To find the text of the First Amendment, we simple go to google, type “First Amendment Text” without quotations marks into the little box and click “google search.” Clicking on the first link, we get the Wikipedia entry, then clicking on the word, “text“, we get
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Emphasis added. Please note that the authors of this amendment made clear to include the word, “exercise,” and not “worship.” Which brings us to the editors of the New York Times. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto linked this editorial in the old gray lady on the president’s contraception compromise:
Nonetheless, it was dismaying to see the president lend any credence to the misbegotten notion that providing access to contraceptives violated the freedom of any religious institution. Churches are given complete freedom by the Constitution to preach that birth control is immoral, but they have not been given the right to laws that would deprive their followers or employees of the right to disagree with that teaching.
Note the word missing from this paragraph — and indeed from the entire editorial. Yup, that’s right, it’s “exercise.” As law professor Richard A. Epstein explains, “A direct legislative order to engage in conduct antithetical to their religious convictions would be in flat violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of the ‘free exercise of religion,’ which is far broader and more comprehensive than the religious right to ‘worship,’ to which the president grudgingly acquiesces.” (Epstein via Instapundit.)
In not paying for their contraception, the churches are freely exercising* their religion — which opposes contraception. I happen to think that’s a a silly belief, but then they might think it’s silly not to eat pork or shellfish. The Times editors simply ignore the “free exercise” clause in their editorial.
Not just that. Even if Catholic organizations don’t offer contraception, they’re not depriving their followers the right to disagree with their teaching, as the Times editors suggest. (Do they really believe that if their employer doesn’t offer employees a benefit, they can’t get it on their own?)
Once again, this is a freedom issue. Catholics who run private hospitals have the right to freely exercise the tenets of their faith. And that means not paying for contraception. They, however, are not free to deprive their employees of the right to disagree with that teaching.
And not including contraception in their health care plans in no way deprives them of that right. The editors of the Times simply did not even consider First Amendment right of the owners of the various Catholic hospitals and charities to exercise their faith. Wonder if they would justify a law mandating that an Orthodox Jewish home for the aged serve pork and shellfish.
*(According to dictionary.com, exercise means “to put (faculties, rights, etc.) into action, practice, or use“.)
FROM THE COMMENTS: David D observes, “Any government that has the authority to say “You must cover contraceptives” also has the ability to say ‘You must NOT cover contraceptives*.” Do wish editorialists appreciated that their ideological allies won’t alway hold political power.
*Or, more likely, “medical insurance plans provided by an employer that cover contraceptives must be taxed as direct income by the employee” or something like that.