HHS Mandate — Unjust and illegal

Patrick Lee, a professor of bioethics and Director of the Institute of Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville, has written an interesting analysis of the HHS mandate at the Public Discourse blog.

Lee states that the HHS mandate is illegal under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, and is unjust for two reasons:

…it infringes the natural right of all citizens to freedom of conscience and religion (see Melissa Moschella’s Public Discourse article); and it attempts to impose on society a false—overly restrictive—definition of what religion actually is (see Gerard Bradley’s Public Discourse article).

Writing first about the natural right to freedom of conscience and religion, Lee says:

…the protection of natural rights is not an optional extra, or alien to the public good—it is a constitutive element. Included in these natural rights is the right to form and to follow one’s conscience, adopt a religious belief, and practice one’s religion.

True, this right to act on one’s conscience and exercise one’s religion is not absolute. If such exercise seriously damages the public good, then the political community may limit such conduct.

Lee contends that the HHS mandate does not meet this standard.  The exercise of conscience by an individual or organization to refuse to furnish abortion-inducing drugs does not seriously damage the public good.

Further, the HHS mandate imposes a false idea of what religion is:

…essentially private and marginal. The mandate allows exceptions for conscientious objection only to those religious groups that relate almost exclusively to people of the same religion.

As Lee points out,

…religion is not a creature of the state: it antedates the political community and has its structure independently of political laws and mandates.

I might add, religion is not a creature of the state in which we’d all prefer to live.

Lee makes a very important point about religious freedom:

Moreover, the right to freedom of religion is not a right belonging only to people when they act as individuals; it also belongs to people insofar as they associate in communities or institutions—including religious schools and hospitals—and seek to fulfill their religious missions.

Lee goes on to ask, is the HHS mandate necessary because it promotes something essential to the common good?  The answer is no.  Abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization are ubiquitous–readily available to anybody.  The HHS mandate would only marginally increase their availability.

The HHS mandate is illegal, unjust, and unnecessary.  It must be repealed.

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