January 8th, 2014

Obamacare and religious freedom: for who?

There have been a host of recent cases (and pending ones) involving the Obamacare mandates and religious freedom. This article explains that nonprofit religious employers (churches, for example) can be exempted from Obamacare and/or from the Obamacare penalty/tax if it violates their religious beliefs to be forced to help foot the bill for birth control for other people, and therefore to facilitate and enable birth control, and if paying the penalty instead would be an onerous burden for the group. However, for-profit businesses who have religious beliefs that go against contraception are not exempt so far, although they have mounted court challenges on that issue. Groups such as the nuns of the Little Sisters of the Poor—who are “affiliated with religious organizations but not owned or controlled by them”—fall into an in-between gray area.

One of the main legal questions that has yet to be determined in cases involving for-profit group exemptions on religious grounds is whether such groups/corporations are to be considered “persons” for the purposes of Obamacare. However, an actual person (an individual, that is) with religious beliefs that violate the birth control provision of Obamacare is not exempt. Such an individual is ordinarily required to buy contraceptive coverage under Obamacare or pay the penalty/tax for not getting an insurance policy. He or she is not required to use the birth control coverage thus purchased, of course. Nor is he or she required to directly support anyone else using it—although he/she and everyone else is indirectly required to support it by paying into the system that subsidizes others’ use of contraception.

But that does not mean there is no religious exemption from Obamacare for an individual. There is a category of individuals (actual persons, that is, not corporations that some courts might consider to be “persons” under the law) that is exempted for religious reasons from Obamacare and its penalties, according to the IRS. Those persons are members of certain religious groups:

6. What are the statutory exemptions from the requirement to obtain minimum essential coverage?

Religious conscience. You are a member of a religious sect that is recognized as conscientiously opposed to accepting any insurance benefits. The Social Security Administration administers the process for recognizing these sects according to the criteria in the law.

Which religious “sects” would qualify? They would seem to be the Anabaptists: Mennonites, Hutterites and the Amish. Members of those groups are already exempted from the Social Security and Medicare systems, and for them the same exemption would be true of Obamacare on the grounds that the health insurance system as whole is against their religion.

There have long been rumors that the same might be true for Muslims and that they might be exempted from the Obamacare requirements. But because they have not ever been exempted from the Social Security and Medicare systems, it is thought less likely (although within the realm of possibility) that they would be relieved of Obamacare obligations on similar grounds. It would be certainly be interesting to see a court challenge on that point, though.

Another interesting question would be whether an individual Catholic who is against birth control could obtain an exemption from either just the birth control element of coverage or from the Obamacare mandate as a whole, on the grounds of that individual’s religious beliefs. The answer is almost certainly “no,” due to the aforementioned fact that there would be no requirement for such an individual to actually use the birth control coverage, just that he or she buy it, and that as an individual that person is not directly subsidizing the birth control of others.

But why couldn’t the same thing be argued of individual Mennonites about the insurance system as a whole? Why should these individuals not have to buy health insurance coverage like the rest of us, whether they use it or not or object to it or not, or at the very least to pay the tax/penalty if they don’t buy it?

After all, the mandate now goes by the lovely Orwellian name of the “individual shared responsibility provision,” according to the IRS. See, it’s not a mandate at all, nor is it a tax, although the Supreme Court said it was and the IRS is in charge of it. It’s just a “shared responsibility” to make health insurance better, and who wouldn’t want to help with that?

Here’s the IRS’s definition:

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government, state governments, insurers, employers and individuals are given shared responsibility to reform and improve the availability, quality and affordability of health insurance coverage in the United States. Starting in 2014, the individual shared responsibility provision calls for each individual to have minimum essential health coverage (known as minimum essential coverage) for each month, qualify for an exemption, or make a payment when filing his or her federal income tax return.

The provision applies to individuals of all ages, including children.

Those who believe that the mandate should have been found unconstitutional (and I am one of them; I think the grounds should have been that it is an unequal capitation tax) also believe that no one should be subject to it and no one should have to pay a penalty for not buying it. But even for those who accept the government’s argument that the mandate is both constitutional, and that there is a shared responsibility to provide health insurance for all, it seems to me that there’s an argument to be made that there is no reason to exempt individual members of anti-insurance religions such as the Anabaptists from paying the penalty/tax for opting out of Obamacare coverage, if Catholics and others are not afforded the same privilege. Anabaptists are in more or less the same position as individual anti-birth-control Catholics who are forced to buy coverage or pay the penalty, are they not? In other words, why are the religious beliefs of those who are against insurance as a whole protected, and the beliefs of those who are against segments of Obamacare not protected? At the very least, why shouldn’t the latter be exempted from paying for the birth control portion of their policies?

