This is a letter I sent to our local paper, The Scranton Times-Tribune, about the hub-bub over the contraceptive mandate and the first amendment. I am unsure if they will print it but thought it might be interesting reading for others.
“I am not Roman Catholic but I support them in their endeavor to uphold the first amendment when it comes to providing contraceptives/abortifacients via insurance providers. Whether a religious employer pays directly for women to receive these items or whether the insurance company that the employer pays premiums to is required to provide them, both are in clear violation of the free exercise clause of the first amendment.
Debates over Catholic women using these items or the cost savings of contraceptives over delivering babies (don’t get me started on the cost savings it was for us to have our son at home with a licensed midwife, but that’s another matter) are really smoke and mirrors. No Catholic is saying women cannot have access to these items (albeit we wish our culture embraced life rather than death); even the women in their employ (regardless of whether these women choose to obey the teaching of their religious faith). They are saying they should not be forced to violate their consciences as religious entities and individuals to pay for them de facto or de jure. Let them pay for them themselves.
Enshrined in the first amendment is the provision that the government will not restrict religious individuals and institutions from exercising their religion. Roman Catholics believe one cannot use contraceptives or abortifacients, and most orthodox Christians hold that one cannot use abortifacients; not because we suppress women and their rights, but because we uphold the right for all people to have life and to enjoy it abundantly; even unborn children in the womb. Therefore, to force religious groups to violate their inherent beliefs to uphold life by providing, even by extension, things that, in essence, prevent or destroy life, would be to violate their free exercise of religion.