Beliefs are not equal under the law. At least, not in the United States. Religious beliefs have an edge over non-religious beliefs, even when the believer holds the same belief.
Which is absurd.
By their nature, beliefs are a matter of opinion. Otherwise we'd call them "facts." Gravity is a fact. God is a belief.
Favoring insurance coverage for contraceptives (birth control pills and other means of preventing pregnancy) is a belief. It can be founded on facts as well as ethical principles. But in the end, it is a belief.
Most, if not all, governmental social policy decisions in this country come down to a matter of democratically elected public officials choosing one alternative over others -- again, based on beliefs (hopefully factually founded).
The Affordable Care Act mandates that contraception coverage be included in health insurance policies.
There are good reasons for doing this. Preventing unwanted pregnancies is the best way of reducing the number of abortions. Women should be able to choose if they want to become pregnant, rather than leaving this largely to reproductive chance.
Yet the Affordable Care Act carved out an exception for those organizations which have a religious objection to providing contraception coverage for employees.
This is ridiculous. Again, why should someone with a religious belief be able to ignore a law, while someone who holds the same belief for non-religious reasons has to abide by the law?
If a woman-hater believed that females should be barefoot, pregnant, and obedient to men, he couldn't use that misogynist belief as a basis for getting out of the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage mandate.
But if a devout Catholic believes that females shouldn't be able to use contraceptives, our political and legal system says "You don't have follow the law like other people do."
Two beliefs, each at odds with a broad cultural consensus about what constitutes good social policy, yet only one gets to ignore the law.
I don't think religious believers should be able to get any special treatment under the law. However, since they do, the question at hand is whether requiring an order of Colorado nuns to sign a simple form saying they have a religious objection to contraception coverage puts an undue burden on them.
Of course not.
Probably The Little Sisters of the Poor doesn't have to file tax returns. If they did, they'd realize that if anything is an undue burden, it is complying with IRS requirements. For a religious organization, getting out of the Affordable Care Act's contraception coverage mandate is super-easy.
"They need only self-certify that they are a non-profit organization that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services, and then provide a copy of their self-certification to the third-party administrator of their self-insured group health plan," argued Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. in the government's filing.
But in a reply filed by the Little Sisters lead counsel Mark Rienzi late Friday, the nuns' attorney countered that the government is "simply blind to the religious exercise at issue" and that "minimizing someone's religious beliefs does not make them disappear."
That's right, unfortunately. I wish the absurd relgious beliefs of The Little Sisters of the Poor would disappear, particularly the ones that go against the grain of sound ethical social policy decisions.
This great Matt Wuerker cartoon shows how crazy it would be if someone's personal beliefs were able to determine what sort of health insurance coverage his or her employees could get.