The publishing company, Tyndale, has recently won a reprieve from the federal mandate requiring all employers offering health insurance to offer contraception coverage as well. You can read a good discussion of Tyndale’s legal argument here.
Tyndale’s basic argument is this: they believe contraception is immoral and, because they are self-insured, the money for contraceptives would go straight from their pocket to the pharmacist’s without any moral ambiguity granted from a middle man. This, therefore, puts an undue strain on their religious freedom. I’ve already discussed why I believe providing contraception is not a question of religious freedom.
But the basic illogic of the situation aside, I’m wondering why a company gets religious protections at all. Does the board of Tyndale believe that Jesus died for the company’s sin? Or does the board believe that all the assets of the company belong to a few folks just like the change in my pocket belongs to me (my pocket is not incorporated while Tyndale is)? Religious organizations, usually only houses of worship, are granted some exemptions from some employment laws. The Catholic Church, for example, is allowed to discriminate against women when hiring clergy. However, it may not require it’s employees to work in patently dangerous situations, say, in a building that’s been condemned. Being a religious organization does not exempt one from all laws.
Except Tyndale, or at least, Tyndale’s supporters, thinks it should. On the radio today I heard someone make the “common sense” plea that since Tyndale publishes Bibles it should be allowed to follow the rules in the very book it prints. Well isn’t that a fine idea! First, let’s be clear, the last thing Tyndale wants to do is follow all the rules in the book it prints. Let President Bartlet carry this argument for me.
Or, the author of Luke can give us a few examples of what Tyndale probably doesn’t want to hear as “rules.”
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”
“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Now, it’s clear that Tyndale doesn’t actually want to just follow the “rules” of the Bible. But they do want to follow this one, about contraception. We’ll skip, for now, the fact that the Bible never addresses contraception, or for that matter, abortion. Well, why shouldn’t they be able to follow the rules that they themselves take such pains to publish?
What if printers of the Koran could ignore our civil laws in preference for Sharia law? Certainly that would raise a kerfuffle. What if printers of Marx’s Communist Manifesto exempted themselves from property rights? That wouldn’t fly. What if the only rules that bound you legally were the ones you printed right out of your home printer? Kinkos would become the next Congress!
You can’t just say “no thank you, I’ve brought my own,” to the laws of the land. Tyndale, or at least these supporters of Tyndale, are making a borderline seditious argument. They’ve rejected the government’s right to require fair treatment of women in favor of their own rules. In this particular instance they’ve stayed on the right side of the law by bringing this disagreement through the proper legal channels, but the nut of the argument, that one is empowered to decide what laws to follow primarily by having the option to print other laws, is deeply troubling. It’s a coup de press.