With the impending arrival of the new health care law(s) the question of whether an employer has to pay for health insurance that might be used for birth control has come back to the table. Here is my take.
The argument has been made (and is being made) that forcing an employer to pay for medical insurance that might be used for health care can be a violation of that employer’s religious freedom. That is to say, in a case where the employer believes that the use of birth control is religiously prohibited he or she should not be put in a position to potentially (albeit indirectly) provide access to birth control for employees. As the argument goes, this violates the employer’s religious rights, because he/she is being legally compelled to do something they believe to be religiously wrong.
I actually see it the other way around. What right does an employer have to impose his/her religious views on his/her employees? Imagine the following scenario: a new law is passed, requiring organizations that employ over 50 people to provide their employees with a $100 food card to the local food store each month. Then imagine if a Jewish organization said we don’t want to give the food card, because we don’t want it used by people to buy pork products. After all, Judaism teaches that pork is a prohibited food. It sounds absurd, because first of all what people eat is their own business, and second of all a Jewish organization would not impose its religious system on others, especially when some of those people might not even be Jewish.
And yet this is exactly what is happening with the birth care/health control argument delineated above. The employers are essentially saying ‘we want to tell our employees that they should follow our religious belief system.’ If the law was forcing people to use birth control that would be an entirely different story. But it isn’t. Some employees may take advantage of that benefit, while others may not. The truth is the employers don’t know how their employees are using their health care benefits, nor should they. It is not their business, and they shouldn’t worry so much about their own religious freedom when they are so ready to violate the religious freedom of others.