Roman Catholic

Freedom of Religion vs. Freedom from Religion

If churches want to be left alone, they should stop begging alms of the government.


“I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum declared. “What kind of country do we live in that says only people of nonfaith can come into the public square and make their case?"

Whatever can the former Pennsylvania senator be talking about? How much more in the public square can one get than a closely watched campaign for the nomination as the presidential candidate of one of our two biggest political parties? Not to mention the irony that Santorum made his claim that believers like him are somehow being excluded from the public square on the national ABC News program This Week.

Santorum’s observations were provoked by the latest brouhaha over the role of religion in politics that erupted over the Obama administration’s initial insistence that its new mandatory health care regulations require companies 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 this ruling as a violation of their religious beliefs and an infringement of the First Amendment’s prohibition against laws that interfere with the free exercise of religion.

The Obama administration quickly tried to control the political damage caused by this controversy by artfully claiming that so much money would be saved as a result of women using the services that health insurance companies would cover them at no additional cost. Consequently, the administration argued that the Catholic Church would not be actually paying for health insurance coverage of these reproductive services. Never mind that money saved but not rebated as a lower fee is not really distinguishable from paying for the covered service. 

History shows that in the United States conflicts between church and state typically arise over how benefits supplied or mandated by government are distributed. Legal scholar Douglas Laycock has spent a career looking at the interaction between government and religion in the United States. He notes in the 1947 case Everson v. Board of Education that Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black articulated the two chief principles that underlay the tension that state-supplied public welfare benefits produces when they intersect with religious belief. 

For the 5-to-4 majority in Everson, Black declared, “No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.” So far, so good. But Black also argued that government “cannot hamper its citizens in the free exercise of their own religion. Consequently, it cannot exclude individual Catholics, Lutherans, Mohammedans, Baptists, Jews, Methodists, Nonbelievers, Presbyterians, or the members of any other faith, because of their faith, or lack of it, from receiving the benefits of public welfare legislation.”

In Everson, the Court ruled that reimbursing parents for transportation to and from parochial schools was not a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because New Jersey “does no more than provide a general program to help parents get their children, regardless of their religion, safely and expeditiously to and from accredited schools.” One critical element noted by Black is that state compulsory education laws required that children attend school. Since parents are required by law to send their children to some kind of schools, then it would be wrong to discriminate against religious parents when it comes to putting them on buses to get there. Looking over the history of First Amendment constitutional conflicts, it is clear that most early court cases arose in the context of state-mandated education.

In the 18th century when the Constitution was adopted, Justice Black’s two principlesâ€"(1) citizens cannot be taxed to support religious activities, and (2) the state may not deny tax-financed public welfare benefits to any citizen based on their religious beliefsâ€"rarely conflicted. “In an era with few public welfare benefits,” explained Laycock in his 2006 essay, “Church and State in the United States: Competing Conceptions and Historic Changes,” “No-aid [to religious activities] protected citizens from being forced to contribute to churches involuntarily: it protected the churches from financial dependence on government, and thus from government control.”

But with the relentless expansion of the welfare state the days when churches were protected from financial dependence on government are long gone. In their book, The Challenge of Pluralism, political scientists Stephen Monsma from Calvin College and J. Christopher Soper from Pepperdine University argue, “If governmentâ€"seeking to strictly follow the no-aid-to-religion doctrineâ€"would run public service programs in a secular manner or if it would fund public service programs of secular nonprofit organizations, but would not fund public service programs of the same or parallel nature of religious organizations, religion would be put at a government-created disadvantage.”

Is it really the case that government and religious programs that seek to feed, clothe, shelter the poor, educate the ignorant, and take care of the sick are in some kind of competition? Only if one assumes that government agencies are engaged in teaching religious or non-religious beliefs as they dispense food stamps, rent vouchers, and vaccines. On the other hand, a cynical public choice analysis might suggest that both churches and government welfare agencies may see themselves in competition when it comes to increasing the number of people who are dependent upon them.

In order to address concerns that religious organizations are “disadvantaged” by competition with secular welfare agencies, recent administrations have devised various programs to shower tax dollars on them. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed charitable choice legislation that allowed faith-based charities to compete for federal funding of such social services as job training, nutrition, health clinics, drug treatment, and abstinence education. Compassionately conservative President George W. Bush further expanded federal funding of faith-based initiatives and President Barack Obama has basically continued that program. The amount of tax dollars that flow through these faith-based federal initiatives is hard to determine, but consider that the Catholic Charities affiliates received nearly $3 billion in 2010 (more than 60 percent of their budgets) and only 3 percent came from diocesan church contributions.

