The Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne is frequently cited as a progressive Catholic who condemns the recent Obama Administration announcement to require all employers (except exclusively religious bodies) to offer contraceptive insurance coverage as part of comprehensive preventive care. Mr. Dionne has claimed this health care decision infringes on religious liberty.
I’ve already written about why this is a medically and scientifically smart decision.
But Mr. Dionne’s thinking is inconsistent. I think this excerpt from “Balancing Faith and Contraceptives” by Scott Lemieux shows where Mr. Dionne’s logic is faulty:
Elsewhere, Dionne effectively refutes his own argument by noting, “While the Catholic Church formally opposes contraception, this teaching is widely ignored by the faithful.” For the same reasons Kevin Drum cites at Mother Jones, if opposition to contraception represented a widely practiced tenet of the Roman Catholic faith, I believe that the government’s interest in securing gender equity with a reasonable, generally applicable law should prevail, but I can understand seeing this as a difficult question. But forgoing contraception is not central to the faith of most practicing Roman Catholics. There’s not a genuine clash between religious freedom and pressing government interests here; rather, a small minority of religious leaders are seeking a special exemption that burdens women in the name of principles the overwhelming majority of their followers reject. The Obama administration’s balancing of the interests here was perfectly appropriate and is better than either alternative Dionne proposes.
In other words, it’s not a matter of “religious freedom” for the Catholic Bishops to try and claim an authority over non-Catholic employees and a secular government that they no longer exercise over their own flock.