In January the Obama administration unveiled new health care regulations that require organizations run by the Roman Catholic Church to offer health insurance that covers women’s reproductive services, including contraception. The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops denounced the mandate as a violation of the First Amendment’s ban on laws “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. As the contraception controversy illustrates, writes Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey, conflicts between church and state in this country typically arise from the way that benefits supplied or mandated by the government are distributed. So if religious institutions want to be left alone, Bailey notes, they should stop begging alms from the government.
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