Much of the discussion about forcing some religious institutions to provide insurance for contraception to employees makes little sense to me. It seems to be a clear burden on free exercise. Few apparently think that the Catholic Church itself needs to provide insurance for contraception to its employees. The distinction is purported to be that unlike the Catholic Church, Catholic hospitals hire non-Catholics and those hospitals should not be able to force their moral views on to their employees. Aside from the fact that the Catholic Church probably hires some non-Catholics, this blinks the obvious point that Catholics use contraceptive methods as well. Indeed, the disagreement by Catholics with the Church’s teachings on this subject is so widespread that the rate of contraceptive use by Catholics is quite high. Even more important, it is doubtful that the failure of insurance to include contraception would put a dent in contraception. In short, hospitals would not be forcing their moral views on their employees.
Nonetheless, this is the ACLU line. See here. I suspect this line is influenced by the view that the Catholic view on contraception is as crazy as I think it is. But I do not understand how the ACLU can defend odious Nazis and merchants of addiction, death, and suffering (i.e., the tobacco companies), but let their right thinking stance on contraception cloud judgment on free exercise.
Finally, I do not get the politics of this. Last Friday Peggy Noonan argued that while we were all busy discussing the gaffes of Mitt Romney (she thought he should have rescued himself by talking seriously about poverty), Obama had needlessly signed off on this contraception policy and that will cost him the election. It is true that Obama has been widely criticized for this by the hierarchy and by Catholics across the political spectrum. The Catholic voters, however, are divided. 52% of Catholic voters oppose this decision and 45% support it. See here. But it is not clear that this issue will be decisive for anyone’s thinking come November. Nonetheless, it will not help Obama with the Catholic vote. Perhaps it was thought necessary to shore up a different part of the base. I do not know. It would be interesting to hear an inside account of the political discussion that lay behind this decision. And it is an election year. They did not forget to have a political discussion.