WBEZ | religious freedom http://www.wbez.org/tags/religious-freedom Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Indiana law: Sorting fact from fiction from politics http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-law-sorting-fact-fiction-politics-111800 <p><p>The culture wars are always percolating beneath the surface in presidential politics &ndash; until something or someone pushes it to the surface.</p><p>That something early in this cycle is the Indiana &quot;Religious Freedom Restoration Act,&quot; which Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who is considering a run for president in 2016, signed into law last week. It has caused a firestorm of criticism from those who say the law could lead to discrimination against gays and lesbians, including businesses like<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/pro-discrimination-religious-freedom-laws-are-dangerous-to-america/2015/03/29/bdb4ce9e-d66d-11e4-ba28-f2a685dc7f89_story.html">Apple</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/28/news/companies/angies-list-indiana-gay-discrimination/">Angie&#39;s List</a>, the&nbsp;<a href="http://espn.go.com/college-sports/story/_/id/12587768/ncaa-president-mark-emmert-keeping-close-eye-indiana-legislators-new-law-allow-businesses-discriminate-gays-lesbians">NCAA</a>, which is hosting the men&#39;s college basketball Final Four in Indianapolis, and even other states like Connecticut, which&nbsp;<a href="http://www.courant.com/politics/capitol-watch/hc-malloy-issues-executive-order-banning-statepaid-travel-to-indiana-20150330-story.html'">banned state-paid travel</a>&nbsp;to Indiana.</p><p>Pence seemed surprised by the backlash and has had some difficulty explaining his position. Other potential 2016 candidates have&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2015/03/31/396570683/what-the-2016-hopefuls-are-saying-about-indianas-religious-freedom-law" target="_blank">leapt to his defense</a>&nbsp;and, some, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, went further than the Indiana governor.</p><p>Supporters say Indiana&#39;s law is similar the federal &quot;Religious Freedom Restoration Act&quot; passed in 1993.</p><p>As often is the case in controversies the facts have become muddled and conflated. So what are the facts? How are the two laws different? And how have politics on both sides shaped the response?</p><p><strong>Seeking &#39;Clarification&#39; and a &#39;Fix,&#39; As The Contenders Weigh In</strong></p><p>On Tuesday, Pence&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/03/31/full-text-of-indiana-gov-mike-pences-news-conference-on-rfra/">said</a>&nbsp;there has &quot;been misunderstanding and confusion and mischaracterization of this law.&quot; But he said he is seeking &quot;clarification&quot; and a &quot;fix&quot; to the law with legislation &quot;that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone.&quot;</p><p>On Monday, though, the law became part of the presidential campaign with Republican presidential candidates weighing in after a Sunday show performance from Pence that raised more questions. Pence sidestepped half a dozen specific questions about whether the law could lead to discrimination against gays and lesbians.</p><p>Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush contended that facts had not been established, and once they are, &quot;people aren&#39;t going to see this as discriminatory at all.&quot;</p><p>Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker backed the law and said through a spokesperson that it was about &quot;the right for Americans to exercise their religion and act on their conscience.&quot;</p><p>Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the law &quot;is giving voice to millions of courageous conservatives.&quot;</p><p>Rubio, though, did something the other candidates did not. He more directly addressed the charge that businesses could discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. Gay rights advocates, for example, say if a gay or lesbian couple wanted a flower arrangement or cake for a reception, a florist or caterer could lawfully choose not to fill the order, if they have a religious objection.</p><p>Rubio said he thinks businesses should have that right.</p><p>&quot;The issue we&#39;re talking about here is should someone who provides a professional service be punished by the law because they refused to provide that professional service to a ceremony that they believe is in violation of their faith?&quot; he said on Fox News Monday. &quot;I think people have a right to live out their religious faith in their own lives.&quot;</p><p>Most conservatives, including Pence, have mostly not addressed that charge head on. Instead, they say, the law is unfairly maligned. After all, other states have similar laws and even Democrat Bill Clinton signed a federal &quot;Religious Freedom Restoration Act&quot; into law as president.</p><p>Hillary Clinton, for the record, tweeted: &quot;Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn&#39;t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love.&quot;</p><p>The White House on Tuesday blasted Pence and others, who &quot;falsely suggest&quot; the two laws &mdash; Indiana&#39;s and the federal one &mdash; are the same.</p><p>&quot;That is not true,&quot; White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at the White House daily briefing. He cited the spirit of the law as well as the text. He said the 1993 law &quot;was an effort to protect the religious liberty of religious minorities based on actions that could be taken by the federal government.