News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

October 11, 2013

READERS' FORUM: Oct. 11, 2013

Can’t force our beliefs on others

I’d like to respond to Douglas Elia’s letter to the Oct. 6 issue of the Tribune-Star.

Mr. Elia objects to the health directive requiring employers, even those “morally and spiritually opposed to providing contraceptives as part of their health care plans,” to provide them. I don’t think this is necessarily a conservative or a liberal issue — but it does indeed concern freedom of religion.

In the case in which all of an employer’s employees hold the same religious beliefs and adhere to the same moral principles, his concern makes sense. Indeed, churches operating completely within their own faith do not have to provide contraceptives in health care plans.

But any individual or organization that employs many people with different beliefs (religious or nonreligious) and forces any particular religion on all employees denies employees their First Amendment rights. (In fact, many religious colleges already offer health plans that include contraception — witness the rather embarrassing flurry of protests from certain members of those colleges who were not aware that their college did offer contraceptive coverage.)

Let me clarify my point. Suppose Mr. Elia was hired by a company headed by a Seventh-day Adventist. This religious group does not believe in blood transfusions. Would it be all right with Mr. Elia if his health plan did not include coverage for any life-saving blood transfusions he might need in the event of an accident? Suppose the president of a college is an Orthodox Jew. Following the same line of reasoning and applying this idea to other areas — can the president prohibit all pork and bacon dishes from being served at the school cafeteria?

I respectfully submit to Mr. Elia that we all have the right to follow our own religious beliefs (or to be nonbelievers) because we live in a country that is not a theocracy — but a democracy. We don’t have the right to force others to follow our beliefs — whether they be our employees or not.

— Sharon Ammen

Terre Haute

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