March 24, 2014

In his March 22 op-ed column, “America’s First Freedom, in practice,” Pastor Rick Warren lamented the Affordable Care Act curtailing the religious freedom of the owners of the multibillion-dollar Hobby Lobby business, who feel that providing staff with insurance covering certain contraceptives would violate God’s will.

If the Supreme Court upholds Hobby Lobby’s claim, won’t that also mean an employer whose religion is opposed to all medical care could refuse to insure workers? What about a chief executive who opposes helping anyone he thinks brought on a health problem by poor habits? Or a boss who interprets Scripture to mean that only people of certain ethnicities or national origins deserve help?

Religious freedom is not a license to infringe on others’ freedoms.

Christine Edwards, Harrisonburg

In a diverse, pluralistic democracy such as ours, it is impossible to allow everybody to refuse to do everything they object to on religious grounds. The judicial system has generally drawn the red lines where one person’s religious rights conflict with somebody else’s rights, religious or otherwise. The courts have allowed people to refuse to directly perform an act they consider immoral (e.g., doctors are not required to perform abortions if this violates their religion’s teachings) but have been less willing to allow refusal of acts that merely facilitate indirectly what somebody else does. Thus, we allow conscientious objectors to refuse military service, but we do not exempt them from paying taxes that might pay for military actions.

Hobby Lobby paying the employer’s portion of a group health insurance plan does not directly cause the financing of abortafacient drugs. The flow of those drugs will not occur unless an employee fills a prescription for such drugs. Once that happens, why are the employers more culpable than if the same employee had simply used her own wages to pay for the drugs? Either way, the money ultimately came from the employer.

In our complex society, it is impossible to avoid altogether such indirect involvement in others’ allegedly sinful acts. We must ultimately leave that up to individual conscience.

Kevin M. Davis, Chevy Chase