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Pyle: No court can grant exemptions from the real world

Published January 3, 2014 5:48 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The U.S. Supreme Court is seriously considering the argument that a nation can have a health care system worthy of the name without contraception as a basic component.

It is doing so because various groups — from the robust Hobby Lobby corporation to the by-definition frail Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged — object on religious grounds to being party to any insurance plan that pays for birth control.

In the Little Sisters case, Justice Sonia Sotomayor Thursday slapped an injunction on the contraception mandate that is part of the Affordable Care Act. The full court is to hear the case filed by Hobby Lobby, owned by a family that follows a fundamentalist Christian faith, with a decision expected in the summer.

Yet there is no legal objection to the ACA based on the fact that it will pay for, say, blood transfusions, in violation of the beliefs of Jehovah's Witness. Or for psychiatric care, running afoul of the Church of Scientology. Or because it pushes people to doctors and hospitals, not to their local Christian Science Reading Room.

That can't be because there are just a lot more Catholics and Evangelicals in the country than there are members of, and attorneys for, other religious groups. Can it?

If large, well-organized and well-funded religious groups get their way in the courts while lesser-known or less wealthy faiths don't, that's not freedom of religion. That's just pressure-group politics.

Utah officials, at least, are beyond claiming that the federal court order legalizing same-sex marriage is a violation of the rights of Mormons and others who disapprove on religious grounds. Even though that leaves them clinging to some very wobbly social science arguments that, even if valid, would not justify making government the arbiter of who gets to form a family.

All FDA-approved forms of contraception are an integral part of modern medical care. Those who find it creepy are free not to use it. But those beliefs have no standing to derail, or even impede, a long-overdue plan to make generally accepted medical care — particularly the prevention of unwanted or unwise pregnancies — a basic human service of a civilized society.

Besides, much of what government does, or makes people do, ticks somebody off. If it didn't, the government wouldn't do it. It would just let it happen. Or not.

But if it is reasonable for people or groups to be excused from participating in health plans that include any medical practice they don't like, then there are a few other government programs, expenditures or mandates that many of us find just as deeply offensive, and might want to file suit against.

Some of us might prefer that our tax dollars didn't pay for, say, nuclear weapons, Guantanamo Bay, tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, capital punishment or the war on drugs. We can work through the democratic process to get those laws and practices changed. But we can't expect a court to allow us to opt out of paying for them in the meantime.

Now a new poll shows that a denial of Darwinian evolution, the absolute core of biological science, is stubbornly held to by some 40 percent of Americans. Not only that, but such willful ignorance of basic science is much more likely to be found among Republicans than Democrats.

Such politicizing of science leads us to await the first lawsuit seeking to exempt someone from the laws of the universe, claiming a right to be free from the tyranny of reality over their tender beliefs.

If some people don't want to evolve, the law can't make them. But the rest of us should not be prevented from doing so.

George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, would very much like to be exempt from the effects of carbohydrates on the body.


Twitter: @debatestate






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