It's about religious freedom

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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On Feb. 15, Ken Trainor wrote about "Who controls birth control?" Space does not permit full refutation of each error, so I will hit the main points briefly.

1) In Casti Connubii, Pius XI did not talk about rubber technology and other devices. He objected to anything that will "deliberately frustrate" the marital act. Contrary to what you stated in your article, this is not a new teaching. St. Augustine, also quoted in this encyclical, condemned this deed using for his example, the fate of Onan. (Gen 38: 8-10)

2) Contrary to popular belief, the Catholic Church is not a democracy. True, a person's conscience is the final arbitrator over the guilt of a particular act, but if that person knows the teaching of the church and ignores it, he sins. End of story.

3) Never before has the federal government intruded into private affairs to such an extent. Never have the people been forced to purchase that which is contrary to their religious beliefs. Neither has the government ever commanded religious leaders to provide for something that goes against their own teaching.

This is not really about contraception. This is about religious freedom. Contraceptives are widely available and anyone can buy them. Even Catholics are completely free to commit this grave sin unencumbered. However, the magisterium and those of us who are faithful to them, have the right to be left out of it.

Carolyn Righeimer
Oak Park

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Posted: March 13th, 2012 12:15 AM

The requirement for coverage of Birth Control has existed for sometime, even before the new law. I believe it was back in 2000 it was ruled that if an employer offers prescription drug coverage they must offer birth control. This is why dozens of Catholic institutes, like DePaul University, currently cover BC for all their employees. Where was the outcry then? I hope its not purely political.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 10:27 PM

Vasectomy and Viagra. Has the Holy See weighed in on whether the procedure or use of the drug would be considered a grave sin?


Posted: March 12th, 2012 8:51 PM

@B Slowiak. I indeed tell my children to not rely on the govt - but my "problem" is that my eldest is about to start the process to become an aviator in the Marines!?! In the meantime - I agree with Ms. Righeimer. This issue is NOT about contraception - it is about religious freedom. Don't like what the company you work for offers? Work elsewhere. The Catholic Church has had this policy forever - and some people act unfair and cry "unfair?" And the pill costs, what, $20 a month?

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 7:27 PM

To INT:My OP police pension/annuity fund is doing well (private management) in spite of local government not making their contribution of 4%. I paid into my pension fund, the local government did not.The burden for my children is, do not, under any circumstance let the government promise to take care of you. Pres. Bush was correct, private accounts for the vast majority.SS is part of, not the entire retirement package. Tell your children not to rely on government.Lie to me, lie to you.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 7:03 PM

@B Slowiak. Getting off topic here - and I am Catholic! - but there is a lot more gray here than can be discussed in 500 letters or pages! BTW, when I was younger, your position was not a consideration for many. If, though, I'd have known that pay and benefit levels (retired at 50?) would have risen so much....? Not complaining - that's just life! In the meantime, do you care somewhat about the burden that this is leaving for our children? Many can't even obtain a job - lots in line for "test."

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 6:19 PM

To INt: at least you admit it is not fair.SS is a supplement, and no citizen is to rely solely on the supplement.As far as trading, I worked 10 years of midnight shifts and had only 14 out of 52 Saturdays off a year.Did you? Sorry you didnt take the test. Then again, you were compensated in advance. How many weekends and holidays did you have off? Choice. Forcibly paying into SS, being guaranteed benefits, and then being misled is not choice. If they lie to me, they will lie to you.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 5:46 PM

@Brian Slowiak. I agree that your anger has a point, but as you noted - you only paid in for 10 years. Soc Sec is a govt program to keep people out of poverty. Is it fair that you receive something like a 26% benefit? Probably not, but welcome to our world where we have no pension and just social security and IRA's!. Can we trade? In the meantime, your medicare benefits are equal to mine and you did not pay any thing like I have for them. Sadly, our children will both pay more and get less.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 5:37 PM