&quot;</p><p>On the other hand, &quot;The Indiana law is much broader,&quot; Earnest continued. &quot;It doesn&#39;t just apply to individuals or religious minorities. It applies to, and I&#39;m quoting here, &#39;a partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint stock company, or an unincorporated association.&#39; So this obviously is a significant expansion of the law in terms of the way that it would apply. ... [T]his is a much more open-ended piece of legislation that could reasonably be used to try to justify discriminating against somebody because of who they love.&quot;</p><p><strong>The Background</strong></p><p>First, let&#39;s start with how and why the 1993 law came to be. The federal law&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1993/11/17/us/clinton-signs-law-protecting-religious-practices.html">stemmed from</a>&nbsp;an Oregon Native American man, who lost his job in 1990 after testing positive for drugs. He had used peyote as part of a religious ritual. The &quot;fix&quot; to that problem became the federal RFRA, introduced by soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, then a House member from New York. A companion bill passed the Senate and was introduced by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.</p><p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/03/27/19-states-that-have-religious-freedom-laws-like-indianas-that-no-one-is-boycotting/">Nineteen states</a>, in addition to Indiana, have since enacted their own RFRAs, but as<em><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/03/27/19-states-that-have-religious-freedom-laws-like-indianas-that-no-one-is-boycotting/">The Atlantic</a>&nbsp;</em>notes, just South Carolina and Texas have similar variations to Indiana&#39;s and neither seems to go quite as far.</p><p><strong>Indiana vs. Federal Law &mdash; What Do They Say?</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-103hr1308enr/pdf/BILLS-103hr1308enr.pdf">The Federal RFRA</a>&nbsp;states that &quot;Government shall not substantially burden a person&#39;s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability....&quot;</p><p><a href="https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2015/bills/senate/101#document-92bab197">The Indiana law</a>&nbsp;also states, &quot;a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person&#39;s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.&quot;</p><p>That is, the federal law states, except when it &quot;is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.&quot;</p><p>Indiana also states the exception as &quot;(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.&quot;</p><p>But that&#39;s where the similarities end.</p><p>The federal law does not go so far as to define a &quot;person.&quot; Indiana&#39;s law does. And a &quot;person,&quot; by their standard is not what you might think.</p><p>Section 7 of the Indiana code includes people, churches and corporations in that definition:</p><div class="bucketwrap statichtml" id="res396674585"><div class="DC-note-container" id="DC-note-210824">&nbsp;</div><script src="//s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/notes/loader.js"></script><script> dc.embed.loadNote('//www.documentcloud.org/documents/1699074-sb0101-05-enrs/annotations/210824.js'); </script></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>As related to whether, why or who can sue, the federal law says:</p><div class="bucketwrap statichtml" id="res396674719"><div class="DC-note-container" id="DC-note-210827">&nbsp;</div><script src="//s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/notes/loader.js"></script><script> dc.embed.loadNote('//www.documentcloud.org/documents/1699105-bills-103hr1308enr/annotations/210827.js'); </script></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The Indiana law goes further. In Section 9, it states that &quot;a person,&quot; in this case meaning an individual, church, limited liability company, etc., &quot;whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.&quot;</p><p>So, in other words, while the federal law states that a person can sue the&nbsp;<em>government</em>for a grievance, Indiana makes a point of stating that it doesn&#39;t matter if government is involved.</p><p>Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/article/416160/indiana-protecting-discrimination-josh-blackman">notes in<em>National Review</em></a>&nbsp;that while some read the federal provision as pertaining only to government, it has actually split federal courts. &quot;Private parties,&quot; he points out, &quot;had brought suits against corporations.&quot;</p><p>For example: &quot;[T]he D.C. Circuit held that the Catholic University of America could raise RFRA as a defense against a sex-discrimination claim brought by a nun and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alike.</p><p>That said, the Indiana law explicitly wipes away any ambiguity.</p><p><strong>The Politics</strong></p><p>Support for gay rights has increased dramatically over the past decade. Since former President George W. Bush proposed a ban on same-sex marriage during his 2004 presidential reelection campaign, support for same-sex marriage has reversed.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gallupsamesexmarriage14_custom-d446a9946a90cc2b8b0eb5d2e5b886e25823a763-s800-c85.png" style="height: 350px; width: 620px;" title="Gallup's May 2014 survey found support for same-sex marriage at a new high: 55 percent. Gallup" /></div><p>In 2004, a majority of the country &mdash; 55 percent &mdash; was against it, while 42 percent was in favor, according to Gallup. Now, it&#39;s exactly the opposite, with 55 percent saying they&#39;re in favor of same-sex marriage and 42 percent saying they&#39;re against it.