Of course, providing federal or state funds for a religious group’s welfare activities frees up its other funds so that they can be used for non-secular purposes. “The Court has not been blind to the fact that in aiding a religious institution to perform a secular task, the State frees the institution's resources to be put to sectarian ends,” noted Justice Harry Blackmun in the 1976 case of Roemer v. Board of Public Works of Maryland. Maryland was challenged on First Amendment grounds because it was providing an annual subsidy to private colleges that met certain criteria, in this case, four colleges affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the Court ruled that the state subsidy did not violate the First Amendment, likening it to the tax-financed provision of police and fire protection to churches.

It is clear that First Amendment conflicts will continue to multiply as government mandates and welfare programs proliferate. The fight over insurance coverage of contraception was the result of the Obama administration’s new federal health care mandate covering preventive care services. Another brewing church/state fight is over gay adoptions. For example, Illinois welfare agencies cancelled $30 million in foster care contracts with Catholic Charities for refusing to abide by Illinois non-discrimination statutes and place foster children in gay households. Last year, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act was introduced in Congress; it would prohibit discrimination in adoption or foster care placements based on the sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status of any prospective adoptive or foster parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child involved. Conversely, some states have passed legislation allowing religious groups to invoke a “conscience clause” when refusing to place children in gay families all the while receiving state funds to run their private adoption and foster care services.

But there is a way to call a ceasefire in this escalating culture war battle. “Government’s advantaging of the secular over the religious could be avoided if government would simply stay out of a given policy area,” observe Monsma and Soper. But the two political scientists actually think that there is no way to untangle the contentious church/state social services mess into which we’ve gotten ourselves. I think that they are wrong.

In the first place, from a libertarian perspective, government at all levels is interfering far too much with what are essentially private activities. That being said, let’s assume that tax dollars will continue to be collected for the time being and spent on various “public welfare” programs. There is still a way for government to “simply stay out of a given policy area” when it comes to current conflicts involving the First Amendment.

Consider public education. States and localities could collect tax dollars as usual and then offer school vouchers that parents could use to supply education to their children at whatever religious or secular school they choose. If states want to subsidize college students, they could again offer vouchers that students could use at whatever college or university to pay for their education.

Health insurance? The tax code could be reformed so that employers simply pay their employees the monies spent on health insurance policies and individuals would purchase whatever available private health insurance best fits their needs, including policies that cover contraception, abortion, sterilization, and stem cell treatments, etc. The poor could be provided with tax-financed vouchers to buy whatever private insurance they preferred.

Most public welfare services, say, job training, nutrition support, drug treatment, could also be converted into vouchers that recipients could redeem at whatever social welfare agency they think would work best for them. (To be honest, I am not clever enough to think of how to use some kind of voucher system to avoid church/state conflicts in the case of adoptions and foster care. Whatever is done should be done with the best interests of the children in mind.)

Santorum may believe that breaching the famous wall of separation between church and state erected by the First Amendment is a good idea, but he is very wrong. Religious groups have always been welcome to make their cases in the public square, but if churches want to be left alone, they should stop begging alms of the government. It’s time to reverse the trend toward more church/state conflicts by protecting religious organizations from increasing financial dependence on government. Santorum should heed the admonition of an earlier Republican president, Ronald Reagan, who in 1984 declared, "We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate.”

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

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  1. Its a good article but the link between Santorum and those I would call “welfare pulpits” is a bit weak.

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  2. I have trouble with the tax exemption for churches on their property when their is no charitible purpose for the property – and neither “worship god” nor allowing Cub Scouts to meet rent-free in the basement counts, IMHO. Running a food bank or a homeless shelter open to all would count, however, even if they put preachy messages on the plates.

    Nor should they be exempt from tax on income-producing assets.

    If everyone else has to pay taxes, so should they.

    1. allowing Cub Scouts to meet rent-free in the basement

      I dunno, that sounds kinda charitable to me. But I’m not a charitable kind of guy, so my charity experience is probably as limited as possible.

      1. Because the Cub Scouts have a requirement that the scouts must profess a belief in god, they don’t get a pass.

        1. Those damn beanie-wearing, blue-clad, 8-year-old THEOCRATS!!1!

          1. It’s the people running the Scouts who impose the religious test.

            The kids just want to have fun and, for the most part, don’t give a hoot about whether their playmate worships god.

            If the Cub Scouts did not impose a religious test, I would count them as being as charitable as a local T-ball league.

