Forum

Taxpayer support integral to birth control argument

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Last week, the Obama administration backed off of its previous demand that religiously affiliated institutions — such as Catholic hospitals or Baptist colleges — provide birth control to its female employees for free.

This previous demand would have lumped these institutions in with regular employers, but instead left religious institutions, such as churches and synagogues, alone. Religiously affiliated organizations currently receive taxpayer funding, yet are not required to follow the same laws as the secular organizations receiving government handouts.

Religiously affiliated institutions have no right to force their beliefs on their employees or customers, when they are being supported by taxpayer dollars.

When Congress passed the 1965 Civil Rights Act, it was mainly focused on eliminating racial discrimination, but it also included a clause about religious affiliation. Religious institutions that want to hire based on religion or expect employees to follow a strict moral code must explicitly state that expectation and demand at the time of hiring.

But what if an employee changes his or her views, or the views of the institution change? In a Catholic hospital, every doctor has to agree to follow the hospital’s ethics code that bans all contraception, abortions, and all other procedures banned by the Catholic Church. These doctors are also forced to follow any new moral medical guidelines the Church adopts during their tenure.

Many times when patients need to be hospitalized, they do not have the ability to choose the hospital based on religious affiliation. In these cases, patients lose many of their rights, since some hospitals enforce a moral code that nullifies many legal documents — such as living wills — and at times puts patients’ lives in danger.

No institution has the right to decide what is moral or even best for its employees, particularly when it comes to the employees’ own health, based on religious principles that they may not believe in. There is an expectation of privacy and personal choice under our constitution and currently religiously affiliated institutions are not protecting or accepting of this right.

While there is a need to protect religious institutions, they should lose this protection when serving public needs and getting taxpayer funding. Once an institution accepts government funding, it should be required to adhere to all government regulations and laws like any other organization.

Religiously affiliated institutions must make a choice between strictly enforcing their morality, and accepting government funding with all of the laws and regulations that come with such support.