Interesting: I have paid into SS with 10 yrs. of earning and was promised benefits, not a 26% benefit. How many people obtain SS benefits and never pay in at all. I dont want someones elses benefit, I just want my benefit. Now in the private sector i pay in again 100% and only get 26%max. Why arent federal elected officials paying into SS and just losing their benefit, Like I am forced to do.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 5:22 PM

@Brian Slowiak. You are correct - and it's why public pensions should be replaced with social security and 401K plans. We wouldn't have this financial disaster right now - where the only solution is some combination of raising taxes again AND cutting benefits a lot - or BK. Last paycheck of a teacher I saw showed no medicare payment. Few public employees earn much during those 40 qtrs and thus shouldn't receive the min soc sec benefit - which is for people who worked a long time and no pension

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 5:13 PM

To Jim: I dont know about medicare, but soc.sec. benefits for retired police, fire fighters and public school teachers with a public pension is capped at 26% even if you have the 40 quarters.I lost my share of SS benefits i worked for prior to becoming police off.,and now in the private sector i pay in to SS 100% and will only get26%. Federal elected off. and employees are exempt from SS and pay into a private pension.Dem. Rostenkowski,Ill, started it.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 4:39 PM

I think you are wrong about teachers not paying anything towards medicare. It would be great if an Oak Park teacher would be willing to chime on the subject and provide us with the facts. Blaming President Obama for the tax laws that benefit GE is a stretch. Congress has been reluctant to deal with the problem.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 4:32 PM

There is a distinct hostility in the country (partly because of Bush, no doubt) against peoples of faith. Understandably, some of the right wingers are full on nuts. However, the hostility is also driven by the government, which doesn't want a competing ideology. Ultimately, this issue was constructed to allow the Obama administration to gain female support. Unfortunate, because it is an affront to religious freedom.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 3:44 PM

@JC. Yes. They pay a little more than we do for soc sec and receive much more in return. Is that fair for the rest of us? They also don't support soc sec for the less fortunate amongst us and soon it'll go broke! That's not fair, either. They also don't pay anything toward medicare. Blame Obama and Congress for the tax laws which benefit GE and more. They are only seeking to maximize profit for shareholders - which helps all of us with our 401K plans.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 3:35 PM

@Interesting. You know that teachers pay into a retirement fund and therefore are not eligible for social security. They do pay the medicare tax. I would not object to ending the tax deduction for charitable contributions as long as it part of complete overhaul of the tax code. It's particularly galling that G.E. employs an small of tax lawyers to enable the company to pay zero in corporate taxes. That simply shifts the burden to small businesses and individuals.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 3:28 PM

You're going to have to be a bit more specific,I M. Which government programs would you like to see eliminated? The 500 character limit for non verified posts may prove to be a hinderance to compiling a complete list but please offer as many as you are able. We'll have to agree to disagree on the tax exempt status granted to organizations like the Church of Scientology. It's founder, L. Ron Hubbard was asked why he stopped writing science fiction novels to start a church? The huckster replied, "That's where the money is!".

I M Doc from OP  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 2:15 PM

@Coughlin: Yes, funny how a simple statement can be seen from many different angles.I still don't see how tax exemption puts a burden on everyone else. And, frankly, it doesn't bother me that L. Ron Hubbard gets an exemption despite the absurdity of it. What bothers me is over-taxation by the govt to fund programs and agendas that extend far beyond their skills and their mandate. Perhaps if the govt could control itself from pushing its agenda, we wouldn't be so "burdened"...

I M Doc from OP  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 2:05 PM

@Phil of Ideas: If by that standard, please remove the tax exempt status of ANY organization that allows and subsequently covers up such crimes. So, be sure to include: Penn State, Syracuse, other universities, boy scouts, public schools, sports programs, fraternities/sororities, day camps, the military, Congress, gov't pages/interns/staffers, etc. Don't single out Catholics on this...the issue is clearly rampant and the Church despite its issues shouldn't be singled out.