            1. this is America. a robust seperation of church & state is for the best & our heritage to boot. but even a liberty-minded peon w/ heart & no theology can see how “under God”, “in God we trust” & the like are a proper good insofar as the force the gubmit to at least ostensibly acknowledge they’re not the highest authority in the Universe…

              1. Damn straight.

              2. Yes! I’m agnostic but I like to explain to some folks that my rights come from God, not the gubmint.

                1. Yes! I’m agnostic but I like to explain to some folks that my rights come from God, not the gubmint.

                  Because you think they’re too stupid to understand where they really come from?

                  Or do you not have an answer for that other than God or other equally fantastic thing?

                  Why don’t you see this is as a flaw in your thinking?

              3. If it’s only ostensible then why isn’t it a negative? Do you suppose that motto constrains government in any way?

                God tends to be always on the side of anyone claiming belief in him, not least tyrannical governments.

                1. i don’t s’pose it constrains them, they’re gubmit. they’s hypocrites. & the fantastic flaw in my thinking is that the world could be full of & even run by people that actually mean what they say. & i still say ostensible is better’n nothing, unless you really think that accruing the god-like power over people makes the state God…

                2. Hallelujah, Tony!

              4. There is no god….get over it!

                1. I care not about the existence of God. I say I’ll do as I please and harm nobody. If you don’t like it, take it up with Him.

              5. Rights really come our recognition of the dignity of others. From that extends the Golden Rule and the NAP, which are sufficient justifications for most negative rights.

                Plenty of governments have recognized a god as a power greater than them then quickly declared themselves agents of that god. Theology constrains no one.

              6. I agree. I think that the addition of “under God” to the pledge is one of the good things about it just because it does mean that the State is not, never, no-how, the highest authority.

                And that’s a good thing.

                1. So whose deity has more power over me than the state I have a democratic voice in?

                2. Are you all blind? Rights cannot come from an ambiguous “God” because then “God” gets highjacked by anyone profession to be in communication with “God”.

                  We all know who “God” really is when He is pushed onto our currency, national motto, and fealty pledge, don’t we?

                  If you try to argue otherwise, I’d like you to think about how it would be taken if we changed the word “God” in our pledge to “Dios” or even God forbid – “Allah”…And my response to your pseudo-apathetic response will be – Bullshit.

                  1. you know, i would actually expect a spanish-speaking or muslim American to use those exact terms when reciting those pledges or mottos, diviersity & all that…
                    & i would say in my slurred english: “i wish to God who made us individualy that us chumps who use the democratic system would use the Wisdom we all got free from Posterity to put this great country back to the great Purpose it was founded in the spirit of, hear my prayer”
                    see? people don’t have to argue about God, just everything else

        2. “Cub Scouts have a requirement that the scouts must profess a belief in god”


          1. True story. The real uniform is sackcloth and ashes, Cub Scouts are required to practice self-flagellation and every Easter one per Pack is chosen to be nailed to a real cross. You can tell by the scars on his hands.

          2. I’m not sure about Cub Scouts, but Boy Scouts do require an affirmative belief in God. Whether the particular troop enforces it or not is another question.

            From their information for parents:

            The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing
            an obligation to God and, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is
            absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and organization
            or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life. Only persons willing
            to subscribe to these precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle and to the Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of
            America shall be entitled to certificates of membership.

            1. Cub scouts are boy scouts. I don’t think they actively impose this shit. Especially when they are using public school facilities. Most of the parent “leaders” don’t seem to give a shit.

              1. They do enforce it. Penn & Teller did an entire episode of Bullshit about it (, and there’s a lot of anecdotes like this one:


        3. Why is religion a *disqualification* to charity?

          That doesn’t even make any sense. It shouldn’t be a requirement, either, but why is it a disqualification?

    2. As one of the rare breed of believers who comment here, I agree. Right now the government can use the tax-exempt status of churches as a choke chain if they get out of the government-approved line. Some churches stay adamantly out of political questions because of the financial aspect of losing their status, even if those political questions might be important to them. Mind, I wouldn’t tolerate my church preaching who I should vote for, but church’s should not refrain because the government can kill them if they do get political.

      (Obviously, I’d like to see taxes go away, but I think it actually detrimental to churches to force them into this dependency on government OK.)

      1. The Democrat Black church tour season is just around the corner.

        Heard recently that the federal filing for religious organization tax exemption is fairly new in our history. Began during the Johnson administration? Somewhere in learning that I discovered that the John Birch Society never sought tax exempt status. Go figure.

