Mark Silk is a Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College . He also is a columnist at the Religion News Service and is part of the new Religion and Politics site .So he is one of these folks that is widely read.
He had an interesting column dealing with Irish Catholics, Yale , taxes and how the battles between Catholics and Protestants died out in Connecticut . See Connecticut: A Blogger Revisits the Yale Athletic Fields .
However for some reason he seems to give a sort of Op-Ed ( though I might be misleading his intent ) on the HHS Contraception mandate in the last two paragraphs.
The end of the Irish-Yankee struggle in Connecticut did not come overnight. It may be marked by the 1961 decision of Estelle Griswold, head of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and Dr. C. Lee Buxton, a professor of medicine at Yale, to open a birth control clinic in New Haven in order to challenge the state’s 1879 law banning contraception. The law was vigorously supported by the Catholic Church, but in the end to no avail. In 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Griswold v. Connecticut, a landmark decision that, by declaring the law banning contraception unconstitutional via a constitutional right of privacy, laid the basis for Roe v. Wade.
Since then, Connecticut has become a place where appeals to religion are looked at as wholly inappropriate in a political setting. As in other parts of New England, memories of ethno-religious contention have led to an embrace of church-state separation unequalled anywhere else in the country. For those who remember Griswold, it is somewhat ironic that a Connecticut bishop, William Lori of Bridgeport—recently made Archbishop of Baltimore—has this year been leading the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ charge against the federal mandate that insurance plans cover contraceptive services for women free of charge. Outside Connecticut, such objections to mandated contraception coverage have gained traction. It’s a safe bet, however, that Lori’s cause will attract only minimal support in the land of steady habits.
What is "ironic" is how much of that is wrong.
First for many people Connecticut has not been seen recently as such a place of Church / State Separation See here .
However what is very ironic is it turns the Griswold right of privacy on it's head. The Griswold Right to privacy casesare still some what disputed at least in the Academy at times. WHERE IS RIGHT TO PRIVACY in the document the argument goes.
Basically the reasoning of these cases is there are some matters so intimate so private that the Government has no competence or ability to go into.
From Griswold quoting Mr. Justice Brandeis, dissenting opinion in Olmstead v. United States :
Later this right to contraception and the right to privacy and all that went with it was expanded to unmarried couples in Eisenstadt v. Baird :
Of course this logic was extended to abortion rights in the famous Roe V Wade case.
This line of cases was recently revisited in the important Lawence V Texas case.
and the Court quoted the famous quote from Casey :
Now the interesting point we have gone from Government stay out to now Government telling you , me , the man behind the tree , and RELIGIOUS orgs that you are mandated to affirm these right by giving it assistance.
We can see this through the HHS Contraception mandate and all be damned if it conflicts with our "own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."
In fact as to the Lawrence opinion dealing with homosexual acts we now have these words from Judge Walker’s opinion in the famous Prop 8 case
In othewordsr we have gone from the State staying out to people having a right to societal affirmation for certain conduct. That of course triggers all sort of things including many sanctions for those that don't agree. Now that is not the only argument for gay marriage of course. However that societal affirmation and "RIGHT" to it as see is in the mix.
Returning to the immediate matter of the HHS Contraception mandate related matters, and "irony" one wonders if people do not see the threat here that endorse all these rights. Christian Conservatives are often accused of escalating the "culture wars" ,but nothing escalates something more than having to pay for something that goes against your morals.
For instance two days ago the Catholic Bishop of Springfield the dramatic change in the Democratic Platform :
Even more troubling is that this whole discussion about God in the platform is a distraction from more disturbing matters that have been included in the platform. In 1992 Presidential candidate Bill Clinton famously said that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare." That was the party's official position until 2008. Apparently "rare" is so last century that it had to be dropped, because now the Democratic Party Platform says that abortion should be "safe and legal." Moreover the Democratic Party Platform supports the right to abortion "regardless of the ability to pay." Well, there are only three ways for that to happen: either taxpayers will be required to fund abortion, or insurance companies will be required to pay for them (as they are now required to pay for contraception), or hospitals will be forced to perform them for free.
Again another step that seems to put some of the basic logic of the Griswold cases on their head. That is we go from GOVT stay out to GOVT says you must help affirm these choices.
Needless to say Griswold says nothing about how religious groups must affirm these choices by a paying for services. Further it is indeed "irony" that the HHS Mandate that sets new precedents and limits for what is "religious" is being used as great example of the Separation of Church and State.
In other words I think Mr Silk is out in left field. I am clueless how the HHS Mandate helps the cause and spirit of New England viewpoints of Separation of Church and State.