Lawyers and courts may have an answer for this. No doubt they’ll come up with one, if need be. But I haven’t seen it yet. Any legal takers out there who’d like to enlighten me on what it is?

[NOTE: I'm pretty sure the title of this post should rightly be "for whom", but I didn't want to sound too pedantic.

And I wasn't 100% sure which was correct, anyway. Any really fine grammarians out there who can weigh in on this burning question?]

26 Responses to “Obamacare and religious freedom: for who?”

  1. Ray Says:

    To point out the obvious, it isn’t insurance. Insurance is to protect you from an unpredictable catastrophic financial loss. When you buy automobile insurance, the insurance company is betting your won’t have an accident and you are betting you will. Insurance does not cover routine predictable expenses. Automobile insurance does not cover oil changes, tune ups, brake jobs or new tires. If it did it wouldn’t be insurance and can you imagine how expensive your so called automobile insurance would be?

  2. expat Says:

    I can’t speak to the legal aspects of this, but I do hate to see the Little Sisters of the Poor being dragged through this. My great uncle, who lived with us for 3 or 4 years when I was in elementary school, spent his last years in a Little Sisters home in Baltimore. He was, as we used to say, mentally retarded, and after a serious illness, my aunt found him a place there. He had been raised a Catholic, and he loved the nuns. More important, he listened to them, whch means he helped out in the garden and did things besides watching TV and smoking all day. His eyes lit up when he talked about the nuns. They gave him several years of a good life.

    For is a preposition, which takes the objective case. I’d go for whom–except that most people probably find it a bit pompous. So I go with toss-up.

  3. Beverly Says:

    Well, the objective case of “who” is “whom,” but peer pressure will have its way.

    I used to have this on my wall (footnoted in Hart’s Rules for Readers and Compositors of the [Oxford] University Press):

    Dr. J. A. H. Murray, the head of the staff who compiled the original Oxford English Dictionary, had this to say about “acknowledgement vs. acknowledgment,” etc.

    “I protest strongly against the vulgar and unscholarly habit of omitting e from abridgement, acknowledgement, lodgement, judgement — which is against all analogy, etymology, or orthoepy, since elsewhere g is hard in English when not followed by e or t.

    “I think the University Press ought to set a scholarly example, instead of following the ignorant to do ill, for the sake of saving four e‘s. The word ‘judgement’ has been spelt in the Revised Version [of the Dictionary] correctly — evidently in fear of divine judgement.”

    I like that man.

  4. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    It should be “whom.” I’m not enough of a grammarian to explain the technical rules in detail, but basically, “who” is for subjects, “whom” is for objects.

    However, there’s no need to worry about the rules. The easy way to figure it out is to substitute “he” or “him” for the “who” or “whom” in your sentence. If you’d say “he,” use who: “Who is the person you’re looking for?” (He is the person you’re looking for.) If you’d say “him,” use “whom.” So, in your headline, you wouldn’t say, “Obamacare is for he,” or “Religious freedom is for he,” you’d say it’s “for him.” So, the word should be “whom.”

    Sometimes you have to turn the sentence around a little to make this work: If your sentence is “For who/whom should I vote?” you turn it around: “I should vote for him,” and that tells you it’s “whom.”

    Grammar lesson over. Quiz tomorrow!

  5. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Also, if the only choices are pomposity or falling into the dire pits of grammatical error, there’s always the write-around method!

  6. Ann Says:

    I don’t think using “whom” is pompous, but I also don’t think not using it is quite up there with something like “it’s a very personal decision for Michelle and I.”

    That really drives me nuts, especially since it’s usually done by those who consider themselves “educated.” Why they do it is anyone’s guess — pretentiousness?

  7. artfldgr Says:

    thou shalt have no god other than the soviet (comittee) state…

    duh…

    they all voted for communism, communism is what they are getting… whether the votors were lied to or not, too bad… after all, the ideology claims that this is ok and expedient and the votors ignored it.

    one should study the history of the russian church to get an idea of how things work and play out…

    just let it be known that in both places hitlers germany and stalins russia, the church ended up serving the state, and if not, then the church was no more… it was a compromise… germans are still trying to figure out what was original and what was changed by herr hitler and his henchment and women…

    on another note..

    JANUARY 8–A domestic dispute over space aliens escalated Saturday morning when a lingerie-clad New Mexico woman allegedly pointed a silver handgun at her boyfriend, a weapon she retrieved from her vagina, where it had been placed while the accused was performing a sex act, police allege.

    To make matters more strange, the arrested woman is the most recent ex-wife of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy, author of “The Road” and “No Country for Old Men.”

