LI: Religious Control vs. Employee Freedom?

The US Catholic Church has begun lawsuits claiming that insurance that covers contraceptives that ‘it’ pays for violates ‘its’ religious freedom.

That this is even treated as credible suggests the continuing hold of feudalism and the culture of worker abuse. If allowed Churches might require people to engage in unsanitary practices, and could be used as a precedent to compel employers to in turn coerce employees on all manner of otherwise personal behavior.

The Libertarian analysis for an ideal community  is that the insurance is actually part of the employee’s created wealth  expressed as part of the salary,  to use as the employee deems fit. It is not for use as the employer–a mere employee’s agent for securing work–commands. For a libertarian-informed democracy, courts may take account that the salary is not provided by the employer –a feudalist conceit–but administered; in some cases the compensation may include  commission or independent contractor compensation where the employee or contractor contribution is very clear. In addition, individuals have a right to maintain their rights and mechanisms of safety, including by the widest insurance coverage available, that precedes all institutions and may not be contracted away as the Church seems to imply.


Analysis on freedom of association without context and alone does not apply (as some Libertarians try to do). If the entity in question is a truly private club and the matter is inherent in the employment–such as small groups–one may argue the Church may select employees based on personal habits and the intimacy of association–not decide how pay is spent. If as in most cases it is a private entity of public offer, then this does not apply, especially as in this case, if it tends to peonage. In addition, true insurance companies (as opposed to what many still are, betting pools on specific matters) of public offer provide broad and where possible (as in this case) preventative service–as originally intended by the proto-libertarians who designed them.

The Church is certainly entitled, by democratic means, to remove a member and thus decline to employ them as not following its views if the right of democratic association exists in it. It does not as it is not democratic in structure, and as such it is merely an affinity club, so the matter is not obvious and one courts–given divisions in most religions themselves–tend to avoid. It may not do so for entities where it employs the general public or are of public offer, as in the cases asserted, a concept generally recognized. Nor is this argument being being asserted at this time.

Legally, and ironically enough, Christianity began as Roman dinner and insurance societies specifically authorized upon application to Claudius Casear as separate from other Jewsih groups. These existed in law to celebrate the founder–Jesus–and procure insurance and charitable or sacramental benefits for its participants, not deny them the right to use other benefits.Despite their history as tyrannical governments, they arguably remain so as a form of customary affinity club that if it chooses undertakes public activities subject to public expectations and rights like anyone else. Religions are  in law  customary societies of great autonomy and are interpreted in US law, returning to Republican practice,  to include any customary society– but not subject to any special privilege that harms other’s rights. Courts may thus inquire as to its actual function and status if pressed.

There is no clear division of gambling societies and insurance in US law, both being lumped together and then subject to confusing regulations.The situation would be improved with distinction between the different types. 

In summary, a religious society such as the Church may argue relevant unusually restrictive requirements for its entities of non-public and exclusive private character such as monasteries; where it solicits the general public, or claims to be a completely public body or de facto acts as an agent it may not; in any event the employee or contractee compensation use is theirs–not the religious employer’s– to determine alone: it is managed as a convenience, not the property, of the employing entity.–MG

Catholics File Suits on Contraceptive Coverage

Published: May 21, 2012

In an effort to show a unified front in their campaign against the birth control mandate, 43 Roman Catholic dioceses, schools, social service agencies and other institutions filed lawsuits in 12 federal courts on Monday, challenging the Obama administration’s rule that their employees receive coverage for contraception in their health insurance policies.

The nation’s Catholic bishops, who were unable to reverse the ruling by prevailing on the White House or Congress, have now turned to the courts, as they warned they would. The bishops say that the requirement is an unprecedented attack on religious liberty because it compels Catholic employers to provide access to services that are contrary to their religious beliefs. The mandate is part of the Obama administration’s overhaul of the health care system, which the bishops say they otherwise support.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, whose archdiocese in New York is among the plaintiffs, said in a statement: “We have tried negotiations with the administration and legislation with the Congress — and we’ll keep at it — but there’s still no fix. Time is running out and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now.”

The bishops rejected a compromise brokered by Mr. Obama in February, in an effort to defuse the conflict by having the insurance companies — not the Catholic employers — pay for and administer the coverage for birth control. When some Catholic organizations broke with the bishops and greeted the accommodation positively, the bishops resolved that Catholic institutions must present a united front.

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