Anywhere you look today, the media are convinced that Catholics are the last allowable scapegoat. Nicki Minaj’s Grammy performance, a March 15 Huffington Post attack and the Feb. 8 Amy Poehler sketch on “Saturday Night Live” are just a few examples of jabs that would be intolerable toward any other faith group. Now add the United States government to that list. The newest surprise of President Barack Obama’s health care bill is that religious organizations, including Catholic groups, are no longer trusted with their own moral judgment. Let’s clear up the facts. On Jan. 20, Obama’s administration announced that its health care bill, passed March 2010, included a vague reference to “preventative care” which they now interpret as contraception. This would require all religious organizations, regardless of dogma or leaders’ conscience, to provide contraception to its workers.
The Catholic Church (one of the largest purveyors of health care in the world), was obviously outraged at the previously hidden mandate. Catholics across the country felt betrayed at these tactics and rallied to protest. Six days later, Obama announced a “compromise” requiring only employers’ insurers to provide contraception.
There’s a problem, however. Most Catholic organizations, including hospitals and charities, are self-insured. This makes it clear that the clause is not about health care but a power game intended to secularize all of America’s values under state control.
Why should Catholic students, as well as any other student of faith, be outraged at this? Not because it’s about contraception but because the state is telling the Church the extent to which it can practice its own beliefs. This should be an outrage to anybody who respects the Constitution. The First Amendment to the Constitution includes the free exercise of religion; the state cannot define a religion’s practices, otherwise the state would become the religion. This is what Thomas Jefferson originally intended to prevent. Today it’s the Catholics’ opposition to contraception; tomorrow it’s the banning of headscarves in public schools, as France has already done.
As college students, many of us may not understand why the Church is against contraception, let alone premarital sex. To put it simply, the Church believes in the fullness of human love, which sexuality expresses. Contraception puts handcuffs on the fullness and expression of love. Our society insists that we commodify everything and contraception leads to the commodification of sex. The Church isn’t ignorant to the fact that not every family wants to end up with 18 babies, but there are measures such as natural family planning (the real Planned Parenthood) which are as effective as most artificial contraception, and who forgot about self-control?
At the end of the day, the question is whether or not the Church should be required to pay for the sexual activity of capable adults. Employees from Target and Wal-Mart state that their contraception runs about $9 a month for a regular customer without insurance. If we are mature enough to have sex with another we most definitely should be able to pay the small fee, even if it means we have to sacrifice one or two of our cups of Starbucks. Even this is beyond what the Church should be willing to pay because we refuse to put a price tag on love or life.
The common argument leveled in favor of the bill is that the Church’s moral beliefs cannot enter into the public sphere. This argument, however, is null and void because, for one, the Church is called to act in the public good, and two, the state needs a moral anchor. If you argue that your morals are not somebody else’s, then why legislate morality at all?