        1. As a political advocacy group the John Birch Society likely never qualified for tax-exempt status. Just as the ACLU and the NRA (which are both non-profit corporations) don’t.

          Also, keep in mind, there is a difference between tax-exempt status and a non-profit corporation. Tax-exempt status is granted by the IRS and qualifies donations to the organization to be deducted from the donor’s income for tax purposes. It has no affect on the organization’s liability for any taxes.

          Non-profits do not pay any income tax because they have no ptofits to be taxed. Not all no-profits have tax-exempt status.

          1. Tax-exempt status is granted by the IRS and qualifies donations to the organization to be deducted from the donor’s income for tax purposes. It has no affect on the organization’s liability for any taxes.

            No, tax-exempt means the organization doesn’t pay taxes. What you’re thinking of is tax-deductible donations, which some tax-exempt organizations can get, but plenty of others can’t.

            Some (most?) non-profits are tax-exempt. Donations to some, but not all, tax-exempts can be deducted from the donor’s taxes.

      2. I can see your point Untermensch, and I certainly agree that the pulpit is no place for politics but the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments ONLY. Anything else, is dangerous to say the least. I especially agree that accepting any federal aid acts as a choke chain; well put, sir.

    3. The justification has always been the old “power to tax is the power to destroy” argument, but we’re way past that these days. Besides, viewing religious beliefs from the free speech perspective, the government can use its tax powers to harm other viewpoints it doesn’t care for. Not legally, of course, but it does it, anyway.

    4. Solutions:
      Don’t tax anyone’s existing assets, ever. No property taxes.
      Only tax individual income, not organization income.

      1. and when individuals are rolling their income underneath the organization’s?

        1. You mean like being involved in an “organization” and acquiring goods in kind instead of transferring finances directly to your name? It already happens. Too fucking bad.

    5. If atheists donated more often to charities, maybe they would get more of a say as to what is considered one.

      1. Citation please.

        But, even if cited, when were _YOU_ elected judge of charitiable donations? Charity just means that you give to someone who doesn’t have. Churches have decided that the poor are their target so you figure that that’s “charitiable”. Charity is whatever the donor decides that it is if given freely.

        But, in any case, there’s still no case to justify making charitable donations, of any definition, tax-exempt.


    He’s just so wrong about so much, that even Wesley Pruden can’t stand it anymore.

  4. Santorum is just one of many dominionist Christians in the Republican party. Scary theocrats, in other words. I’m not sure even the very important crusade you guys share of keeping billionaires’ tax rates as low as possible is worth that trade-off.

    1. the very important crusade you guys share of keeping billionaires’ tax rates as low as possible

      Still haven’t given up this straw man I see. Is it like permanently stapled to your clipboard or something?

      1. Ignore the religion they’re selling. Look at the policies you buy. I’m talking about libertarians, of course.

      2. Ummmm…is that a strawman? I definitely want to keep billionaires tax rates as low as possible, and everybody else’s rates, too.

        1. Good advice, Tony… while you’re at it, we’ll ignore the religion YOU are selling.

    2. Are you kidding? Catholics are a bunch of weenie liberals when it comes to taxes. Shit, the guys with the funny hats are forever going around to dirt poor countries begging rich countries to “share”. That’s your bag dude. Get yourself a funny hat.

      1. I wouldn’t be so insulting of the institution you would transfer the vast bulk of the social welfare state to.

        Santorum is some kind of Catholic, but not one who follows the pope, the keeper of Catholic conservatism, who has spoken forcefully on the need for action on climate change.

        I realize, even in these parts, absurdly, the Pope is a near communist.

        1. And a mere pawn in Al Gore’s scheme, too.

        2. Tony|2.28.12 @ 7:24PM|#
          “Santorum is some kind of Catholic, but not one who follows the pope, the keeper of Catholic conservatism, who has spoken forcefully on the need for action on climate change.”

          Oh, look!
          Shithead says old fart in funny hat is an authority!

          1. Tony, either we have separation of church and state (as we should)… or we don’t.

            You want the Pope to get involved in global warming, which REQUIRES government intervention.

            All or nothing, dude. I say nothing.

    3. No, Tony. I don’t know about Senator Frothy, but our crusade is with keeping *everybody’s* tax rates as low as possible. Even yours, pal.

      1. Rich people’s first.

        I don’t see any clamor for repealing those until the cuts are applied fairly.

        Your pet politicians think the poor and middle class don’t pay enough and acted pissy over cutting the payroll tax. I’ll not take your word for it.