I M Doc from OP  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 1:58 PM

@Daniel: Regarding the questions of polygamy, sacramental drug use, withholding medical treatment from children, and refusal to submit to military draft...I also don't think that government should have a role in overseeing any of those either. But then, I'm a libertarian who doesn't believe that the gov't is capable of doing much well. The role of gov't has grown FAR too much in the past several decades in my estimation....and debates like this are merely a symptom of that disease.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 1:06 PM

@Dylan. Everyone pays taxes on income. Sales taxes for not-for-profits, with proof of that status, are not paid (which includes public school purchases)-and so it is not because this is "religious work." @JC, your 11:40 post stated "by failing to pay income tax, social security...." I thought it important to correct this. And, why you are at it, why don't you include all charitable deductions on our tax returns? Good luck on changing the law on any of that! Teachers don't pay social security!


Posted: March 12th, 2012 12:26 PM

Actually, there are many taxes that priests and nuns do not pay. I am unsure if they pay income tax actually, as there are exemptions for those who do religious work. Also, they don't pay sales tax on items that are related to their work. I think it is appropriate.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 12:24 PM

I think a Catholic should be free NOT to purchase coverage. Just as Native Americans should be free to use peyote. As are Jehovah's Witnesses should be free to purchase health insurance that does not cover blood transfusions. As Rastafarians should be free to use marijuana. If these things are conducted on an individual responsible basis that is fine. It is when they are not, and they are abused and affect larger society is the problem.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 12:22 PM

Taxes paid by priests, ministers,nun and other members of the clergy is not central to the issue. Many either take a vow of poverty or receive very little in the way of compensation. Others can be designated as independent contractors. I would argue that an exemption from property taxes does require that the burden is passed along to everyone else.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 12:22 PM

I want it to be clear on one thing. I think the government SHOULD respect religious conscience. I think that individuals should not be forced by the government to purchase something that is against their well formed conscience. However, Carolyn is incorrect in stating that the Federal Government hasn't ever done this before. I am attempting to submit a response to the WJ. There is much from this debate that is being forgotten or left out.


Posted: March 12th, 2012 11:48 AM

@JCoughlin. Church employees (including priests and ministers) pay income tax, social security tax, sales tax, EVERY tax....except property taxes on non-profit properties. For instance, prior to the recent sale of West Sub to a for-profit business, the hospital paid no prop taxes. This was true even prior to being owned by Resurrection/Catholic Church - it was a "not for profit." No "burden" is "passed along to everyone else."

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 11:40 AM

A bible quote does not address the issue of fairness,I M. Some may even cite Romans 13 to counter your position. I've stated that there should be no restrictions on your belief system but it cannot be imposed upon on non-believers. By failing to pay income tax, social security tax, real estate taxes,etc.,. the burden is simply passed along to everyone else. I don't accept the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology but am forced to subsidize that organization. There's the rub.

Phil of Ideas  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 10:09 AM

Let's eliminate the tax exempt status of any church that allows and subsequently covers up the rape of children. Those churches that have done so lose the right to tell anyone else about morals, even politicians. I laugh at the wagging finger of Mother Church and its "Doctors."

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 7:56 AM

I'm not sure where I come down on whether granting tax-exampt status to churches should be held to violate the establishment clause. But I find it ironic, IM Doc, that you cite Jesus' admonition to pay Ceaser's things to Ceaser and God's things to God as support for exempting churches from paying taxes. The point of Jesus' epigram was that the money belonged to Ceaser, and therefore taxes should be payed to Ceasar.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: March 12th, 2012 7:45 AM

But IM Doc, you are avoiding the substance of the issues. The examples of ritual sacrifice are easy ones, but they demonstrate the fallacy of your argument that the right to freedom of religion is absolute. On a more realistic level, I notice that you ignore the questions about polygamy, sacramental drug use, withholding medical treatment from children, and refusal to submit to military draft. Are those religious practices also beyond the reach of government regulation? Historically, they have not been. The "intrusion" caused by Obama's policy pales compared to those historical intrusions. If you disagree with the Smith decision, you should explain why instead of merely asserting that it should be ignored. And if you are concerned about government forcing the religious agenda and policitions shaping morals, I assume your skin is crawling at the likes of Santorum and other politicians across the country trying to invoke government power to diminish access to birth control. Right?

