I have just finished reading a disturbing ad at
ArchbishopAquila/PostAd_LayCatholicsforReligiousFreedom and would like to comment that it has already been determined in many recent cases that providing benefits to employees does not jeopardize the employer's religious rights, since, as an employee, I can choose to spend my salary (from my employer) on whatever I choose, but I can also choose which medicines I get thru my benefits, to which I contribute.Is the employer harmed when I use my salary to purchase something the employer does not agree with? My benefits are no different. The employer is not physically paying for the contraception, or medicines of any kind, and is therefore, NOT harmed when I use my health benefits to purchase medicines, including contraception. The employer is not directly paying for the contraception, but merely paying for health coverage overall, for which the employers receive tax deductions and incentives; allowing employees to do what they will with their pay and benefits does not harm the employer.
“The burden of which plaintiffs complain is that funds, which plaintiffs will contribute to a group health plan, might, after a series of independent decisions by health care providers and patients covered by [an employer's health] plan, subsidize someone else’s participation in an activity that is condemned by plaintiffs’ religion. . . . [Federal religious freedom law] is a shield, not a sword. It protects individuals from substantial burdens on religious exercise that occur when the government coerces action one’s religion forbids, or forbids action one’s religion requires; it is not a means to force one’s religious practices upon others. [It] does not protect against the slight burden on religious exercise that arises when one’s money circuitously flows to support the conduct of other free-exercise-wielding individuals who hold religious beliefs that differ from one’s own.”
“[T]he health care plan will offend plaintiffs’ religious beliefs only if an  employee (or covered family member) makes an independent decision to use the plan to cover counseling related to or the purchase of contraceptives. Already, [plaintiffs] pay salaries to their employees—money the employees may use to purchase contraceptives or to contribute to a religious organization. By comparison, the contribution to a health care plan has no more than a de minimus impact on the plaintiff’s religious beliefs than paying salaries and other benefits to employees.”
“A key insight in this opinion is that salaries and health insurance can be used to buy birth control, so if religious employers really object to enabling their employees to buy birth control, they would have to not pay them money in addition to denying them comprehensive health insurance. An employer cannot assert a religious objection to how their employees choose to use their own benefits or their own money, because religious freedom is not a license to “force one’s religious practices upon others.””
Rev. Renée Lynn Ten Eyck
Response from Denver Archdiocese:
From: Karna Swanson
Subject: FW: Open Letter to the Archdiocese of Denver, Office of the Archbishop, Reverend Samuel J. Aquila S.T.L:
Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2012, 12:20 PM
Thank you for your email. While the argument you mention is one argument in favor of the HHS, it is by no means the definitive argument. There are many things that differentiate the salary paid to an employee from the health benefits offered. Health care is bought by the employer (in full or in part) for the employee, and the employer pays directly for coverage that is offered.
Think of the many procedures that are not covered by many health care plans. Why would anything be exempt from coverage if your argument were true? If health care were simply a set of dollars set aside for the employee to use however he or she decided -- including for plastic surgery or an assortment of nonessential drugs and procedures -- there would be no exemptions, just a set limit of dollars. But that is not the case.
Health care is a package that is offered to the employee that is paid for by the employer (in full, or in part), and the price of the package is determined by all that is covered by the plan, and as a result, everything covered by the plan is paid for (at least in part) by the employer.
I understand that the entire issue isn’t easy for many to comprehend, especially for a society that considers contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs to be a great boon for women, but we must not allow our great country, which has been a beacon for religious liberty throughout its history, to begin to impose excessive burdens on religious believers.
You may not agree with the Church, but I would hope that all Americans would support the Church and its faithful in seeking to live coherently with its teachings and beliefs. In the end, isn’t the free exercise of religion the single most foundational principle of our great nation?
Director of Communications
Archdiocese of Denver
1300 S. Steele St.
Denver, CO 80210
Response from Denver (with my responses inserted)
Dear Renee, Ms. Swanson,
Please see my responses below to each of section of your email:
Thank you for your email. While the argument you mention is one argument in favor of the HHS, it is by no means the definitive argument. There are many things that differentiate the salary paid to an employee from the health benefits offered. Health care is bought by the employer (in full or in part) for the employee, and the employer pays directly for coverage that is offered. Employers receive income tax deductions for the contribution, so that their out-of-pocket cost is less than the value of the benefit to the employee. Self-employed individuals can deduct 100 percent of their health insurance premium costs as a business expense. They can always deduct 100 percent of premiums for their employees. If the business is incorporated, all costs for the owner’s own insurance as well as his/her employees' are deductible. Therefore, the employer’s contribution to anything that specifically benefits an employee that might be against the employer’s religious beliefs is minimal, and, once again, no different than the employee using their salary to purchase contraception, or marijuana, for that matter.
Think of the many procedures that are not covered by many health care plans. Why would anything be exempt from coverage if your argument were true? If health care were simply a set of dollars set aside for the employee to use however he or she decided -- including for plastic surgery or an assortment of nonessential drugs and procedures -- there would be no exemptions, just a set limit of dollars. But that is not the case. True. Many things are not covered by health plans. But these things are not based on religious dogma. These things are based on costs/benefit analysis, and other matters of economic concern, and do not pit one person’s religious beliefs against another person’s religious beliefs. Furthermore, health coverage what you consider nonessential another may consider critical. This is not a country where you get to decide what is important or nonessential for another person, based on your religious beliefs.
Health care is a package that is offered to the employee that is paid for by the employer (in full, or in part), and the price of the package is determined by all that is covered by the plan, and as a result, everything covered by the plan is paid for (at least in part) by the employer. Once again, as stated above, employers receive income tax deductions for the contribution, so that their out-of-pocket cost is less than the value of the benefit to the employee. Furthermore, employees also contribute to their own health coverage plan by having premiums taken out of their paychecks. You do not get to decide, based on your religious beliefs, what I get to purchase with my salary, or my health benefits to which I pay premiums and which are part of my compensation package for doing my job.