        1. the Bush tax cuts shifted the bulk of the tax burden TO the very rich you whine about. Is stupid part of hte liberal creed? Perhaps you have noticed the growing number of folks NOT paying federal income taxes.. The Bush tax cuts lowered the rate for EVERY level.

        2. Who’s pet politicians?

        3. Tony|2.28.12 @ 7:25PM|#
          “Rich people’s first.”

          Shithead translated: “Tax other people, not me!”
          Fuck you, shithead.

        4. “Rich people’s first.”

          Absolutely. Their rates are the highest, so they’re the priority.

          1. Wealth envy solves nothing, Tony.

            1. YES UM DO!!!

  5. Off Topic: Ron Bailey, do you think there could be any connection between Obama’s GM speech and the Center for American Progress getting a hold of this story today?…..y-density/

    1. I would have to soak my eyes in bleach after reading a Think Progress link…

      1. I used a filtered monicle.

  6. I’ve never understood the tax exemption for churches qua churches. It seems like an establishment clause problem to me, especially under the current broad reading of the clause.

    If they want to meet the “charitable” requirements, that would be fine. Plenty of church operations do use that one, now (their hospitals, for one). But the church qua church? No.

    1. As I noted above, my understanding of the exemption’s rationale is that allowing government to tax churches would mean that it could use the tax power to favor some over others. Whether that is true or not is another issue.

      1. I think the big SCOTUS case that addresses the whole “at what point does being exempt from paying taxes due to religious grounds become actual endorsement of religion by the government” in Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York (1970).

        Precedence. It’s what’s for dinner!

        1. Justice Brennan”Government has two basic secular purposes for granting real property tax exemptions to religious organizations. First, these organizations are exempted because they, among a range of other private, nonprofit organizations contribute to the well-being of the community in a variety of nonreligious ways, and thereby bear burdens that would otherwise either have to be met by general taxation, or be left undone, to the detriment of the community. … Second, government grants exemptions to religious organizations because they uniquely contribute to the pluralism of American society by their religious activities. Government may properly include religious institutions among the variety of private, nonprofit groups that receive tax exemptions, for each group contributes to the diversity of association, viewpointand enterprise essential to a vigorous, pluralistic society.

          1. This sounds vaguely familiar to me. May have run across the case in my First Amendment seminar. So long ago.

    2. How often have churches been taxed in any given country?

      Is the US the only country that fails to tax its churches? (Cursory googling tells me that, no, we’re one of many.)

      What would church taxation look like in practice? What countries have recently started taxing churches? What happened, societally, when they did so?

      1. What happened, societally, when they did so?

        First off, you get a LOT of special pleading.

        As I said above, I am fine with the homeless shelters and the food banks getting a tax exemption. Same for the Catholic Hospitals that Con MD worries about below.

        The Crystal Cathedral, not so much.

        1. The Crystal Cathedral, not so much.
          ditto for any church that gives any govt official, elected or appointed, a microphone and a captive audience.

          1. The audience isn’t very “captive”, and church facilities are host to lots of different events because they have nice seating for lots of people. I think that churches should generally not endorse a party or candidate, but that’s because I think it’s contrary to the mission to alienate a portion of the congregation or imply that some are not welcome.

            What does bother me is when community facilities, like community centers, have a no religion policy. A sign at our little CC said it was illegal to have any religious activity there. Clearly a violation of free speech. And clearly a demand that the test for using community facilities was that one not have a faith at all. Rent the hall for an event, and you’d better not pray over the food. (I think our little local hall might have been the victim of an over zealous idiot. I can’t imagine that these rules are *usual*.)

        2. “The Crystal Cathedral, not so much.”

          Actually the Crystal Cathedral was just bought by the RCC.

          But who decides which not for profit gets tax exemption? Big brother? Benevolent kings? Currently, the IRS can take away tax exemption for political speech from the pulpit. Who is for IRS goons deciding this is political speech and this isn’t? Recently a liberal church in California thankfully won a victory against the IRS for an anti-George Bush/Iraq war sermon, but the IRS getting to decide without judge or jury is scary. Most churches can’t fight the IRS.

      2. Just for learning’s sake, there are several states where church taxes you. Although I think the effect of that is the national church transforms into a rent-seeking zombie and people stop going.

    3. Among the trouble that making churches qua churches tax exempt is that it puts the government in the business of defining which are the “real” churches.

      They’ve avoided having to face up to the ugly reality of that difficulty by drawing the line broadly enough that there isn’t a lobby for the ones they exclude.