I M Doc from OP  

Posted: March 11th, 2012 11:24 PM

@ Jim Coughlin: "And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's.", I think it best to keep religion and taxes separate. The idea that somehow the tax-exempt status creates a subsidy for religions is nothing close to a reflection of reality. Do churches sometimes act more like corporations? Yes. Do they often carry more than their fair share of the weight for supporting people who need assistance? Absolutely.

I M Doc from OP  

Posted: March 11th, 2012 11:15 PM

@Daniel: There you go again with all of the legal-ese! I've called you no names....except "lawyer", which only your own neuroses could interpret as an insult. Forked tongue? Well, you tell me. No one is saying that murder for religious reasons should be condoned and above the law. Throwing babies into volcanoes is a legal and moral wrong. But on more subtle ethical and moral issues, why does the gov't get to force its agenda? Politicians should be last to be allowed to shape morals.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 11th, 2012 8:20 PM

Interesting discussion. I'll ask I M Doc the same question I posed to Virginia. What are you views on the tax exempt status granted to religious organizations? How is it fair and reasonable to force non-believers to subsidize these groups? I support the right to believe all you can believe but wonder about the appropriateness of the exemption that provides that all must carry the weight.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: March 11th, 2012 8:04 PM

You can call me names if you want to IM Doc, but the Smith opinion was written by Justice Scalia, a conservative Catholic. So your beef is with your Catholic brother, not with me. As to your statement that the government should have NO voice in religious matters, let's test whether you believe that. Does the government have the right to outlaw polygamy? Does it have the right to force Jehovah's Witnesses to permit their children to have blood transfusions where medical doctors have determined it is necessary to save the child's life? doe it have the right to force Christian Scientists to permit their children to undergo medical treatment where medical doctors have determined it is necessary to save the child's life? Does it have the right to force Jehovah's Witneses to submit to the military draft? Does it have the right to prohibit the ritual sacrifice of animals where such sacrifice involves animal suffering? It there were an extant Aztec religion, would the government have the right to prohibit the ritual sacrifice of humans. If Babylonian religions were extant today, would the government have the right to prohibit the throwing of babies into the fire of Molech? You may not answer all of those questios the same way. But the point is that neither the right of the free exercise of religion or any other right can be absolute. All rights must be tempered by other conflicting rights. All of that said, the Obama policy does not do anything at all to inhibit religious practice. The Church remains perfectly free to condemn birth control and to condemn to hell anyone who uses it.

I M Doc from OP  

Posted: March 11th, 2012 6:52 PM

@Daniel: You apparently have a beef with the Catholic Church and its teachings. That's your right -- feel free to choose a different religion that is more to your liking on birth control and other issues. And, all of your legalistic ramblings aside, you either believe in religious freedom and that the government should have NO voice in these matters WHATSOEVER, or you oppose the very foundation of our country. All the rest are parsed words by lawyers and other forked tongues.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: March 11th, 2012 10:56 AM

So, whoever you are from OP, you regard the mass povety and misery that has been caused by the Church's stance against birth control as a mere "inconvenience"? In any event, Obama's policy does not prevent the Church from preaching that birth control is a sin, nor does it compel anyone to engage in birth control. Indeed, even the original policy exempted Church's themselves -- even though not required to do so under Justice Scalia's opinion in Smith. It applied only to Church-operated schools and hospitals that employ and serve non-Catholics. By the way, as you likely know, Justice Scalia is an arch-conservative and a devout Catholic. If you don't like his ruling, complain about his ruling. Don't complain that Obama has tried to strike a sensible compromise that is fully constitutional under the current state of First Amendment jurisprudence.

