I think a lot of people are missing an important point in the latest conflict over health care. To be clear, I’m talking about Obama’s policy that faith-based for profit organizations will have to provide health insurance that covers contraception, even if they don’t pay for it themselves.
The opposition (mainly the Catholic bishops) argue that this violates religious freedom. It requires them to pay for things they find immoral (contraception). They are even arguing that it violates the religious freedom of organizations not engaged in faith-based goals. That is, it violates the freedom of a Catholic owner of a sporting goods store to have to provide health care that covers contraception for their employees.
It is a rather odd argument, because as far as I can tell they’re not really paying for it. I guess their argument is that they are paying for the health insurance, so anything the insurance provides they are at least indirectly paying for the contraception. On the other hand, I’ve never been worked for a company that completely covered my health insurance. Couldn’t the portion the employee is paying be considered the part that pays for the contraception? And if the employee is going to get the contraception elsewhere because the insurance doesn’t cover it, aren’t they still going to be using the money that the Catholic employer gave them?
But that’s not the important point here. They point is that the Catholic bishops are right: it is an issue of religious freedom. They’re also wrong, because the religious freedom in question is the employee’s religious freedom. The Catholic bishops are saying that if you take a job for a Catholic, then you have to at least act like a Catholic. Note that it’s illegal for them to ask if you are a Catholic when you apply for the job, or to even ask if you believe in God. Now they are trying to use their claim to religious freedom to do an end run around the protections to your religious freedom.
Many of the Europeans who settled this country were fleeing people in power who were trying to dictate their religion. I don’t think those early settlers would have made a distinction between governmental power and economic power in struggling to worship the way they felt was right.