  7. Please take away church tax exemption. Then you will have the nation’s largest Political Action Committee. We could then support candidates, fund raise for them, etc. There are 400,000 houses of worship in the USA, set us free.

    1. If you think that churches are not already defacto PACs, you are mistaken.

      From the Unitarian Social Activists to the Southern Baptist Socons, the churches are already a pack of PACs.

      1. Where does Reverend Wright fit into your view?

        1. Tell me how Rev Wright differs, in terms of advocating certain government policies that he favors, from either the Unitarian Church “public affairs” committees or the Southern Baptists pushing “Family Values.”

          1. Aresen|2.28.12 @ 6:36PM|#
            “Tell me how Rev Wright differs, in terms of advocating certain government policies that he favors, from either the Unitarian Church “public affairs” committees or the Southern Baptists pushing “Family Values.”

            Where I live, there’s a Unitarian church pitching meetings to discuss reverence for the ‘mother earth’.
            If that’s not a political gathering, I don’t know what it is.

      2. Not really. I am a pastor and there are all sorts of restraints on churches made by the IRS. I personally don’t want to be involved in politics, but that is what will happen. And I am against taking money from the feds, too much entanglement for the church. But I am tired of the state trying to handcuff the church from its work.

    2. If churches loved God more than money, they wouldn’t mind paying taxes in order to preach their truth freely.

    3. I’m inclined to think that, left to their own devices, many churches could not survive financially without this aid. The majority of small businisses fail within their first year and churches curiously seem to buck that trend. I suspect that they’d go under at the same rate as other businesses if not for their tax-exempt statuses.

      So, yeah, I’m all for setting the churches free. Don’t take my money, say and do whatever you want politically, and start looking for a Book Club to satisfy your social needs. I shouldn’t have to supplement the incomes of churches any more than I should be made to support Book Clubs.

      And, after all, Church is nothing more than a Book Club. People with common interests get together, talk about work, their kids, and their spouse all while discussing a book *as though they’d actually read it*.

  8. Great reasoning from Reason:

    If a Catholic hospital performs a procedure on a Medicaid patient, then they shouldn’t get paid for it???????

    If Catholics form a hospital that takes Medicare and Medicaid, then they should sacrifice their religious freedoms????

    Catholic hospitals provide 25% of charity care in this country. Why don’t you statist ideologues just leave them alone.

    1. If a Catholic hospital performs a procedure on a Medicaid patient, then they shouldn’t get paid for it???????

      Catholic hospitals provide 25% of charity care in this country.

      The Catholic Church expects to be paid for charity work?

      1. The alternative is to take *only* people who can pay outright, and *only* complete charity cases, and send all the Medicare and Medicaid people away.

        And then the hospital would be sued. Wouldn’t it?

        It’s fine to say that Church charities or hospitals or social services or adoption services shouldn’t take any tax money. I don’t know that they have a choice most of the time. (And if they didn’t take a dime of any sort of government subsidy for adoption services, would the State leave them alone? Hell, no.)

      2. Charity work is for the uninsured, which our local hospital takes thousands of such patients. They don’t get paid.

        In contrast, when a Medicaid pregnant woman shows up on their door, they have to take her (federal law – EMTALA). Should they have to sacrifice their religious freedoms to care for her and get paid?

        Would I like the government out of the health insurance business which is a clear violation of the 10th amendment? You bet, but that ain’t happening anytime soon. In the meantime, the government insures over 20% of the population – and growing. So should big brother dictate that there will be no religious association whatsoever? No chaplains. No crosses on the walls. No chapels. Bring in the anti-religion police for regular inspections. Don’t want any prayer in hospitals, either. =

        1. Does your insurance cover brain injuries associated with lack of oxygen caused by tight foil hats?

          1. Empty, sophmoric, non-sequiter ad hominem. The anti-thesis of “reason”.

            1. Go cry to your space daddy kook.

    2. CMD: what is it about individually purchased health insurance (using vouchers for the poor) that you don’t understand?

      1. Is that system in place? No. Would I favor a move from employee based health insurance? You bet. Do I want the government dictating that my insurance must include things like “free” birth control? No.

        Where are the libertarians? The author is a pure big government, statist liberal.

    3. Great reasoning from Reason:


      But then, we’re both catholics, and I bet we already are. 🙂

      1. I am not Catholic, but I acknowledge the great benefit the Catholic Church does for our society.

        1. ???

          (it’s the only response that I could think of that made any sense…)

    4. See that’s a trick question. Any legit writer for Reason would know that medicaid shouldn’t exist in the first place.

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  11. What kind of country do we live in that says only people of nonfaith can come into the public square and make their case?”

