2/6/2013 12:22:00 PM Letter: Individual rights must trump those of employers
Recently Charles C. Haynes laid out a compelling argument concerning the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, specifically the contraceptive-coverage mandate. According to Haynes, lawsuits have been filed challenging the mandate by organizations who believe their freedom of religion is being compromised by the new healthcare law.
At the center of the argument is the whether or not the government should accommodate religious claims of conscience as part of freedom of religion guaranteed by the first amendment.
The argument concerning contraception by these religious (and corporate) leaders does not concern their personal use of contraception, but rather concerns the denial of contraception for their employees. It seems that the leaders want to be able to impose their personal beliefs on their employees by denying their employees' access to contraception as a component of legal healthcare.
While the argument is centered on contraception, it could easily be expanded into other forms of medical intervention. There are religious groups who do not believe in organ transplant, for example. Are we looking at the potential where a leader of an organization, religious or secular, could have the authority to review healthcare treatments to determine what an employee could have access based on their own personal religious beliefs?
At the cornerstone of the first amendment are the rights of the individual. Whether the individual is at odds with the government or large institutions, the first amendment guarantees their rights will be upheld.
As this debates proceeds, it's imperative that the religious beliefs of organizational leaders not be honored by compromising those of their employees. As individuals under the law, each is as important as the other.