But Don’t Expect Religious Leaders To Stand for It
Thanks to Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times we are referred to a Federal court case that had to decide whether or not federal money provided to a religious organization for social services can be used to impose its religious beliefs on people.
The facts of the case: The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 allocated money to combat “a contemporary manifestation of slavery whose victims are predominantly women and children.” In November 2005, the Bush administration gave the CCB a contract to administer the bulk of the money, and allowed it to stipulate that it would not permit any subcontractor to provide “referral for abortion services or contraceptive materials.” That is, it permitted a religious organization to decide how to disburse (or not disburse) federal funds, muddling dogma with policy.
The case was taken to court by the ACLU (doing some good things at least on this one) and although the case became moot by the time it reached the court, the judge reached a decision in order to set out the proper law in this situation.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
CIVIL ACTION NO. 09-10038-RGS
AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, et al.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON
CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND
DEFENDANT-INTERVENOR’S MOTION TO DISMISS
March 23, 2012
It should be noted that contraception once again was an issue here. The group would not subcontract with any organization that helped provide contraception to victims, which is clearly an imposition of their religious beliefs on persons who may not share their beliefs.
Here is the critical part of the decision.
To insist that the government respect the separation of church and state is not to discriminate against religion; indeed, it promotes a respect for religion by refusing to single out any creed for official favor at the expense of all others. See Kiryas Joel, 512
at 696 U.S.
(“A proper respect for both the Free Exercise and the Establishment Clauses compels the State to pursue a course of neutrality toward religion, favoring neither one religion over others nor religious adherents collectively over nonadherents.”) (internal quotations omitted); Cnty. of Allegheny, 492
at 610 (“The government does not discriminate against any citizen on the basis of the citizen’s religious faith if the government is secular in its functions and operations. On the contrary, the Constitution mandates that the government remain secular, rather than affiliate itself with religious beliefs or institutions, precisely in order to avoid discriminating among citizens on the basis of their religious faiths.”).26 U.S.
The Court decided that allowing the religious organization to refuse to use subcontractors who did not adhere to the religious beliefs of the organization receiving the funds was not accommodation but discrimination, in effect government support of a religious belief that prohibited activity that was both legal and widely accepted.
Yes, the decision will be appealed. Religious groups of all kinds want to be able to take government funding to promote their beliefs. They believe Freedom of Religion means freedom to impose their religion on others. That was wrong in 1787, and it is still wrong today.