Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fed judge sees sense with religious institution lawsuits about contraception

A lot of religious-oriented colleges have been taking their own stance against the federal government, filing lawsuits claiming that their religious beliefs are being violated if they have to offer health insurance policies to their employees that cover the cost of contraception.

Among the most prominent of these schools is the University of Notre Dame, which filed such a lawsuit back in May just a couple of years after it attracted controversy from the ideologues when it got President Barack Obama to be its commencement speaker.

BUT IT WAS a bit of a pleasure to learn that these lawsuits are starting to be dealt with – and in a way that recognizes them as the politically partisan attacks that they truly are.

The Chicago Tribune reported that a judge in U.S. District Court in Washington dismissed the lawsuit filed by Wheaton College – the evangelical Christian college in the DuPage County suburbs that likes to boast of its ties to Billy Graham (Class of 1943).

Officials cite their religious beliefs for opposing contraception, and they claim the federal policies meant to bolster access to health care will force them to provide things they would rather pretend don’t exist.

That is an argument that always struck me as being a bit nonsensical. Nobody forces any of those employees to use any particular benefit in their health care package.

IF THEY REALLY have employees who have moral objections, they probably won’t be using them to begin with.

Which means this issue always struck me as being a case of these religious institutions trying to force their views on others, almost as bad as those ideologically-tainted textbooks that get published to appease the views of school board types in Texas.

Perhaps the federal government ought to be suing these religious organizations for trying to deny health care benefits to other people? Nah, I’m not that hard-core. I’d like to think that the federal government has better things to do than go around suing church-related groups.

Just as I’d also like to think that those groups have better things to do than to go around suing the United States of America! Only it seems that some either don’t have better things to do, or the streak of bullying in their personality is just a bit too strong.

WHICH IS WHY I was pleased to learn of the opinion issued by federal Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, who tossed out the Wheaton College lawsuit because the federal government itself had said it was not going to start enforcing its new insurance regulations until August of next year.

Federal officials have even said they’re willing to consider some sort of exemptions to accommodate religious organizations. Which strikes me as a federal government willing to make some sort of compromise on this issue.

Which means the lawsuit itself was the position of NO compromise – which all too often IS the problem that confronts our society.

“Tilting at windmills” is how Judge Huvelle described the lawsuit. A comparison to Don Quixote is never a positive – unless one is in a literature class and the name of Cervantes is taken into account.

HERE’S HOPING THAT this ruling is a harbinger of things to come (time to bring out the clichés) for how these other lawsuits will be handled.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may have put a coordinated effort into getting all these institutions to file their lawsuits. There may be a lot of religious muscle involved.

But I can’t help but think that while God himself may be infallible, man (even the men who claim to represent the thought of God) is not.

And this may well be one issue where these church leaders (and the heads of universities that offer a religious-inspired education) are missing the greater point.


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