    Haven’t read the article yet, which seems to focus on religious privilege-seeking/tax-exemption more than ‘free speech’…. but thought I’d throw in my $.02 regarding some pertinent case law…

    What ticks me off about Santorum’s comment above is that he has the facts *exactly wrong*, insofar as ‘speech’ is concerned. Religious speech (‘making their case in the public square’) is and has been *explicitly* affirmed on multiple occasions as constitutionally-protected forms of free-speech, and *cannot* be proscribed unless there is a clear implication of government endorsement of said speech *over and above/to the exclusion of other religions*.

    specific rulings affirming this distinction =

    – Lynch v Donnelly, 1984
    – County of Allegheny v. ACLU, 1989

    1. (contd)

      Both cases center around ‘religious speech in the public square’ (in both cases, the actual cited dispute was over christmas displays, but both cases included considerations of other issues)

      The first clarified that explicitly religious messages, presented in the ‘public square’, were perfectly constitutional, insofar as they are temporary, and no other group is excluded from that forum.

      The second clarified that the same thing *done on government property* (e.g. a courthouse putting a cross or menorah inside the building? out on the steps, etc.) was clearly both implicit endorsement and by definition, ‘exclusive’ because you can’t turn every civic institution into a goddamn polytheistic encyclopedic display… Even then, *I’d* get upset for any omission of Cthulu, or perhaps Gozer the Gozerian.

    2. (contd)

      Santorum seems to funge the two ideas = while it is perfectly acceptable to do what he says *literally* (‘Have religious people come into the public square and make their case’)…. he doesn’t really mean *public square* at all.

      He means, ‘why can’t politicians specifically endorse religion’. And why can’t government mix itself up in the business of doing ‘god’s work’.

      He’s completely disingenuous. What he truly means is that the “Separation of Church and State” (not in the constitution, I know) is a *bad thing*. Suggesting that religious speech is somehow circumscribed in the ‘public square’ however is utter bullshit. The KKK won at least 2 cases I know of by defending their racist BS as “religious activity”. The distinction is whether its done by citizens in a public forum, or politicians turning the podium into a pulpit.

      1. being wrong won’t stop Ricky from PA. Good grief; the man voted for EVERY excess of teh Bush years and claims to be a small govt guy.

      2. politicians turning the podium into a pulpit

        …and let me add, for the sake of staying somewhat near the point of the piece, ‘or throwing money/benefits at “preferred” religious organizations/ideas’

        God I hate this 900 word-limit thing. I have chronic logorrhea!! IM BEING PROSCRIBED!!

        1. Thank White Injun for the limit. It didn’t seem to exist until (s)he started pasting Google Translates of entire articles in as comments to drown out people.

        2. Help, Help! I’m being repressed!!

  12. Darn. I was so sure you guys were going to convince Tony he’s a leftist idiot this time. Oh, well, maybe try 1,876 will work.

    Keep up the good work, suckers.

  13. “If churches want to be left alone, they should stop begging alms of the government.”

  14. And the President’s supposed ‘compromise’ with the religious groups – not only the Catholic Church – ended with the HHS publishing the original regulation as the final. Not that it matters, anyway, as the people who control the governments – local, state and federal – are only limited in their exercise of power by the will-to-power of their political opponents. Not by law, nor the Constitution, not even by the laws of nature. *Sigh* Enjoy your 21st Century, folks!

  15. Santorum was likely, mostly, talking about the attitude that people who hold religious faith run into that somehow their faith ought to be private, that they have two persons, the one who goes to church and worships at home, and the one who interacts in public. You’re supposed to have an “off” button. That’s foolish, of course, because we’re a single person and don’t stop believing because we’re at a job or any place else.

    And the Constitution guarantees the right to *be* that person and not be penalized or barred from public office.

    1. Synova|2.28.12 @ 9:13PM|#
      “And the Constitution guarantees the right to *be* that person and not be penalized or barred from public office.”

      So long as you’re a bleever. Not so much if a mythical sky-daddy ain’t your thing:
      “In the United States, seven state constitutions officially include religious tests that would effectively prevent atheists from holding public office, and in some cases being a juror/witness”…..t_atheists
      Yeah, I know it’s wiki, but the references are there.

    2. The Constitution recognizes your right to speak freely; it does, however, recognize any right to remunerative employment while doing so.

      To put it another way, you’re not being paid to talk about your beliefs in the workplace. Especially since said discussions tend to involve your coworkers into fruitless and irrelevant arguments.

