During last week’s “utterly surreal” hearings on contraception, Reverend William Lori equated requiring religiously-affiliated institutions to provide birth control with mandating a Kosher deli to serve pork.
The analogy—along with the rest of the hearing—was widely ridiculed. And yet on Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing of its own on birth control only to field another food-based comparison. Faith in Public Life flags the exchange between Asma Uddin, an attorney from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX):
SMITH: What are other examples, what else could the government force religious organizations to provide if this mandate were to remain in effect as is unchanged.
UDDIN: Well, I mean, this mandate has been justified on the basis of the fact that there’s health benefits to providing contraceptives. But the issue of health benefits is not the point. If the government mandated everything that had positive health benefits, it could possibly mandate that everyone drink red wine for heart health even though it violates the religious beliefs of Muslims and Mormons. And it could mandate that everyone eat shellfish even though that violates the religious beliefs of Jews.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a group that represents several religiously-affiliated colleges and organizations. There are several problems with the point Uddin was trying to make, however. For starters, the bill does not require people to consume anything. At best, if we stick to the restaurant analogy, the law would ask restaurants that refuse to serve red wine to at least have a Bring Your Own Bottle policy, or to be more precise, the alcohol would be delivered from across the street.
Of course, that’s far from the only point. Religious institutions like denominational colleges and universities service many nonreligious individuals who would be negatively impacted by their inability to easily access contraception because of the school’s refusal to cover birth control on religious grounds. Under the new rule, since Catholic colleges aren’t required to provide birth control coverage, the women who do want to use the benefit will receive it directly from their insurance company.