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Posted by on Jun 2, 2012 in Politics, Religion, Society | 9 comments

Seeing Through The Bishops’ Case Against Obama

Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, parses the arguments Catholic Bishops make in opposition to the Obamacare requirement that health insurance cover birth control. His conclusion:

There may be a cogent case against the government’s position. But there is no slam-dunk appeal to outrageous violations of the First Amendment, such as genuine instances of persecution or a war on religion would provide. Rather, there are arguments based on complex (and contestable) legal considerations — for example, interpretations of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act — turning on the question of what sort of burden of proof the government has to show that its requirement is necessary to achieve its legitimate goal. The bishops may have a viable legal case against the Obama administration. But they have no case for a call to the barricades.

We cannot, of course, be certain about the bishops’ motives in overdramatizing what should be a routine disagreement. But their often demagogic reaction suggests political rather than religious concerns. There is, first, the internal politics of the Church, where the bishops find themselves, especially on matters of sexuality, increasingly isolated from most Church members; they seem desperate to rally at least a fervid core of supporters around their fading authority. But the timing of their outbursts also suggests a grasp for secular political power. It’s hard to think that the bishops — especially given their concerns for social welfare — would more than mildly prefer a Romney administration to an Obama administration. But, hoping to emulate the success of Protestant evangelicals, they may well want to establish their own credentials as significant players in American politics. We can only pray that American Catholics will see through any such effort.

The Catholic Bishops are planning a “Fortnight of Freedom” (June 21 to July 4) to protest the administration violation of their religious freedom. They expect it will be the most massive campaign of civil disobedience in this country since the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s.

That may be hard to pull off. A survey in March found:

Catholics overall are generally more supportive than the general public of the contraception coverage requirements. Nearly two-thirds (65%) say that publicly held corporations should be held to this requirement. Roughly 6-in-10 report that religiously affiliated social service agencies, colleges, hospitals, and privately owned small businesses should be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception. Less than half (47%) say churches and other places of worship should be required to provide this coverage.

White Catholics make few distinctions between churches and other religiously affiliated employers. Less than half of white Catholics believe that churches (43%), religiously affiliated colleges (43%), social service agencies (44%), and hospitals (48%) should be required to include contraception coverage in their insurance plans. However, a majority of white Catholics believe that non-religiously affiliated employers, including privately owned small businesses (55%) and public corporations (61%), should be required to provide employees with contraception coverage.