Apr 3, 2012

Rights of the individual

It's no secret that there is a great controversy surrounding President Obama's mandate that contraception be available in health insurance plans. I think there is indeed some murky water here, and as Shripathi's previous post about the partiality of the SCOTUS states (and I agree with) the court is effectively yet another political arm in the government these days, it is interesting to see which of the rights of one person "trumps" another.

The argument in favor of Obama's mandate is effectively that women should have access to health insurance that provides them the care they want that is legal and available.

The argument against Obama's mandate is effectively that employers should not provide a service they consider morally wrong, even if it is legal.

Obviously the viewpoints do have to be weighed carefully, because they're in a serious deadlock ideologically. On the one hand, not having the contraception available is a true detriment to women (those that think that hormones are only for birth control are, frankly speaking, out of their minds), and on the other hand, having the contraception available does seem to restrict the exercise of the religious freedom of the employers.

However, let's try to take this a little deeper. I know this is a "slippery slope" argument, but ultimately this is the floodgate that gets opened in this case.

1. Imagine that there is a Jehovah's Witness who owns his own business. A child of one of their employees requires a blood transfusion, which is morally wrong according to the JW's. Does the JW employer get to deny the health coverage to their employee on religious grounds?

2. Imagine that there is a Catholic who owns his own business, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which has legalized gay marriage. One of the employees of that business is gay, and legally marries their girlfriend, which is morally wrong according to the Catholic religion. The couple decides to artificially inseminate to have children. Is the Christian employer legally allowed to fire their employee for taking the federally-mandated minimum of 12 weeks unpaid parental leave because they oppose the marriage and familial rights of their employees on religious grounds?

3. Imagine that there is a Vegan who owns her own business, and thinks that it is morally wrong to use animal products. An employee brings in a ham sandwich for lunch, which is morally wrong according to the employer (no cite, this is hypothetical). Is the Vegan employer legally allowed to require her employee to eat their ham sandwich off-premises, or be fired?

4. Imagine that there is a business owner in Topeka, Kansas in 1954, who believed that the Brown vs. Board of Education decision was wrong, and that he should be allowed to provide "separate but equal" bathrooms for his employees of different ethnic backgrounds, on religious grounds. Should this business owner be allowed to segregate his employees because he thinks that desegregation is immoral on religious grounds?

Where exactly does this stop? What moral objections are viewed as reasonable? What religious objections are viewed as reasonable? What is the objective standard to decide here? Just simple majority rule?


Staid Winnow said...

Great post with some simple situations that are realistic and expose this farce of "objections on moral grounds"

rappoccio said...

Thanks! I hope Scalia is reading this too hahahahaha!

Julie Flores said...

This is fantastic and I am going to share it! And hello to Shri, I miss our conversations via the Patch.

Staid Winnow said...

Contact me at my email, Julie, miss you too.