Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Religious Exemptions for Secular Jobs?

Under the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, there is a religious exemption causing quite the controversy. The exemption states that all employers must provide contraception and sterilization as a part of their employees health coverage, unless you are a religious institution opposed to such things as it applies strongly to your religion. This exemption is not solely for churches or other places of worship, but it also applies to religious-based schools and hospitals. Due to the widespread nature of this exemption, it is not solely Catholics that will be affected.

This exemption means that everyone hired to work at a religious based institution, for example a Catholic hospital, can be denied the healthcare benefits of contraception, even though the majority of employees may not share those beliefs or they may even not be Catholic at all. Thus, this exemption may create more unwanted pregnancies and babies. It may also result in more sicknesses, due to women trying to get an abortion cheaply, since their healthcare does not cover it. However, there is also the push for religious-based hospitals to become more secular in their policies, particularly since so few employees at such institutions are Catholic at all. Another aspect to consider is that almost 1/5 of all hospitals in the United States are Catholic. That is a lot of women that will not be allotted affordable birth control by their healthcare provider.

Another reason why this exemption seems so unfair is because the Department of Health and Human Services recently mandated that employers insurance coverage for their employees must include contraceptive services and counseling free of additional cost, unless they are covered under religious exemption. Thus, if every other employee across the country is receiving these benefits, why should some people be denied that right? This is particularly an issue because most of the people hired at Catholic hospitals are hired for a secular purpose and no aspect of their job entails any sort of religiosity. If one’s job does not entail any sort of religious work, then why should their healthcare benefits deny you things because of a religious belief?

There are some highly religious people that are gunning towards an even more inclusive religious exemption. As it is, I believe that this exemption has enough state interest that it should not have been included in the first place. This is one instance of belief vs. action where the state should intervene. Even though these are religious based institutions, they exist for secular purposes. If the institutions serve a secular purpose, than the healthcare offered to their employees should be secular as well.

If an employee does hold those Catholic beliefs, than she does not have to make use of the added healthcare benefits, but don’t take it away from others who do not share those beliefs. I understand religious exemptions for perhaps a church, but I do not believe that religious exemptions should apply to institutions that have secular purposes.


PamelaR said...

Providing contraceptive and other services that religious hospitals don't believe in to their patients is controversial, but refusing to include contraception in healthcare plans takes it even farther. At a church, most people who work there support the church's values. But a hospital, which, like Grace said, provides a secular purpose, has a huge range of employees, many of which are not the same religious affiliation as the hospital, and work there just because it's the area's only hospital. The Affordable Care Act should not allow an exception for hospitals-- this is definitely favoring religion, and significantly disadvantaging many people who work at these hospitals.

Liz Petrillo said...

I agree with Pamela, that the staff should not be held to the religious standards, since most of the staff probably believes in another religion or none at all. However, I do not agree that the severity of this situation is what it is painted out to be. It's 2011, people know how babies are made, and I am pretty sure there are millions of people who aren't on birth control and aren't pregnant. Although I believe contraceptives should be included in the staff's healthcare, if the institution feels that strongly about it, then work at a different hospital or go to cvs and buy other methods of contraception.

Harry R. said...

While I am not sure of the specific terms included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I know that many employers are under no obligation to provide health care benefits for their employees. As such, they could provide as limited or as expansive coverage as they desire. However, taking healthcare with complete coverage as the norm, I feel that secular organizations with ties to religion should not be granted exemptions. Their focus is secular, and the hiring of secular employees should not be controlled by religious beliefs.

Kathryn M. said...

Since, the purpose of a hospital is secular and “individual interests are aided only as the common interest is safeguarded,” according to Cochran v. Board of Education, a doctor’s Hippocratic oath cannot be violated to protect their religious views toward procedures such as emergency abortion when the mother’s health is at immediate risk. Nevertheless, abortion and sterilization is against Catholic dogma since Catholics believe that from the moment of conception, a baby has a soul; therefore, these medical benefits would conflict directly with the 6th Commandment. While an employee’s decision to utilize these services should not be detrimental in maintaining their employment, I believe Harry is correct that employers are not obligated to provide certain health care benefits for their employees. Health care insurance and benefits are often an independent service and under present legislation, employers are able to grant exemptions. Catholic hospitals often receive funds from both private dioceses and public tax money. Thus, it is difficult to determine if the hospital remains protected by the institution’s deemed religious convictions or if dogma, by a largely secular institution, infringes on the rights of the minority.

Marissa V said...

I also agree with Pamela. A hospital should serve a secular purpose as its main purpose is to serve people's healthcare needs. If a Catholic hospital refuses to provide contraceptives to its patients it is definitely favoring its religious beliefs over what is necessary. This puts people that go to these religious affiliated hospitals at a disadvantage.

kanderson said...

I think that we are looking at two seperate issues. First, whether or not the employer should provide controceptive benefits and second, looking at the services that hospitals (including religious hospitals) provide to their patients. Like Harry said, there are some companies that do not offer any form of health benefits for their employees, and companies are not required to offer them. So I think only going 90% of the way (not including contraceptive benefits) is not really a huge problem. Though it may have to close down because of a lack of funding, there is such thing as Planned Parenthood. Yet, I do think that hospitals should offer all services to their patients who come in. Companies are more private than hospitals (which is why it seems like them not offering birth control isn't an establishment), but alot of hospitals do recieve government funding. This is where I have a problem