The Bishops’ Attack On Religious Liberty

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 13 2012 @ 10:23am

John Holbo turns the tables on the Catholic and Republican leadership:

Suppose alcohol is made illegal, on purely religious grounds. I think it’s fair to say that forcing people not to drink amounts to compelling a kind of religious observance. (A negative observance, to be sure. But that’s still a form of observance.) Compelling religious observance is a violation of religious liberty, which includes the right not to be observant of any given religion. Suppose it’s just a ‘sin’ tax, not an outright ban. Alcohol is made hugely expensive. Well, if the sin in question is purely religious – if we aren’t making the case that the state has some compelling civic or secular reason for trying to discourage alcohol consumption – then I take it forcing someone to pay more, purely on the grounds that they are ‘sinning’, imposes a religious restriction on them. Purely religious ‘sin’ taxes ought to be regarded as violations of individual religious liberty. See, for example, the history of special taxes on Jews in European history.

Now, the pill. Yes, employees can go out and buy the stuff even if it isn’t covered by employers. But, since it would be free otherwise, by law, the church groups are, in effect, imposing a ‘sin’ tax, to express religious disapproval of what these individual are up to. Surely that’s a violation of religious liberty: to wit, the right not to regard being on the pill as sinful.