I understand that the entire issue isn’t easy for many to comprehend, especially for a society that considers contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs to be a great boon for women, but we must not allow our great country, which has been a beacon for religious liberty throughout its history, to begin to impose excessive burdens on religious believers. I understand that it is hard for you to comprehend how your religious dogma is infringing on the rights of others to live their lives every day and who do not share the same beliefs as you. Religious liberty does not equal the right to oppress others by forcing your beliefs on them. Economically, families, society, and this country benefits from contraception, and this is proven. What would you do if your employer believed only in the power of prayer and refused to allow you access to ANY medical coverage? I also, having grown up in the Catholic church, and having studied and analyzed such figures as Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, as well as biblical history and such, can understand why you don’t comprehend how your actions are a direct act of oppression on others. You may choose to blindly follow your faith, but know that a great many others do not agree with your religious laws, which do not have the right to dictate the lives of those who do not agree with them.
No one is calling for an end to coverage for hysterectomies or vasectomies, both of which prevent pregnancy, but are more costly and invasive, OR Viagra.... Men want to take Viagra, but extremists want women to "put an aspirin between their knees," as recommended by Santorum supporter Foster Friess and our nation’s embarrassment, Rush Limbaugh. This is a contradiction, and women are not property for whom religious law is needed to make decisions. (FYI-the argument that Viagra promotes life doesn’t hold water, since it is marketed primarily to older men whose women are largely at the end of or beyond their child-bearing years, but for whom their sexual intimacy and ability to perform dramatically affect their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of their relationships). Furthermore, the same men who state to “put an aspirin between our knees) are the same men who desire Viagra and expect a sex life with their women. So this burden of controlling family status falls equally on the husbands and men in our lives, though society is not talking in those terms, focusing on the misbelief that only single women use birth control. I use birth control, which my husband and I both agree on, not only to keep my family stable with two children, which is very important to us financially, but a specific birth control was prescribed to me to control hormone issues that my body does not control on its own. In addition, birth control has contributed to reducing the severity of cycles, which is not only convenient to me, but which my husband also benefits from! These are standards of living and well-being that neither the government nor employers should interfere with. In a time when many families are in dire need of two incomes, these religious contraception issues are not as cut and dry as the Vatican would like you to believe.
Here are two excerpts about Dr. John Rock, a devout Catholic who pioneered contraception:
"Another opponent of the Catholic ban was John Rock, a devout Catholic doctor who taught at Harvard Medical School and who would become one of the leading clinical researchers responsible for developing the pill. Rock held that contraception was sometimes medically necessary and often personally desirable for maintaining happy marriages and well-planned families. He also believed that birth control was essential for those who could not afford many children. Rock was by no means a radical. He was a solid Republican and didn’t approve of sex outside of marriage. But he openly defied the Catholic Church and state laws." “Today, according to the Guttmacher Institute, more than 99 percent of sexually experienced women report having used contraception. But we are once again debating whether women should have access to birth control. Fifty years ago, John Rock, the socially conservative, Catholic, Republican doctor, insisted that birth control was consistent with church teachings. He believed that contraception was essential for women’s health and well-being, family happiness, and the good of society. The vast majority of Americans of all faiths and political parties agreed with him at the time. And they still do.”
“Rock had witnessed the suffering women endured from unwanted pregnancies. He had seen collapsed wombs, premature aging, and desperation caused by too many mouths to feed. The experiences of his patients had a profound impact on the man. Despite his faithful Catholicism and the church's opposition to contraceptives, Rock came to support contraception within the confines of marriage. Although he never went as far as to endorse birth control purely as a woman's right, Rock believed in the power of birth control to stem poverty and prevent medical problems associated with pregnancy.”
You may not agree with the Church, but I would hope that all Americans would support the Church and its faithful in seeking to live coherently with its teachings and beliefs. In the end, isn’t the free exercise of religion the single most foundational principle of our great nation? Amendment 1 of the Bill of Rights:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
This also includes freedom from religion. In other words, you do not get to force your beliefs, which work for you, on others. All peoples of all cultures, religions and races and belief systems make up this country, and no one religion or religious belief system can dominate everyone else. The issue of contraception is a political football, and is a strong moral issue, but not in the way you think. Neither you, nor anyone else, get to define these things for others. You get to define those things only for yourself. The government does not get to define these things, nor should an employer. If you choose to live by your religious law, that works for you, but neither you, nor any church, get to force those beliefs on others in a country that not only is a melting pot of different cultures, races, religions, belief systems, and even varying degrees of belief and observance within the established religions. In the perception of many who think differently than you, using contraception for prevention IS BEING RESPONSIBLE. That is their choice. Family planning is a critical economic issue for families, society, and the country at large.
This extreme religious agenda is not only about women’s health rights. This agenda will not just affect what jobs women can get; it will affect all areas of our family’s life, and will even affect the jobs our husbands get, especially if the husband’s job is what provides health coverage for the family. During a time when employment and unemployment are already difficult, even distressing, the desire to introduce MORE employment problems by allowing employers to choose what health coverage we should have is directly in opposition to the best interests of families and society economically, as well as mentally and emotionally. It is not simply a matter of finding an employer who offers the health coverage that we desire. For those with jobs, it would be a painstaking task to try to find another job, and for those of us without jobs, this would be one more frustration, fear and obstacle to finding suitable employment. And for the families that need two incomes, this is a critical component of their lives that no church or government has the right to interfere with.
Namaste and Great Spirit Bless,
Reverend Renée Lynn Ten Eyck