    McCarthy’s boyfriend told investigators that following the argument McCarthy departed her Aventura Road residence. Upon returning to the home, he told deputies, McCarthy went into her bedroom and later emerged “wearing lingerie and a silver handgun in her vagina.” She then proceeded to “have inner course with the gun,” according to the court fling.

    While using the gat as a sex toy, McCarthy reportedly asked her boyfriend, “Who is crazy, you or me?” The probable cause statement, drafted by Deputy Chris Zook, does not indicate whether McCarthy’s boyfriend dared to answer that query

    i think they found a new obama appointee..

  8. Don Carlos Says:

    Using correct grammar sounds pedantic only to the grammar-ignorant.

    Art- that must be in Santa Fe, no? Lots of gated 2nd home communities there, devoid of residents most months. Lots of divorcees too, in my experience, in the artsy-fartsy realm there. Hard for any of them to get laid by the many gays there.

  9. Chris Says:

    I don’t find whom pedantic at all.

    I do find it correct.

  10. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    I’d rather be pompous and right than ungrammatical and wrong. Still, if the use of some word or phrase is correct but likely to trip readers up — because they’re wondering if it’s grammatical, or they think it sounds “stuck-up,” or they’re not sure the word use is correct, or whatever — then I think the best thing is to find another way to put it. I write for a living and get into grammatical wrangles with the person who edits my work from time to time, and if I’m right but she’s sure that it “sounds wrong,” I usually just rewrite the sentence to eliminate the problem rather than arguing about how right I am. If it’s bothering her, it’ll also bother other readers, and the writing is not supposed to get in the reader’s way.

  11. Susan Says:

    If you’re seeking grammatical correctness, it’s definitely whom….as in the expression, “for whom the bell tolls…”
    “Whom” is called for because it’s the object of a preposition, in this case, “for.”

    Who/whom are mostly used interchangeably these days, however.

  12. Susan Says:

    or rather, who is used in every case

  13. DNW Says:

    I’m past the point of being able to discuss the details of Obamacare as if they have meaning.

    It long ago became crystal clear to me via their own “moral pronouncements” that the individual mandate advocates were radically morally other – i.e., fascist and totalitarian – whether they fully comprehended it or not, or whether it was too painful for those who are not, to face or not.

    How in the world could these others not value liberty and voluntary association as the very premisses that made human life worth living? But they obviously don’t.

    Yes it’s true that Wickard V Filburn (as Neo pointed out) and Social Security (as it developed) were living totalitarian seeds within the American body politic, but you could cultivate around them.

    No more.

    We now have a situation wherein the classic justifying predicate of this polity and our civil association – the preservation and enhancement of personal liberty – has been officially abandoned by one major party and a large portion of the electorate, in favor of a fascist scheme of state enforced social solidarity and life-energy redistribution. Positive liberty: the literal earthly hell of the self f**ked-up sucking you down by force of law and state coercion into the bottomless and stinking sinkhole of their chaotic lives.

    I still can’t quite emotionally grasp the implications of what the facts reveal.

    I know that they will not relent. I know that they keep pushing and pushing, and that they recognize in principle no inhibitions or limits. And I know that they wish to make any expression of resistance to this all-encompassing managerial regime socially impossible. What I still cannot grasp, is why.

    What psychology has such a person? How do they justify this to themselves. Do they even try? Could they really be nothing more than the amoral and nihilistic bags of fundamentally soulless appetite, which I have in my more cynically abusive and hyperbolic characterizations, accused them of being?

    What leads them to the belief that the mere fact of their existence, lays an open-ended claim against mine?

    I don’t know. I do know however that these are people who want, who demand from you and me, what you and I have no need of nor interest in, having from them. And they are blithely willing use the coercive power of the state in order to have it.

    How the antithesis involved in maintaining social relations with such persons can be resolved, is the question my kind faces, I guess.

    I have trouble in seeing it as anything else than an existential question; albeit one that may be worked out – depending on their pace in pushing things further – in a more or less slow motion fashion.

    God grant both that it be peaceful, and that freedom be preserved.

    For their aim is certainly to take your existence and make it unconditionally and absolutely subject to their own. And they have now proved that they will not stop until they are stopped.

  14. neo-neocon Says:

    DNW:

    Well, the details of Obamacare still have meaning to those who are trying to sort through the maze and buy the best health insurance they can find. There’s no way out of Obamacare for people buying individual insurance, other than to go without insurance. The individual health insurance market (whether buying on or off the exchanges) has become totally controlled by Obamacare’s requirements (unless you have a temporarily grandfathered-in policy). Only Obamacare-compliant policies are now sold in the individual market.

