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4/17/2012 10:53:00 AM
It's not just a church thing
Catholic News Service photo
First Amendment is etched outside the Newseum in Washington.
Catholic News Service photo
First Amendment is etched outside the Newseum in Washington.

The federal health care mandate has prompted a debate with theological features, but we cannot let mandate-backers dismiss opposition as a mere church hangup. It’s theology with an immediate impact on everyone in America; the fight is for nothing less than the integrity of the First Amendment.

This issue may now be in the news, but it’s not new. Catholic Charities organizations in New York, California, Illinois and the District of Columbia over the past decade were forced by courts to offer employees health coverage for contraceptives or eliminate prescription drug benefits altogether.  

In 2004, New Mexico officials refused to approve a community-owned hospital lease because it was against the new health system’s policy to perform elective abortions.
In recent years, the governors of Illinois and Washington required pharmacists to fill prescriptions for the controversial “morning-after” pill, which in some cases causes abortions. California and New Jersey have similar laws.   

Last year, the federal government changed rules for organizations serving victims of human trafficking, requiring bidders to provide or refer out for birth control and abortion. The bureaucrats knew this would lock out the bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, which by other measures has set the standard in aiding trafficking victims.

In our own state, some big Catholic institutions have since 2007 grappled with government-imposed requirements to offer birth control along with prescription coverage. Pharmacists here have faced pressure to dispense both abortifacients and assisted suicide prescriptions.

Is the debate just a “religion thing?” No. It’s a matter of liberty. If governments and courts set a precedent, who will be forced next to act against conscience? Will churches some day be required to pay for employees’ abortions? Will a new tax surcharge fund prisoner executions?

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