Michael F. Cannon
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On Friday, President Obama tried to quell the uproar over his ongoing effort to force Catholics (and everyone else) to pay for contraceptives, sterilization, and pharmaceutical abortions. Unfortunately, the non-compromise he floated does not reduce by one penny the amount of money he would force Catholics to spend on those items. Worse, this mandate is just one manifestation of how the president's health care law will grind up the freedom of every American.

Even though the contraceptives mandate exempts parish priests and the Church hierarchy, it still violates Catholics' religious liberty in at least four ways.

First, the mandate fines Catholic institutions like Notre Dame and the Eternal World Television Network that adhere to the Church's teaching that contraception "is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin." In order not to sin against their God, these employers must now pay tribute to Caesar.

[T]his mandate is just one manifestation of how the president's health care law will grind up the freedom of every American.

Second, it takes away the freedom of Catholics to donate to institutions that uphold their religious views. There is a reason my parents donate to Catholic institutions rather than Planned Parenthood: they don't want to fund contraception. The mandate takes away that choice.

Third, it violates the freedom of Catholic business owners. How is it that the First Amendment protects the religious liberty of the employers who sit on the altar, but not the equally devout employers who sit in the pews?

Fourth, it violates the freedom of Catholic workers by forcing nearly every individual American to purchase contraceptive coverage. How is it that the First Amendment protects a devout Catholic if she works as a secretary for her local parish, but not if she works as a scientist at an environmental consulting firm?

The administration's defense of the mandate — that a majority of self-identified Catholics use contraception and that some Catholic institutions already cover it — likewise has at least four flaws.

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Michael F. Cannon

Michael F. Cannon is the Cato Institute's director of health policy studies.
 
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