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Slippery slope for US

Posted: December 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Whenever people discuss where religious liberty should begin and end, I have a standard answer: It should begin in your heart, but end when it demands the compliance of people who don’t share your religious beliefs.

Simply put, what I believe shouldn’t affect you, and what you believe shouldn’t affect me — period.

But apparently, that’s not the case for the people who run the corporate chain Hobby Lobby.

Last week, the Supreme Court decided to hear a challenge to a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires companies of a certain size to provide insurance coverage for birth control and other reproductive services without a co-pay.

Hobby Lobby, which is owned and operated by a family with strong Christian values, has decided that they should be able to deny these health-care services to their female employees because they violates the owners’ religious beliefs.

Now, bear in mind, the Affordable Care Act has already deferred to religious organizations on this point: an exception has been carved out for religious institutions — universities, hospitals and the like.

This challenge is different: Hobby Lobby, which isn’t a religious organization but a chain of stores that sell arts and crafts supplies, model kits and party favors — feels that its owners’ religious values should determine what health care employees are entitled to.

Think about the audacity of that for a moment. I’m not running a church, but rather a sandwich shop or a furniture store — and because my religion doesn’t believe in abortion, I’ve now decided that no one who works me is entitled to one, even though it’s the law.

Government shouldn’t control your health care, no — but I think I should be able to, because I pay you.

Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking. “Well, I don’t want to have to pay for someone’s abortion if I don’t believe it’s right. They can pay for it themselves.”

This is basically the same talking point that circulated when Rush Limbaugh railed against law student Sandra Fluke for wanting her insurance to cover birth control.

Do you agree? Then how about this: I’m a Scientologist who owns a sporting goods chain, and even though the Affordable Care Act says that insurance now has to cover mental health, I decide that my employees aren’t entitled to that because my religion doesn’t believe in the value of psychiatry.

So if someone who works for me needs grief counseling after the death of a child, tough luck! I don’t believe in it, so you can go pay for it yourself.

Or how about this: I own a successful plumbing company, and one of my employees gets a venereal disease.

What’s that, you say? My employee isn’t married — he got an STD from pre-marital sex?
Well, my religion believes pre-marital sex is a sin! Sorry, but you’ve got to pay for those doctors’ visits and penicillin shots out of your own pocket.

Try this one: I run a chain of frozen yogurt shops, and one of my managers needs emergency surgery before his appendix bursts. Trouble is, I’m a Christian Scientist and I don’t believe in surgery.

Oh well — next time, you’d better work for someone who believes in modern medicine.

If you’re being intellectually honest, it’s easy to see how this becomes a slippery slope leading to all sorts of spurious exemption claims.

Here’s a question: if you’re overweight and want to eat Big Macs and Pizza Hut every day until you need diabetes medicine or a quadruple bypass, why should my insurance have to pay for your treatment simply because you have no self-control?

Obesity is one of the biggest drivers of health care costs, so if I run a business should I be able to deny people health coverage because they’re guilty of gluttony?

After all, the Bible clearly states that gluttony is a sin. Proverbs 23:2 declares, “Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.”

Religious zealots love to cherry-pick which sins we should legislate against — like abortion and gay marriage — but they brush past the many others that don’t seem to bother them, even though they’re just as repugnant in the eyes of God.

The truth is, if American law was strictly legislated according to the Bible, America’s population would drop at an alarming rate as everyone who recognizes the value of living in the modern world would quickly move to Canada.

I was raised Roman Catholic, and my grandmother is a sweet, God-fearing woman, but neither of us believes that America should become a theocracy — a government run by divine guidance. The Founding Fathers nixed the idea of a state religion for good reasons.

If non-religious corporations can suddenly dictate what kind of health care their employees can receive based on their owners’ personal beliefs, it will set a dangerous precedent — one that should scare you, whether you’re religious or not.

Charlie Vignola is a former college Republican turned liberal Democrat. He lives in Fair Oaks Ranch, works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.



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