Our friend Stanley Carlson-Thies writes in his invaluable newsletter (subscribe here) that many (including some of us ) have unfortunately followed our newspapers in misstating the scope of the opposition to the contraceptive mandate.
Here’s what the (Protestant) Council for Christian Colleges and Universities said in its submission to the administration about the concerns of its “137 member and affiliate schools that comprise the U.S. constituency” of its membership. The requirement to cover “‘preventative services,’ some of which are abortifacients, will force most if not all of our institutions to violate their religious consciences.” If there was an adequate exemption for religious organizations, the conscience problem would be mitigated, but the current exemption is “extremely anemic” and it is “at best uncertain” whether CCCU institutions fit its narrow confines, “[d]espite their unmistakable religious character and their profound commitment to their religious mission.” Moreover, even if the schools themselves would be exempted, the health plans they offer their students are not exempt.
“Many of our schools object on religious grounds to being required to offer emergency contraceptives to their students, as it undermines the behavior code and violates the convictions of the schools’ supportive community of faith . . . . It would mean that the school is required by the federal government to offer services to students that the school teaches are wrongful services.”
And 44 leaders of faith-based organizations—almost all of them Protestant or orthodox Jewish—signed an August 26th letter to Joshua DuBois, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, asking his office to “vigorously advocate on behalf of faith-based organizations and against this inaccurately narrow and practically inadequate definition of ‘religious employer.’” They wrote that the organizations and religious traditions they represent “do not all share the same convictions about the moral acceptability of the mandated services. However, we do agree that the definition of religious employer that has been adopted is so narrow that it excludes a great many actual ‘religious employers’ and probably most faith-based organizations that serve people in need . . . .”
This isn’t just (and hasn’t been just) a Catholic thing, even if Catholics (for reasons perhaps connected with their salience in the President’s 2008 electoral coalition) have garnered much of the attention from the mainstream press.
Joseph Knippenberg is Professor of Politics at Oglethorpe University.