For the past few weeks, conservatives have opened a new front on the Obama healthcare law by arguing that it forces religious organizations to violate their consciences. Whatever the validity of their argument, it is important to note that these sorts of fights are not new. In other similar fights, the courts have been known to rule in favor of those who chose not to provide a medical service on religious grounds.
In Washington State, a federal judge recently ruled that a Christian pharmacist can choose not to sell Plan B pills in their store if they feel that it violates their religious views. This is not an isolated incident. There have been other examples in the past of Christian-run pharmacies that have rejected selling birth control and condoms.
In the example of Washington State, the court ruled in favor of the religious pharmacists on very clear constitutional grounds:
The state [has] dismissed plaintiffs’ religious beliefs about the implications of dispensing emergency contraceptives as unworthy of the same sorts of protections they would, presumably, freely recognize in another context. Indeed, they view the decision that confronts people of faith as minor, even quaint, burdens on religious practices … [and] argue that plaintiffs’ sincere belief about an issue at the core of their religion is not entitled to constitutional protection, but is instead granted (or not) as a matter of legislative grace.
This raises a question for conservatives who have tried to fight the healthcare law with legislative tactics like the failed Blunt Amendment, do they really think that the constitution does not provide the protections necessary for the constituents they claim to represent? Is there any reason to think that a Catholic hospital which provides a healthcare plan without contraception for its employes would not be able to win a case defending their right to do so on first amendment grounds?
Why are conservatives even engaging on this issue in the Congress at all when the Supreme Court is probably on their side already?
(Hat tip to Leah Libresco for the links.)