No Protection

Letters to the Editor

Published March 22, 2012, issue of March 30, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

In his March 16 op-ed, “The Paradox of Religious Liberty,” Jonathan Sarna criticizes the congressional testimony of Rabbi Meir Soloveichik in the latter’s attack upon the requirement that health insurance plans include the cost of contraception as threatening the “liberties of conscience” inscribed in the Constitution. Sarna contends that Soloveichik overlooked the countervailing First Amendment right of employees not to be “religiously coerced” and that refusing to mandate employers to pay for contraception by employees is just the type of conduct prohibited by the First Amendment.

Even if one puts aside the issue of whether a religious organization employer’s refusal to share any of its employees’ costs for contraception can somehow be viewed as religious coercion, Sarna overlooked a simple fact, dispositive of his stated First Amendment right in support of requiring health insurance plans to cover contraception. The First Amendment only prohibits “Congress” (and, by reason of the 14th Amendment, the States) from enacting a law that either establishes or impinges on the free exercise of, religion. It has absolutely nothing to do with private employers and employees.

Thus while Soloveichik can legitimately argue that a federal law that mandates a Catholic institution employer to pay for insurance plans of its employees that include contraception is a violation of the First Amendment, Sarna cannot rely upon the First Amendment to support the position that a law that exempts religious institutions from such mandate — and thus preserves the religious institution employer’s autonomy in this area — is unconstitutional.

To be sure, one can put forward good-faith arguments for the requirement that health insurance plans of all employers cover the cost of contraception. The First Amendment, however, cannot be counted among them.

Julius Berman
New York, N.Y.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love.
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.