Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Religious Exemption. It's Principle, Except When It's Not.

There have been some constant battles since the latest effort to create a more comprehensive access to health insurance began. But one has been increasingly annoying, galling, and disingenuous. The demand for a religious exemption for businesses.

The idea is that some businesses are owned by religious people, and those people may oppose abortion and/or birth control, or common sense. Comprehensive health insurance would help pay for things like those listed. So, they should not have to offer comprehensive health insurance to their workers. They should be exempt from part of the law.

And many people love the idea of a "compromise" on this. The compromise being that you just let religious institutions deny people basic preventative health care...cause [holy writing of your choice]. And you let businesses with religious owners do the same. And in exchange, nonreligious owners can actually take care of their employees. It is interesting how saying you want to deny someone something for religious reasons sound reasonable to so many people...But that's for another post.

In July two federal appeals courts decided that it was ridiculous for a business to have a religion, as opposed to it's owners. But that is not where the story ended. Last week the federal appeals court decided to agree on how unfair comprehensive health insurance is on the pious.
Requiring companies to cover their employees’ contraception, the court ruled, is unduly burdensome for business owners who oppose birth control on religious grounds, even if they are not purchasing the contraception directly. 
“The burden on religious exercise does not occur at the point of contraceptive purchase; instead, it occurs when a company’s owners fill the basket of goods and services that constitute a healthcare plan,” Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote on behalf of the court.  
It is an interesting point, I grant you. Is it unfair/unconscionable/unacceptable to force people of religious faith to fund and pay money into services that they feel contravene their religious tenets?

Should people be forced to pay for sinful stuff?

Well, I tried to think if there were any other good examples I could draw on for legal rulings. Then I recalled religious pacifism. For some war and fighting is unconscionable, a violation of the will of their god. And, as many point out, tax dollars go to many places in the government, including to the military.

MPR Photo/Elizabeth Stawicki
So, when a pacifist pays taxes, they pay for the ability to go to war. And during a war, they fund that war. So, should religious pacifist be exempt from taxes? Or, should special means be put in place to assure that their tax dollars cannot be used by the military? Should steps be taken to respect and maintain their religious concerns.

Lucky for us, a Quaker, Priscilla Adams, brought the question to court.

Back in 2003, you may remember it (we were at war), her fight with the government came to a head. Going back to 1996 she had been suing the government, saying that she and others had valid religious grounds to have protections against their money being used to fund the military. As part of her religious convictions. Adams for years had been refusing to pay part of her federal taxes.

The response from the government was to demand that she pay her back taxes, and a 50% penalty. She fought this, and worked to try and keep them from placing a lean on her wages to put money towards wars.

So the fight went up the judicial ladder. And, in 2003, the federal appeals courts rules against her. And then the Supreme Court chose to pass on offering an opinion. The courts had spoken.

The result, you may have religious grounds to not pay a portion of your taxes, but the courts, Congress, and the federal government don't care. Pay the taxes and pray for forgiveness.

That is quite a different view from what we are seeing now. Now when we consider should religious people be forced to fund services that may go to things like birth control, the courts say that it's wrong. (wag a finger) These people cannot be placed in this position. The law says everyone should be able to access the full array of preventative health. But, screw that...Religion. Religion trumps


I wonder if religious pacifist should go to court again? They might have a chance now. Doesn't it follow? Shouldn't these grounds be sound enough for them to fight against tax paying? It does seem like the same strain of argument. Or, do supporters of ACA religious exemptions still hold the old opinion that if religion is getting in the way of funding the military, you should suck it up and fund the military?

I do get a feeling that many might have this attitude. That abortion and birth control are the legit religious concerns, the respectable ones. I'd like to think that's wrong, but at a minimum, I don't see religious conservatives as bothered by the Quaker's plight. They seem like they'd be first in line to condemn the Quakers.

But this ruling may not stand. This will be going to the Supreme Court...hmm. Okay, I' not feeling better with that thought. Will the court have their 90's attitude to religious exemptions? Or, will they have the oppose President Obama attitude?

Half the court is already friendly to attacking access to education, voting rights, and the ACA as a whole. That group will most likely be happy to further establish religious prominence over law. As it is, I think there is already a case coming up that may do this in one way.

I guess we will see. Because we are stuck waiting while conservatives play their petty games. And religious exemptions are such a petty game.

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