</p><p>What&#39;s more, in 2004, 54 percent said gay or lesbian relations were &quot;morally wrong.&quot; In 2014, 58 percent said it was &quot;morally acceptable,&quot; while just 38 percent said it was wrong. That is a huge cultural and political shift in a relatively short time.</p><p>It&#39;s something Republican pollster Whit Ayres likens to approval of interracial marriage in the 1970s to 1990s. In his book,&nbsp;<em>2016 and Beyond: How Republicans can elect a President in the New America</em>, he points out, citing Gallup numbers, that in 1972, some 60 percent of Americans disapproved of interracial marriage. Twenty-five years later, 64 percent approved with the lines crossing when the country split about evenly in 1983.</p><p>&quot;It looks similar to gay marriage,&quot; Ayres told reporters at breakfast meeting sponsored by the&nbsp;<em>Christian Science Monitor</em>. &quot;The values of young people, I believe, this is where we are headed as a country.&quot; He added, &quot;We are headed to where a political candidate, who is perceived as anti-gay will never connect with people under 30 years old.&quot;</p><p>But going inside the numbers helps explain why both sides are singing very different tunes on the Indiana law. For example, Gallup found that 3 in 4 Democrats are in favor of same-sex marriage (as were almost 60 percent of independents), but the opposite was true for Republicans with 72 percent opposed, as of 2013.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gallupssm2_custom-47c4801c026db15f4b3df2883cd5da62b26c7c78-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 388px; width: 620px;" title="Gallup survey showing support of same-sex marriage by party in 2013. Gallup/2016 And Beyond" /></div><p>That makes it difficult to get through a Republican primary being too strongly in favor of gay rights with a significant portion of the base considering themselves &quot;social values&quot; religious voters.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s a challenge,&quot; said Ayres, who is advising Rubio.</p><p>He points out that younger Republicans under 30 are in favor of same-sex marriage. A Pew poll in 2014, in fact, found 61 percent of young Republicans in favor.</p><p>So, while times are changing with Republicans on gay rights, they are doing so more slowly than the more rapid change taking place in the country at large.</p><p>&mdash; via <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2015/04/01/395613897/sorting-fact-from-fiction-from-politics-on-the-indiana-law"><em>NPR&#39;s It&#39;s All Politics</em></a></p></p> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 09:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-law-sorting-fact-fiction-politics-111800 Indiana pastor doesn’t want changes to 'religious freedom' law http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-pastor-doesn%E2%80%99t-want-changes-religious-freedom-law-111798 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Pence Reax_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">As Indiana Gov. Mike Pence asks lawmakers to send him a clarification of the state&#39;s new religious-freedom law later this week, at least one Northwest Indiana pastor is speaking out against the prospect of changes.</p><p dir="ltr">On Tuesday, Pence defended the Indiana law as a vehicle to protect religious liberty but said he has been meeting with lawmakers &quot;around the clock&quot; to address concerns that it would allow businesses to deny services to gay customers.</p><p>The governor said he does not believe &quot;for a minute&quot; that lawmakers intended &quot;to create a license to discriminate.&quot;</p><p>&quot;It certainly wasn&#39;t my intent,&quot; said Pence, who <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-gov-pence-signs-religious-objections-bill-111772">signed the law last week</a>.</p><p>But, he said, he &quot;can appreciate that that&#39;s become the perception, not just here in Indiana but all across the country. We need to confront that.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;It would make the bill null and void,&rdquo; Rev. Ron Johnson, senior pastor of Living Stones Church in Crown Point, Indiana, told WBEZ. &ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s not going to protect religious liberty.&rdquo;</p><p>The Indiana law prohibits any laws that &quot;substantially burden&quot; a person&#39;s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of &quot;person&quot; includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.</p><p>Although the legal language does not specifically mention gays and lesbians, critics say the law is designed to shield businesses and individuals who do not want to serve gays and lesbians, such as florists or caterers who might be hired for a same-sex wedding.</p><p>Johnson says from his understanding, the law could allow something more troubling.</p><p>&ldquo;Nobody is saying that if you come into get a hamburger you say, &lsquo;Hey, are you a homosexual? I&rsquo;m not going to serve you a hamburger.&rsquo; That is not even the issue,&rdquo; Johnson said. &ldquo;The issue has been specifically related to forcing someone to celebrate a same-sex wedding ceremony that they believe violates their religious beliefs. That&rsquo;s where the rub has come.&rdquo;</p><p>Johnson feels the religious community is being forced to accept something they do not believe in.