COMMENTARY | If I am your employer I can deny you medical treatment, despite the Affordable Care Act being the law of the land, if I claim that said treatment goes against my religious beliefs. According to CNN, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of religious conservatives, like the owners of Hobby Lobby, who claim that providing medical treatment like contraception violates their religious beliefs. Sadly, it does not take much to see that this ruling is the Dred Scott decision of our generation. Denying employees commonplace and proven medical treatment on the grounds that they violate your religious views is a grave injustice.
In practical terms, this religiosity exception to the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is doomed to death by slippery slope. If a privately-owned company can decide not to cover certain types of contraception on religious grounds, what other medical treatments can it refuse to cover? What if a company is owned by a person who believes that all modern medicine goes against the will of God? Would it not be a gross violation of his religious freedom to force him to pay for any modern medical treatment for his employees? If God wishes the employee to heal, the employee will heal. If God wishes the employee to not heal, the employee will not heal.
Oh, and what if an employer feels that, since women are not equal to men, based on a traditional interpretation of the Bible, he should not feel compelled to pay for their health care? Arguably, the employer could claim that he should not be compelled to hire women in the first place. Why should the government be able to compel him to hire women in the first place…but allow him the religious freedom to not cover all of their medical treatments?
What if the employer thinks that all prenatal screenings are against God’s will because they effectively encourage the female employee to consider terminating her pregnancy due to possible fetal abnormalities? Should the employer be allowed to refuse to pay for any prenatal screenings? As one can see, it does not take long for us to go far beyond the issue of certain types of contraception. Many things we view as commonplace and noncontroversial medical treatments could arguably be violations of employers’ religious beliefs.
Or, what if employers believe that God wants fewer children? An employer could firmly believe that God only wants each couple to have two children…and therefore wants the right to refuse to pay for maternity care for any additional children. Would this not be his right? In order to respect his religious beliefs the law should not compel him to pay for any more of his employees’ children.
We must play be secular rules lest we fall prey to death by agonizing slippery slopes. Today, the issue is contraception…but tomorrow it could be virtually everything else. There is no way to maintain modern health care reform in any meaningful manner if we plan to provide every private-sector employer with a “get out of payment free” card. Crafty employers will start claiming religious exemptions for all sorts of medical treatments, hoping to cut costs.
Requiring religious people to follow secular laws has been the way of American jurisprudence since the creation of the Constitution, and we should not take a step backward. We are all free to worship as we wish, which is what our Founding Fathers intended – we need not inflict our beliefs on our employees. Let our business be in the secular sphere and our religious beliefs remain in their own sphere. This separation of spheres is akin to the separation of powers that has kept our nation from becoming mired in corruption and tyranny. These spheres must remain separate for the good of all.