatment by our democratic government. In their lawsuit, Bishops are arguing that religious institutions cannot be forced to comply with secular, democratically-passed laws...in this case ObamaCare,....even if those religious institutions receive millions of tax dollars from the same government which passed those laws.
In short....what Catholic Bishops and their evangelical apologists are requesting is that the federal government establish religion. That request is a direct violation of the first amendment, which prohibits government from passing any laws or rules which establish religion.
The only part of this entire faux-debate which violates freedom or liberty is the part where Catholic Bishops insist that they be free to spend tax dollars AND violate the liberties and democratic freedoms of those who Catholic enterprises employ.