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Religious Coalition: Right to Oppose ObamaCare Contraception Mandate, Wrong to Ignore Principle at Play

In late June, a coalition of religious leaders fighting against ObamaCare’s contraception mandate, which forces employer health insurance plans to provide birth control coverage, rejected the Obama administration’s “final compromise” on the issue.

The proposed “compromise” consists of a range of administrative changes, but these tweaks hardly satisfy the religious opposition. As Fox News reports, one religious leader, Reverend Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptists’ public policy arm, ridiculed the compromise as “word games and accounting tricks.”

The religious coalition, Fox News reports, includes “leaders of the Roman Catholic church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Association of Evangelicals, [and] the Assemblies of God and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, among others.” The coalition is calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “to exempt ‘any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections’ to the so-called contraception mandate in ObamaCare.”

In an “open letter to all Americans,” the coalition points out the larger threat to liberty posed by the contraception mandate:

While the mandate is a specific offense, it represents a far greater breach of conscience by the federal government. Very simply, HHS is forcing citizen A, against his or her moral convictions, to purchase a product for citizen B.

Citing the First Amendment, the letter broadens its message: “Free exercise [of religion] includes the freedom to order one’s life, liberties, and pursuits in accordance with his or her convictions.”

Driving home the point, the coalition asks:

If the federal government can force morally opposed individuals to purchase contraception or abortion-causing drugs and devices for a third party, what prevents this or future administrations from forcing other Americans to betray their deeply held convictions?

The coalition concludes, “Any policy that falls short of affirming full religious freedom protection for all Americans is unacceptable.”

The coalition’s letter is commendable. People have a moral right to seek (and insurers have a right to offer) the kind of health insurance that best suits their needs and values. Catholics have a right to seek insurance that does not cover birth control—and so do atheists, who may not even use birth control or who may prefer to pay for it out of pocket. As a matter of principle, everyone has a right to seek (or not to seek) whatever kind of insurance suits his needs, context, and values.

Unfortunately, the coalition undercuts its own “uncompromising” position by failing to apply the same principles to the question of the propriety of ObamaCare—a law that entails, among many other rights violations, a mandate that everyone purchase health insurance.

Many religious groups—notably including the Catholic Church—support ObamaCare along with its insurance mandate. But if people have a right not to buy health insurance that covers birth control—and they do—then they also have a right not to buy health insurance at all.

Even so, if the religious coalition wins on the narrow issue of the birth-control mandate, it will have achieved a step in the right direction and for the right reason—despite the fact that the coalition itself does not uphold the principle at hand as a principle.

For our part, we advocates of genuine, principled liberty can support this step as an example of the many more principled steps that morally must be taken to reinstate freedom in America. And, for what it’s worth, we can point out to those who are ignoring the fact that the principle is a principle, that they are being, well, unprincipled.

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