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re talking about the Left and the gay lobby forcing us not to tolerate their behavior but to celebrate their behavior and that&rsquo;s fundamentally wrong,&rdquo; Johnson said. &ldquo;Whatever group is pushing for their right to express themselves sexually however they want to do it, if you don&rsquo;t jump on the bandwagon and support that then you&rsquo;re a bigot, or you&rsquo;re a hater.&quot;</p><p>Johnson added that the national backlash Indiana has endured following Pence&rsquo;s signing of SB 101 into law has been shameful.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a witch hunt if I ever saw one. Frankly, I think it&rsquo;s an insult to Hoosiers. It&rsquo;s an insult to our great governor who is an incredibly good man,&rdquo; Johnson said.</p><p>The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act arose from a case related to the use of peyote in a Native American ritual.</p><p>But in 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal law did not apply to the states. So states began enacting their own laws. Twenty now have them on the books, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/legal-expert-says-illinois-got-it-right-regarding-its-religious-freedom-law-111783">including Illinois</a>.</p><p>Businesses and organizations including Apple and the NCAA have voiced concern over Indiana&#39;s law, and some states have barred government-funded travel to the state.</p><p>Democratic legislative leaders said a clarification would not be enough.</p><p>&quot;To say anything less than a repeal is going to fix it is incorrect,&quot; House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, a Democrat from Michigan City, said.</p><p>Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long said lawmakers were negotiating a clarification proposal that he hoped would be ready for public release on Wednesday, followed by a vote Thursday before sending the package to the governor.</p><p>&quot;We have a sense that we need to move quickly out here and be pretty nimble,&quot; Long said. &quot;But right now, we don&#39;t have consensus on the language.&quot;</p><p>Also Tuesday, the Indianapolis Star urged state lawmakers in a <a href="http://www.indystar.com/story/opinion/2015/03/30/editorial-gov-pence-fix-religious-freedom-law-now/70698802/">front-page editorial</a> to respond to widespread criticism of the law by protecting the rights of gays and lesbians.</p><p>The Star&#39;s editorial, headlined &quot;FIX THIS NOW,&quot; covered the newspaper&#39;s entire front page. It called for lawmakers to enact a law that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person&#39;s sexual orientation or gender identity.</p><p>The newspaper says the uproar sparked by the law has &quot;done enormous harm&quot; to the state and potentially to its economic future.</p><p>The state of Arkansas is now considering passing it&rsquo;s own Religious Freedom Restoration Act.</p><p><em>The Associated Press contributed to this story.</em></p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Following him on Twitter @MikePuenteNews.</em></p></p> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 07:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-pastor-doesn%E2%80%99t-want-changes-religious-freedom-law-111798 Christian activist feuds with suburban park district over a nativity scene http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/christian-activist-feuds-suburban-park-district-over-nativity-scene-104049 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/2105928599_347c483aff.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A controversy over a holiday display in a suburb west of Chicago could have a simple resolution: a little paperwork.</p><p>In early November, Christian activist Jim Finnegan offered to donate a large nativity to the Arlington Heights Park District. The town&rsquo;s annual holiday display includes a Christmas tree and dreidels, but Finnegan was not satisfied.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like the difference between Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas,&rdquo; said Finnegan, who lives in Barrington and used to be a resident of Arlington Heights. &ldquo;We stand up for what the true meaning of Christmas is, and that&rsquo;s the birth of Christ.&rdquo;</p><p>In addition to being the only current member of the Illinois Nativity Scene Committee in the western suburbs, Finnegan is a board member at the Illinois Family Institute and a co-founder of a group that advocates against abortion rights in Ireland.</p><p>When the park district said they didn&rsquo;t want Finnegan&rsquo;s nativity, he called up his lawyer, Tom Brejcha of the Thomas More Society. The <a href="https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/about/" target="_blank">Thomas More Society</a> is a Chicago-based law firm that represents people who oppose same-sex marriage and abortion.</p><p>Finnegan and Brejcha are both connected to a group in Springfield that advocated successfully to place a large nativity scene on the state capitol five years ago. In the 1980s, Finnegan was involved in a battle over the nativity scene in Chicago&rsquo;s Daley Plaza that resulted in <a href="http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?xmldoc=19882197700FSupp1497_11966.xml&amp;docbase=CSLWAR2-1986-2006" target="_blank">a lawsuit</a>.&nbsp;That nativity scene went up this month without a hitch. Finnegan said the various nativity scenes he has advocated for were paid for by an anonymous donor.