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Obama’s contraception compromise doesn’t quell debate

Regarding the Feb. 12 news article “Bishops reject Obama compromise on birth-control coverage”:

The article quoted Jim Towy, president of Ave Maria University in Florida, as saying, “I still don’t think President Obama gets it,” following the president’s recent efforts to address concerns in the religious community.

It’s Mr. Towy who doesn’t get it. The administration’s announcement goes a long way to address a very controversial issue and received support from many Catholic leaders and others. These leaders seem to understand that there is more than one moral position and that a middle ground in a pluralistic society is necessary.

President Obama is trying to arrive at a reasonable national policy against an uncompromising rigid ideology. It’s time to give credit where it’s due.

Jim Marrinan, Rockville

Rachel Maddow [“The Republican war on contraception,” op-ed, Feb. 12] is mistaken when she defends the Obama administration’s recent rule requiring Catholic hospitals and schools to cover contraceptives and certain abortifacients starting in 2013. That rule violates the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Ms. Maddow suggested that the rule must be valid because New York state adopted a similar rule. But there is a crucial legal difference between federal and state governments. State governments are no longer subject to the RFRA, thanks to a 1997 Supreme Court ruling. But the federal government is, based on a 2006 Supreme Court decision, which ruled that the RFRA limits federal regulatory power, and requires certain religious exemptions. So that law continues to shield religious schools and hospitals from federal regulations that order them to violate their religious tenets. The government must follow the law, even when doing so is unpopular.

Hans Bader, Washington

The writer is a senior lawyer for the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

In her Feb. 12 column, “A new front in the culture wars,” Lisa Miller said that “birth control is noncontroversially good for families and children.” Since this conversation arises because of the Catholic Church’s reaction to current events, this might be a good time to explain what the church teaches regarding birth control.

It is not just that using birth control closes a man and woman off from sharing in God’s creation of life, it is also that using birth control closes the couple off from a full expression of love, which is total self-giving and the commitment to stay together, regardless of what life brings.

Sexual intimacy is not meant to be entertainment. It is meant as something beautiful that will bind two people in a permanent union of selflessness, which is really what is “good for families and children.” The misuse of this is not “noncontroversially good” but rather a sound explanation for the devastating divorce rate, sexually transmitted diseases, depression and other illnesses; the couple’s bodies are sharing a commitment, but their minds aren’t. That’s not good for anybody.

Mary Clare Murray, Falls Church

We’re not going to force you to pay for contraceptive services for your employees, we’re going to force your insurers to pay for contraceptive services for your employees. This is not the “elegant way out” or “win-win reversal” The Post [editorial, Feb. 11] thinks it is, as it implied that the Catholic bishops’ only objection to contraception is paying for it.

As a Democrat and a Catholic who has no objection whatsoever to contraception, I think the Obama administration’s stance is insulting. My objection is to an administration that seems to want to run everything and has little respect for religious or other opinions that may differ.

William J. Herron Jr., Washington

In rejecting a compromise that frees religious institutions from providing contraception coverage, it appears that the U.S. Conference of Bishops, which believes so strongly in religious liberty, wants to impose its doctrines on women and men who use contraceptives, even those who do not find family planning “morally objectionable” or who require contraception for their health.

Religious liberty is in the Constitution for everyone, not just some, or it has no meaning whatsoever.

Madeline Jervis, Arlington

The writer is pastor emerita at Clarendon Presbyterian Church.

Regarding the Feb. 12 editorial “A win-win reversal”:

The Catholic organizations are still going to pay insurance companies, which will roll the cost of contraceptive coverage into their premiums. Whether paying for this kind of coverage is “direct” under the previous version of the Obama administration’s policy or “indirect” via insurance companies, it will still mean that Catholic organizations will be providing resources toward a practice that goes against the religious beliefs of the church.

It’s premature to declare President Obama’s solution a “win-win,” as much as he might wish to put this controversy behind him.

Nathan Stiltner, Stafford

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