Dennis Monokroussos writes,
Your post on why the left “went ballistic” over the Hobby Lobby case was well-done as usual, and I for one was grateful for your emphasis that the so-called contraceptives in question were really abortifacients, and that the latter is not a proper adjective for the former. I do have a couple of questions/comments though.
First, about the left and religion. While I don’t like the politics or the theology of people like Jim Wallis of Sojourners or the President’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright, it certainly seems that they are really religious and their politics flow from their faiths. I’m inclined to say that they have a mistaken anthropology and overvalue one understanding of justice at the expense of other legitimate senses, but wouldn’t say that they’re not really religious or that their true religion is leftism. (Well, maybe if I knew more about Wright’s theology I would say that about him. But I don’t believe that all lefties who claim to be Christians are just faking it and make a god out of the state and/or left-wing politics.)
Second, the statement that “they don't have the right to use the coercive power of the state to force others to pay for them when the contraceptives in question violate the religious beliefs of those who are forced to pay for them” seems to be overdrawn, at least if it’s generalized. If a Jehovah’s Witness owns a business, does he have the right to refuse to pay for an employee’s insurance when it pays for a blood transfusion? What about a pacifist being forced to pay taxes to support a war effort (especially one that doesn’t involve direct national self-defense)? There are all sorts of things we’re forced to pay for even though they violate our moral and religious beliefs, and while we can sometimes successfully fight those challenges (when, e.g., it poses an “undue burden”) there are other times when we must knuckle under unless we wish to engage in civil disobedience.
Maybe I will get to the first objection later.
Here is a very blunt response to the second. If you are opposed on moral grounds to blood transfusions, then you hold a position that is not morally or intellectually respectable. Therefore, IF the government has the right to force employers to provide health insurance that covers blood transfusions for employees, THEN it has the right to violate the beliefs of a Jehovah's Witness when it comes to blood transfusions. And the same goes for pacifism. If pacifism is the view that it is always and everywhere wrong to kill or otherwise harm human beings, then I say you hold a view that is not morally or intellectually respectable. I could argue this out at great length, but not now; I told you I was going to be blunt.
Note, however, that the blood transfusion case as described by Monokroussos is importantly different from the pacifism case. The first case arises only if something like the PPACA -- ObamaCare -- is in effect . I say the bill should never have been enacted. Government has no right to force private enterprises to provide any health insurance at all to their employees, and no right to force workers to buy health insurance, and no right to specify what will and will not be covered in any health insurance plan that employers provide for their employees.
The pacifism case is much more difficult because it arises not from a dubious law but from the coercive nature of government. I believe that government is practically necessary and that government that governs a wide territory wherein live very diverse types of people must be coercive to do its job. Moreover, I assume, though I cannot prove, that coercive government is morally justified and has the moral right to force people to do some things whether or not they want to do them and whether or not they morally approve of doing them. Paying taxes is an example. Suppose you have a pacifist who withholds that portion of his taxes that goes to the support of what is perhaps euphemistically called 'defense.' Then I say the government is morally justified in taking action against the pacifist.
But if the government has the right to force the pacifist to violate his sincerely held moral principles, why is it not right for the government to force the pro-lifer to violate her sincerely held principles? The short and blunt answer is that pacifism is intellectually indefensible while the pro-life position is eminently intellectually defensible. But the pro-choice pacifists won't agree!
Clearly, there are two extremes we must avoid:
E1. If the government may force a citizen to violate (act contrary to) one of his beliefs, then it it may force a citizen to violate any of his beliefs.
E2. The government may not force a citizen to violate any of his beliefs.
The problem, which may well be insoluble, is to find a principled way to navigate between these extremes. But what common principles do we share at this late date in the decline of the West?
Perhaps we can agree on this: the government may legitimately force you to violate your belief if your belief is that infidels are to be put to the sword, but it may not legitimately force you to violate your belief if your belief is that infanticide and involuntary euthanasia are wrong. (Suppose the government demands that all severely retarded children be killed.) But even here there will be dissenting voices. Believe it or not, there are those who argue from the supposed moral acceptability of abortion to the moral acceptability of infanticide. May the Lord have mercy on us.
So what's the solution? The solution is limited government, federalism, and an immigration policy that does not allow people into the country with wildly differing values and moral codes. For example, the Hobby Lobby case would not have come up at all if government kept out of the health care business.
The bigger the government, the more to fight over. But we don't seem to have the will to shrink the government to its legitimate constitutionally-based functions. So expect things to get worse.