Breaking Glass

As Cold as Charity

Did anybody notice when Catholic Christianity ceased to be a religion in the United States?  Not when it stopped being a popular or even a permissible religion, but when it became simply a nonreligion?  I ask this because a recent court decision in California threatens to launch a legal revolution, in a way that would be dazzlingly ingenious if it were not so sinister.  After years of tinkering selectively with the First Amendment to favor certain religious ideas and views while undermining others, one important court has now taken the imaginative step of simply removing whole spiritual traditions from the definition of religion.

The case in question has its roots in the late 1990’s, when the California legislature demanded that health-insurance plans include coverage for contraception.  Realizing the obvious moral and religious conflicts that might arise, the law—the Women’s Contraceptive Equity Act (WCEA)—provided conscientious exemption for groups with a principled objection to contraceptives.  The term “religious employer” was defined quite freely, the main criterion being that the group in question had as its main purpose “the inculcation of religious values” and that it principally employed and served people who shared those religious tenets.

The intention of the law was anything but mysterious, and nobody thought that any great Church-state...

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