</p><p>The pair sent a letter Nov. 20 indicating that Finnegan&rsquo;s first-amendment rights were being violated.</p><p>But Timothy Riordan, the attorney for the Arlington Heights Park District, said Finnegan had simply never filled out an application for a permit. Instead, he asked the district to accept a donation of a nativity they didn&rsquo;t want.</p><p>&ldquo;In our view there&rsquo;s no real controversy,&rdquo; Riordan said.</p><p>He sent Finnegan&rsquo;s lawyer an application for a park use permit on Nov. 26.</p><p>&ldquo;He wanted to donate the nativity scene to the park district,&quot; Riordan said. &quot;The park district indicated it wasn&rsquo;t interested in accepting that donation. The park always had a holiday display and just didn&rsquo;t think it was consistent with the display they&rsquo;d had in the past. If you want to use a park for any purpose, there&rsquo;s a form.&rdquo;</p><p>Finnegan said Tuesday that he plans to apply for a permit to place the nativity in a different part of the same park.</p><p>&ldquo;I trust that the story will have a happy ending,&rdquo; Brejcha said. &ldquo;I congratulate Arlington Heights on having a beautiful park display. It&rsquo;s a positive step that they may be hospitable to the nativity scene after all.&quot;</p></p> Tue, 27 Nov 2012 15:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/christian-activist-feuds-suburban-park-district-over-nativity-scene-104049 The GOP's dystopian healthcare plan http://www.wbez.org/blog/achy-obejas/2012-02-17/gops-dystopian-healthcare-plan-96502 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-17/AP120216021093.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-17/AP120216021093.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 438px; " title="House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California (AP/Carolyn Kaster)"></p><p>Don’t be fooled by the crazy carnival around Obama’s contraception rule. The GOP’s main mission here is not to protect religious freedom. It’s simply to destroy Barack Obama and his signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.</p><p>Yesterday was a red letter day for their efforts: California Congressman Darrel Issa held a hearing on the president’s new rules for employer provided insurance and contraception. But he didn’t call it that -- he bald-faced called it <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2012/02/16/issa_s_first_panel_of_witnesses_on_contraception_hearings_included_no_women_.html%20">a hearing on “religious freedom</a>” and lined up a host of male witnesses to tell him everything he wanted to hear. Women witnesses? No, not necessary, said Issa, who apparently doesn’t think women can opine on even his ostensible subject of religious freedom.</p><p>An attack on women? Of course. But, above and beyond, it’s missile pointed at the Affordable Care Act. But here’s the damn kicker: The rule on contraceptives that the Republicans are freaking out about -- the one Obama just eased to please the Catholic Church and the religious right and the loons in the Republican party -- has been in place since December 2000.</p><p>That’s right -- the contraceptive rule Obama just eased was the gift of <a href="http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/controversial-obama-birth-control-rule-already-law">George W. Bush</a>. Did anyone scream about this before now? Did the Catholic Church bellow and roar in 2000? Hell no. In fact, DePaul University, the world’s largest Catholic university (and where I work), has been offering contraceptives through its insurance plan for years.</p><p>From <em>Mother Jones</em> Magazine: “In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn't provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don't offer prescription coverage or don't offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC's interpretation of the law, you can't offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too.”</p><p>In fact, 26 states -- including <a href="http://www.nwlc.org/resource/contraceptive-equity-laws-your-state-know-your-rights-use-your-rights-consumer-guide-0">Illinois and red states such as Arkansas, Georgia, and West Virginia</a> -- have made contraceptive equity the law of the land and required insurance companies to provide it.</p><p>So this is a scandal, <em>now</em>?</p><p>In their most recent move, the GOP is upping the religious angle in their <a href="http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/republican-plan-give-bosses-moral-control-health-insurance">attacks on the Affordable Care Act</a>. Missouri’s Sen. Roy Blunt has authored a coda to the law called the “<a href="http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/292318-s-1813-amendment.html#document/p5/a44791">Conscience Amendment</a>” which would allow <em>any</em> employer -- not just religious or religiously affiliated employers but <em>anyone</em> -- to opt out on any part of the healthcare for <em>any reason</em> if it’s based on “moral grounds.”</p><p>In other words, Tom Cruise, as a Scientologist, could deny mental health benefits to anyone in his employ because Scientologists don’t believe in psychiatry. Anyone with an ax to grind about premarital sex could deny employees pre-natal care. A Christian Scientist could deny all healthcare to all employees.</p><p>Does that sound like the United States or some weird dystopian fiction?</p></p> Fri, 17 Feb 2012 16:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/achy-obejas/2012-02-17/gops-dystopian-healthcare-plan-96502