Under the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
But leave it to the Christian Right to pervert the meaning of religious freedom by falsely using it as an excuse in attempts to deny health care treatment and insurance coverage to which people are legally entitled. Two examples are lawsuits seeking to avoid contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act and a state Senate bill allowing health care providers to refuse to provide services that they consider “morally objectionable.”
Freedom of religion means that we can choose our religious beliefs without government interference. But the Christian Right’s dishonest interpretation would allow business owners and health care providers to impose their religious beliefs on employees and patients, which amounts to religious tyranny.
Tom Monaghan, a fanatical Catholic who used to own Domino’s Pizza and the Detroit Tigers, has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, one of at least 16 such nationwide, under which he seeks to deny contraceptive coverage for employees of his Domino’s Farms property management company. By doing so, he wants to violate an individual employee’s basic right to make their own medical decisions. While the case is pending, Judge Lawrence Zatkoff granted Monaghan a preliminary injunction under which he doesn’t have to offer contraceptive coverage.
Similarly, SB 136, the Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act, which was approved by the Health Policy Committee, would allow health care providers and institutions, as well as their employees, to refuse to provide services based on “moral, religious or conscientious objections.” Such objections are, of course, completely subjective. It would mean a provider who considers homosexuality to be immoral, usually on religious grounds, could refuse to treat a gay AIDS patient. Employers in the health care field who don’t want to discriminate would be in a quandary, because they are barred by law from asking prospective employees about such objections during job interviews.
Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), the committee’s minority vice-chair, offered amendments that would require providers to post notices describing the services they won’t perform and bar the use of such objections if there were no other available medical facilities within 25 miles. Both were defeated by the committee’s Republican majority, showing a complete disregard for patients’ rights.
Warren noted that this bill would have devastating effects on patients in rural areas, arbitrarily deny and impede patient care, and put the interests of a health care provider’s employees ahead of patient needs and safety.
Contrary to the lying claims of the Christian Right, religious liberty doesn’t mean freedom to discriminate and harm others. An apt analogy to this attempt to use religious tyranny against health care would be to exempt racists from civil rights laws so that they can be free to discriminate in who they hire and do business with, while claiming “moral” objections as the basis for their bigotry. Such repulsive practices were outlawed in the 1960s, and have no business being brought back today.