Monday, July 30, 2012

Federal Judge Blocks Obama's Birth Control Rule
In Colorado

Federal district judge John L. Kane (view him in a video here from the IAALS) made apparently the first federal ruling against the birth control coverage requirement regulation promulgated by the Obama administration in association with the Affordable Care Act. Various earlier suits attempting to block the regulation have failed; even this ruling is very limited in scope and temporary. Sahil Kapur of TPM has the following to say:

A federal district judge in Colorado issued a temporary injunction permitting Hercules Industries, an air-conditioning company based in the state, not to abide by the rule until the courts reach a decision on the merits of the case. The business owner, a Catholic who opposes contraception, argued that the mandate violates his religious liberty.

Carter-appointed Judge John Kane ruled (PDF) that Hercules raised serious enough questions about the validity of the mandate under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to be given injunctive relief. The 1993 law says the government may not “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” — that laws that clash with religious freedoms be justified by compelling government interest and be narrowly tailored to meet that interest.

Kane made it clear that the temporary injunction only applies to Hercules.

Watch the video of a short interview for an impression of the judge, a Carter appointee. Kane advocates in a calm voice for substantial if not radical changes to the American legal system. I'm in no position to evaluate his proposals, but I think they should serve as context for this ruling.

I'll be brief. In my opinion, freedom of religion entails freedom from religion, a view which has been shared by many Americans for two centuries. Otherwise, we'll have Catholic business owners and a gaggle of bishops from the USCCB imposing the whole damned bag of tricks on everyone else using their considerable funds and the American legal system to accomplish the imposition. Saying "you're infringing on my religious freedom because you require someone else (not me) to pay for an employee's birth control" is an offense against the whole notion of religious plurality on which America is founded. If this ruling survives appeal... and it might... don't think I won't resist as best I can.

AFTERTHOUGHT: When I was 30, I spent a summer teaching at a musical institute in Austria, a country which has no separation of church (in this case Catholic) and state, even in principle. At one point, the government of the state of Steiermark paid a large number of institute participants, faculty and students, to produce a performance of an ancient Catholic mass by an Austrian composer in a cathedral. We were told there was nothing unusual in government funding for such an event. Does the notion of such an intermixture of government and religion offend you as an American? Me too. Austria isn't my country, and Austrians can do what they want with it, but having seen the alacrity with which the Catholic Church jumps at chances to involve itself in national governments, I do not want that to become common in America.

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