Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Religion Writer Mark Silk Turns History of Catholic Protestant Conflict Into HHS Contraception Mandate Piece

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 :

"The protection guaranteed by the [Fourth and Fifth] Amendments is much broader in scope. The makers of our Constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness. They recognized the significance of man's spiritual nature of his feelings and of his intellect. They knew that only a part of the pain, pleasure and satisfactions of life are to be found in material things. They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the Government, the right to be let alone -- the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. "

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 :

"If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child."

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.

...The laws involved in Bowers and here are, to be sure, statutes that purport to do no more than prohibit a particular sexual act. Their penalties and purposes, though, have more farreaching consequences, touching upon the most private human conduct, sexual behavior, and in the most private of places, the home. The statutes do seek to control a personal relationship that, whether or not entitled to formal recognition in the law, is within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals....

..It suffices for us to acknowledge that adults may choose to enter upon this relationship in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons. When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring. The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to make this choice..

and the Court quoted the famous quote from Casey :

These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State." Ibid.

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

Plaintiffs seek to have the state recognize their committed relationships, and plaintiffs’ relationships are consistent with the core of the history, tradition and practice of marriage in the United States. Perry and Stier seek to be spouses;they seek the mutual obligation and honor that attend marriage, Zarrillo and Katami seek recognition from the state that their union is “a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred.” Griswold, 381 US at 486.

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.


APOV said...

Again and again, the Affordable Care Act does not require anybody to give away birth control supplies, or anything else to anyone. I perform WORK for what I get from my employer, and I don't know why Catholics can not understand that simple concept. If they wanted universal healthcare in America which did not include coverage of reproductive healthcare, then they could have led the way and helped get it done many decades ago. But they have fought against basic human rights every step of the way, and now they have come up with a completely disingenuous claim of religious liberty to try to sabotage the affordable healthcare act which has finally been passed after such a long struggle.

James H said...

Sigh I need to do a blog post respinding to this misconception and why it does not get rid of the moral problem . Will FAV to respnd the next couple of days and try to explain the problem