Reading over some piled-up Oregonian's, I just came across a letter from a Salem resident, James M. Schultz, about the debate over whether religious institutions should have to comply with the same laws and regulations that govern other businesses.
Great letter, Mr. Schultz.
I hadn't thought about the "competitive advantage" argument -- just how absurdly unworkable it would be if every person or organization could claim an exemption from laws on moral or ethical grounds.
Here's the February 25 letter to the editor:
Regarding the current debate over religion and insurance coverage for contraceptives, the First Amendment says, in relevant part, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
This simple phrase bars our government from interfering in how various religions choose to worship or to practice their faith. However, this restriction becomes less clear when religions move beyond their houses of worship and into the public marketplace, for instance, by opening hospitals.
Thus, if businesses in general are required to include contraceptive coverage in their employee health insurance plans, church-owned hospitals gain an unfair advantage over their competitors if the government exempts them from this requirement. Such an exemption would, in effect, amount to "respecting an establishment of religion" -- a clear violation of the First Amendment.
Our constitutional protections that protect churches from government interference (and vice versa) lose their applicability -- or should -- when churches compete with other businesses.