It’s not because they oppose contraception
By Nathan Diament
In June 2012, the Orthodox Union brought a dozen Orthodox lay and rabbinical leaders to the White House to meet with President Obama. We knew our time with the president would be limited, so we planned carefully which issues we would raise for discussion. Of course, we spoke to the president about the security of Israel. We spoke to him about the critical role Jewish day schools play in our community and the need to provide appropriate government support for them. Any good staffer briefing President Obama for the meeting would have predicted we would broach exactly those issues.
But then we took the conversation down a less predictable path: we raised our concern over the Administration’s effort, under the Affordable Care Act, to mandate employers to provide widespread access to contraceptives and other women’s health services through their employer-sponsored health insurance plans. We stressed to President Obama that Orthodox Judaism does not share the Catholic Church’s view of the absolute impermissibility of contraception. But we also stressed that we do share a deep concern for religious liberty and oppose government policies, even in the service of commendable ends, which would force religious Americans to violate the tenets of their faith, especially when the government can achieve its goals in other ways.
In responding to us, President Obama was thoughtful and nuanced in laying out his policy rationale. And he subsequently put in place some protections for some employers with religious objections—a total exemption for houses of worship and a clever workaround for religiously run schools and charities. But a universal exemption for conscientious objection to this policy is not in place, and the first pair of a plethora of lawsuits challenging this aspect of “Obamacare” has made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
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