"immeasurably maladaptive doctrine" from OP  

Posted: March 11th, 2012 9:01 AM

@Daniel: Well, I'm sorry that the Church's teaching is inconvenient for you! Perhaps you'd prefer one of those televangelists to whom one sends money in exchange for saying everything one wants to hear? You can create whatever legalistic defense you'd like (and many are hard at work on that), but the fundamental issue is that our gov't shouldn't have say-so over religion. Period. Perhaps previous related cases should be reconsidered in this light.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: March 10th, 2012 2:11 PM

Very good point Dylan. I wasn't sure how much Virginia could digest at one time. (Just kidding Virginia. :-)


Posted: March 10th, 2012 1:33 PM

Virginia, Those the Smith case was about a controlled Substance, but who decides that its bad for society? Couldn't the argument be made that lack to access to BC is bad for society because women are unable to decide when they have children? And they may not be able to support them, therefore have to rely on the Government for help? Is it about Religious Freedom or not? You can't say its about Religious freedom but then say Natives don't get that coverage.. Thats called hypocrisy.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: March 9th, 2012 2:32 PM

You are grasping at straws Virginia. There is no case holding that the Smith case is applicable only where the generally applicable law is a prohibition rather than a mandate. The religious imposition caused by depriving a religion of its ceremonial sacrament is far graver than the imposition caused by a few of your church's dollars going to provide insurance that covers birth control. The former is a direct interference in religious worship. The latter has no impact at all on a Catholic person's religious practice.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 9th, 2012 1:30 PM

Verginia, I would be interested in hearing your views on the tax exempt status granted to religious organizations. Why do you hold that it is fair and just to force non believers to subsidize these groups?

Virginia Seuffert from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2012 1:11 PM

The Smith case concerned the prohibition of a controlled substance. The law was written to protect society by restricting drug use. Another applicable case would be the present prohibition against polygamy a practice widely accepted elsewhere in the world. It applies to all regardless of religious belief because it is seen as furthering a societal aim. Both are prohibitions. This is a mandate. In this case we are forcing religious groups to violate their consciences. Big difference!

Virginia Seuffert from Oak Park  

Posted: March 9th, 2012 12:54 PM

This country was founded on the principle of religious freedom by people who had escaped persecution. The President made no accommodation, and the officially published rule repeats that it is printed without change. Birth control is besides the point. Anyone can get it any place, and it is already subsidized by tax dollars. There is an exemption for religious organizations. The point is that some government hack gets to decide what a religious organization is. Very troubling!

Joseph A. Wemhoff from Brussels, Belgium  

Posted: March 9th, 2012 1:36 AM

Carolyn-- Thank you for your clear and forceful defense of the Faith. No Doctor of the Church could have said it better. You wrote the letter that local Catholic pastors should have written. Bravo for your courage!

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: March 8th, 2012 10:41 PM

So, let's see. According to your religious convictions, birth control is a sin, and so you don't want any of the Church's money to be used to pay for health insurance that covers birth control. But it's not about birth control? Of course it's about birth control. It is ALSO about religious freedom, though the precise way in which religious freedom is implicated is a bit elusive. No one is being forced to exercise birth control, and no one is being prevented from exercising his or her religion. A church-affiliated business the employs non-believers is being required to comply with generally applicable insurance regulations. Back in 1990, Scalia wrote an opinion for the Supreme Court (in Employment Division v. Smith), holding that a generally applicable law that happens to impinge on religious practice is constitutional. That's what we have here: a generally applicable requirement that employers provide their employees with insurance coverage that includes birth control. In the Smith case, the generally applicable law prevented a Native American church from using sacramental peyote in their religious rituals. Scalia held that to be OK. The use of peyote by the Native American church was the equivalent of the use of the sacraments by the Catholic Church. Compared to that, any imposition on the free exercise of religion by the generally applicable mandate for birth control coverage is trivial. Still, even though not remotely required to do so by the Constitution, Obama took measures to accommodate the Church's concerns. Any continued objection by the Church smacks of it wanting to impose its religious beliefs on its non-believing employees. And let's face it. The Church's opposition to birth control is an immeasurably maladaptive doctrine.

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