    And the details of Obamacare still have meaning to those in the health care professions whose lives are very much affected by Obamacare, day in day out, or those who are thinking of choosing a career in said professions.

    As for the rest of what you said in your comment, I wish I had the answers. I think about those sorts of issues a great great deal these days.

    I see that we’ve had a discussion before about some of these “what do leftists want, and why?” issues, on this post.

  15. MissJean Says:

    But the Little Sisters of the Poor ARE under the control of the Catholic Church! It’s a religious order under the auspices of a bishop or archbishop, just like the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist (a teaching order). I found it absolutely wretched when the issue first arose and Sibelius tried to paint some Christian charities and Catholic orders as some sort of NGO or nonprofit, whereas “religious” groups are supposed to cater to their own kind.

    Christians are supposed to serve others, whether they’re Christian or not, just as the Good Samaritan took care of the Jewish robbery victim. Unlike a government program, the Capuchin Soup Kitchen doesn’t ask your race, creed, or income – it just feeds you and teaches you how to grow your own food in an urban garden. Same thing with the St. Vincent de Paul dental program and the Salvation Army coat & mitten sales.

  16. Don Carlos Says:

    One of my kids will become an MD this year; tells me the hottest training programs by far are plastic surgery and dermatology-overwhelming #s of applicants. Why? Cosmesis, i.e. cash only.

    Not the best basis for a career decision, but surely understandable. Why put up with surly, demanding, often drunken, injured Obamaphiles in ERs at 3AM for peanuts and eventual medmal litigation?

    Most docs finishing training in whatever specialty are taking salaried hospital jobs, an accelerating trend. So where will their allegiance be? To the patient, or to their employer? What doctor-patient relationship? It becomes a hospital-patient relationship.

    Good luck, fellow future patients.

  17. John McLachlan Says:

    The policy requires provision not merely of contraceptives, but also abortificient drugs and surgical abortions.

    According to Catholic doctrine, abortion is murder and no-one has successfully proven that this doctrine is factually incorrect.

    Providing assistance, financial or otherwise, directly or indirectly to anyone who commits murder, generally, renders one to be an accessory to murder and thereby complicit in a crime, although as a private individual and not as a member of any corporate body.

    In the case of the Federal Government specified inclusion of provision of contraceptives, abortificient drugs and access to surgical abortion among the minimum required provisions of all Obamacare-compliant health plans, anyone who purchases such a plan must automatically be in violation of their indivdual conscience, if they hold to the doctrine that abortion is murder, which is not solely confined to Catholics, regardless of whether they use any of these facilities, themselves, or not.

  18. physics geek Says:

    First, I would have gone with “whom”, but that’s me. Second, I would like to support the irritation I feel when I hear someone say “It’s for John and me” or “They gave something to John and I” or any other such linguistic abominations. I even see it/hear it on TV a lot. My wife has gotten used to me grumbling at the little screen when people utter that nonsense.

  19. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “Starting in 2014, the individual shared responsibility provision calls for each individual to have minimum essential health coverage”

    Since the “individual shared responsibility provision” is MANDATORY it is an intentional misnomer for the IRS to state that the provision “calls” for each individual to have minimum essential health coverage.

    As DNW points out, “We now have a situation wherein the classic justifying predicate of this polity and our civil association – the preservation and enhancement of personal liberty – has been officially abandoned by one major party and a large portion of the electorate, in favor of a fascist scheme of state enforced social solidarity and life-energy redistribution.”

    These are people who are “blithely willing use the coercive power of the state” to achieve their goals.

    State enforced social solidarity is at the very heart of the “individual shared responsibility provision”.

    “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.” Thomas Jefferson

    Commenter John McLachlan above makes the clearest and most concise case that I have yet read for why ObamaCare is an unconstitutional violation of religious liberty.

  20. DNW Says:

    “As for the rest of what you said in your comment, I wish I had the answers. I think about those sorts of issues a great great deal these days.

    I see that we’ve had a discussion before about some of these “what do leftists want, and why?” issues, on this post.”

    Yeah, sorry to harp the same chord over and over. But in failing to grasp their [the progressives'] moral logic, or the soundness of their reasoning at all, I keep returning to their psychology, as if that will somehow shed some light on their “justifications” or explain them in intellectually and emotionally satisfying terms.

    I suppose, since I try to make it a rule to take what they say about themselves seriously, that when they say that moral principles [as with much of "reality" according to the progressive-subjectivist view] are created rather than discovered through deduction and inference, and are simply the end-product of self-justifying impulses or urges which need not be examined against any teleological background, then I probably should stop asking “why?”

