Letter to the Editor: Broadening Religious Exemption in Healthcare Reform

This letter was originally published on Monday, February 6 in The New York Times.

To the Editor:

Re “Birth Control and Reproductive Rights” (editorial, Jan. 30):

You commend the Obama administration for denying requests for an expanded exemption for religiously affiliated institutions from providing birth control in their employees’ insurance plans, even in violation of the institutions’ religious beliefs, as now required by the health care reform law.

In doing so, you — like Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary — say religious entities that “serve the general public and employ people of different faiths” should not receive the same religious liberty protections as, for example, a church or a synagogue. Such reasoning is wrongheaded.

For many people of diverse faiths, religious observance is not to be confined to the sanctuary. For many, faith compels engagement with the broader world and service to our fellow man, especially those in need. To say the government will afford religious liberty only to the most insular of religious institutions but not to those that serve, or employ, people of other faiths is a troubling view of faith and what role it should play in America.

Washington, Jan. 30, 2012

The writer is executive director of public policy, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.