ACLU drops religious liberty from 1st Amendment

Below is the response of the American Civil Liberties Union full response to Newt Gingrich's accusation that  Meet the Press, moderator David Gregory was taking the "ACLU" position on religious exemptions for contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

I'm not going to get into the merits of the Gregory/Gingrich exchange; here I'll only remark on the ACLU's stunning response, which is basically that the government requiring a church to pay for practices it finds morally objectionable is no big deal. Here's the full text of the response:

Statement of Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union

On Sunday's Meet the Press, Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich accused moderator David Gregory of taking the "ACLU" position on religious exemptions for contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  As a historian, Mr. Gingrich should know that the Obama administration's ruling adheres only to the position of the Constitution, not any organization. The contraceptive rule rightfully respects religious liberty while preventing religiously affiliated organizations from using religion as an excuse to discriminate and deny services to others. To be clear, the rule does not require churches or other houses of worship that hire people of the faith to carry out religious practices to purchase birth control coverage for their employees. It does require organizations like hospitals and universities that operate in the public sphere to play by public rules. We should all be alarmed that Mr. Gingrich and religious extremists are asking that religious groups should get a license to discriminate and impose their beliefs on others who may not share them. The Constitution's rights to privacy and equal treatment under the law, consistently held up by the Supreme Court, guarantee that all women have access to basic and essential medical services. Religious freedom gives everyone the right to make personal decisions, including whether to use birth control, based on our own beliefs. The contraceptive rule ensures that millions of women will be able to follow their own conscience when it comes to their health and their families.  Mr. Gingrich may have taught history, but he clearly needs a remedial lesson about the Constitution.

I find the statement stunning because it barely acknowledges that the freedom of religious conscience--the first of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights--even exists. The narrowly crafted statement fails to address the objections that the Obama administration's actions, by including hospitals and other social programs are part and parcel of Catholic belief and dogma, is too expansive. It's as if the church's arguments didn't exist. The ACLU doesn't even bother to set up a straw man to knock down.



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  • 98% of Catholic women in America have used contraceptives at some time in their lives. Why the disconnect with the Church?

  • That's sort of true. Read Politifact:

    Of course, the study was done by the Guttmacher Institute, an affiliate of Planned Parenthood.

    Bottom line is yes, many, possibly even most, Catholic women that are sexually active use birth control of some sort. But as I said, that's a problem for the church and the women. And clearly not a reason for government to decide that the church's precepts aren't protected by the First Amendment. church.

  • Dennis,

    You must be dense. Don't you realize that the interpretted "right to privacy" (which only concerns matters of the bedroom, as it does not apparantly protect you from the government listening in on your telephone conversations without a warrant) trumps all explicitly written rights. Only a reactionary, such as you, would be so foolish to believe that we should read the actual text of the constitution to determine what it means.

    As we have seen with the government's previous attempts to utilize RICO statutes to silence pro-life protestors in front of clinics (which the ACLU supported), the "right to privacy" is more important than all those silly things that a bunch of old white guys wrote in a piece of paper. Good for the non-partisan ACLU for defending rights that are hidden in the text, rather than those stupid explicit rights.

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