    In the case of the progressive there is no “real” why. It’s a matter of taste and instrumentality. Their taste. Their evolved taste, whim, fancy, vision, whatever. You, if you are within arm’s reach, or located where their writ does run, must accommodate, cooperate, collaborate, endorse and affirm, or suffer the consequences they devise.

    Distancing myself from myself, I can see how it is that I too, just like the conservative plodders I criticize, keep returning to these empty progressive wells, looking for what I was trained by my upbringing to believe was there.

    Huh. LOL

    The truth is that I can’t accept the conclusions of my own reasoning. I can state them. I am convinced that the geometry of my arguments is valid and the principles used insofar as they can be known or stated are sound. But I myself – much like those “conservative plodders” with whom I express so much frustration – can’t cease looking at the progressive individual through a template which the progressive by very definition, and usually through pronouncement, has shrugged off and happily “evolved” himself beyond.

    What, a situation.

  21. Upstate Says:

    Thanks for the great post. I promptly drummed up an addition for you. http://spiritualdiabetes.blogspot.com/2014/01/now-thats-what-im-talking-about.html

  22. DNW Says:

    Don Carlos Says:
    January 8th, 2014 at 11:39 pm

    One of my kids will become an MD this year; tells me the hottest training programs by far are plastic surgery and dermatology-overwhelming #s of applicants. Why? Cosmesis, i.e. cash only.

    … Why put up with surly, demanding, often drunken, injured Obamaphiles in ERs at 3AM for peanuts and eventual medmal litigation?

    Most docs finishing training in whatever specialty are taking salaried hospital jobs, an accelerating trend. So where will their allegiance be? To the patient, or to their employer? What doctor-patient relationship? It becomes a hospital-patient relationship.

    Good luck, fellow future patients.”

    Heh. I’m dusting off the barbells. It’s oatmeal and blueberries from now on. But good luck, in all seriousness, to your son.

    Touching on the Frank Luntz theme which runs through your comments, I’ve seen it in my own family. Kid sister’s a doctor at a certain university, in a certain specialty in which many of the patients experiencing organ failure are doing so as a result of intractable behavioral issues. She’s extremely idealistic and caring … or has been. Patients are always asking for her and have been since she was an intern.

    Like a cousin of mine in social work however, she now seems to be almost emotionally stupefied by the brazen and demanding entitlement mentality of many of the people she sees.

    Probably why she has one foot firmly in public health research.

    At Christmas, I jokingly asked her, “So how the patients doing?”

    She looked at me with a kind of grim seriousness I don’t think I have seen before, and said “Who cares …”

  23. DNW Says:

    Maybe now, since the God of the State has made the poor his business and care of them his domain, Catholic hospitals could reinvent themselves. Traditionally a refuge for the despised and neglected, they can re-purpose themselves as refuges for members of their own faith. If that is, the politically progressive religious careerists who generally run them don’t sabotage or subvert the effort.

    Let’s say that you are a Catholic. Let’s say that the Church endows Catholic hospitals with church money. Is it possible that admission could be then based on membership in the faith?

    Probably not. Or not obviously. Government charges of evasion aside, there’s a strong streak of masochism in current institutional Catholic social teaching, and I think that there is such a strong anti-exclusivist tendency in the official church – even to the point of suicidal accommodation – that it would undermine any attempt of Catholics to set up a parallel “health Care system” compatible with traditional Catholic spiritual dogmas, accessible to Catholics and believers; but existing outside the health insurance paradigm.

    Nonetheless, the concept might be worth gaming for a bit.

  24. neo-neocon Says:

    John McLachlan:

    The reason I wrote “birth control” is that the extent of the coverage of abortion (especially elective abortion) is still unclear. Twenty-four states had banned such coverage by December, plus this:

    Federal law prohibits taxpayer-financed abortion, and that was addressed in the compromise that paved the way for final passage of President Barack Obama’s health law. But the Affordable Care Act also allows states to ban abortion coverage in the exchanges — even if the state isn’t running its own exchange — and most of the GOP-led states have done so.

    So it is on a state-by-state basis at the moment. Most of the lawsuits I’ve seen just mention “birth control” rather than “abortion,” but if anti-abortion religious people were forced to cover abortion that of course is a huge issue.

    There is little doubt in my mind that “progressives,” and Obama, would like Obamacare to cover it universally, though.

  25. car insurance companies in temple hills Says:

    Kinda late, but thanks ;D

  26. Ymarsakar Says:

    The Left elevate themselves to divinity. When they decide it, the seas will lower. When they decide it, the seas will be raised. That is the meaning of self constructed morality and ethics.

    They are what they have been waiting for.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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