      Me? I don’t care, just don’t be an ass about it (there’s a difference between saying “I believe in God” and spending 5 hours explaining why everyone is going to hell). But I’m not your employer.

      1. The squirrels ate my “not”.

    3. And the Constitution guarantees the right to *be* that person and not be penalized or barred from public office.

      You are protected only from *legal* penalty. I don’t have to agree with what you say, I don’t have to like you, I don’t have to vote for you, and I don’t have to hire you (or keep you if I’ve already hired you).

      You can only be “barred from office” in the sense that no one will vote for you.

      Heretofore, no one has stopped Santorum from running for office; his name is (or will be) on the primary ballot in all 50 states. Were he to be elected in the primary, his name would appear on all 50 states along with his running mate and party. Were he to be elected in the general, he would become President.

      But that is not likely to happen, and it has nothing to do with Santorum’s rights.

  16. But there is a way to call a ceasefire in this escalating culture war battle. “Government’s advantaging of the secular over the religious could be avoided if government would simply stay out of a given policy area,” observe Monsma and Soper.


    Oh, wait, you were serious?

  17. Perhaps a good way to handle vouchers for adoption would be to for the government to pay adoption agencies for each child placed in a qualified home.

    If a religious adoption agency (for example) wanted to exclude some subset of the pool of qualified adopters (such as homosexuals), then they’d be effectively ignoring part of their potential market. Some other adoption agency could profit by picking up the slack.

    I think this is as close to an “everyone wins” scenario as you’re going to get in this debate…

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  20. Santorum is a theocratic fascist who has no idea what this nation was founded on.

  21. I find it ironic that an institution which isn’t taxed complains on how that money is spent.

  22. I’m curious as to how a voucher system would work that wouldn’t either have either massive fraud, or the gov’t qualifying where the vouchers can be redeemed, thus negating R. Bailey’s stated intent of the voucher. How would the gov’t decide who was worthy of providing the services subsidized by the voucher?

    I’ll take the example of drug treatment because it’s the easiest to conceive of a mechanism of fraud. A assume that all addicts, perhaps with a doctor’s referral, would be eligible for a voucher. Obviously not all drug addicts want to be cured of their addiction, and ‘drug treatment’ facilities and drug abusers would conspire to defraud the voucher system. At avoid this scenario, the gov’t would have to have a per-approval process and quality review process for the treatment clinics.

    1. Gov’t officials, being what they are, would use this authority to pursue agendas unrelated to the effectiveness of the clinic’s treatment. Approval or denial of a faith-based organization’s treatment clinic as a approved voucher recipient would have the same complications as their direct funding.

      The economic incentives for fraud would not be so strong in other policy areas for which voucher systems have been proposed. Most parents would have a strong interest in seeing that their children are well educated. But a mechanism for fraud is not inconceivable.

    2. F the 900 character limit. Is it really so hard to scroll thru WI’s text walls? Perhaps an expand/collapse feature on long comments?

  23. Might a part of this controversy be addressed by churches separating their secular activities (i.e., teaching math) from their religous activities? I could get more specific but I’m sure you get the idea. If they objected to government imposing a requirement for birth control education and financing, the governmet should determine that such activities represent “X” percentage of the funds distributed for health care subsidies and deduct that portion from payments to those groups. Frankly, I’m opposed to all of these government programs, but I’d take this small step to protect religion in this context.

  24. The initial draft of the first amendment was made by James Madison on June 8, 1789.On Dec. 15, 1971, the Bill of Rights was finally ratified by the states and it was the most debated Amendment.

  25. I’m just tired of atheists acting like their ideology isn’t a religion, but the opposing ideologies are, and that therefore it’s ok to force atheist ideas onto schoolchildren, but not any idea that promotes God (or Brahmin, FSM, etc.). C’mon people; it’s not ok to force ANY idea for or against God(s) onto anyone, and for that matter, it’s not ok to force public school on a population in the first place. If we got the state out of education, out of governing our moral lives, out of financing academic research, we wouldn’t even have this problem. No one would have the opportunity to push their religion – whether Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhists, Atheist, whatever – on anyone else.

  26. The other thing that pisses me off is this whole idea that religious freedom>other freedoms. People always seem to get away with things (like homeschooling, or not taking medicine, or not serving in the military) only for religious reasons, but not if they’re done for any other reason. Most of these are things you should be allowed to do regardless of your reason for it, but to only allow such in cases of religion is just absurd.

  27. Thank you very much

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