The Victorian English liberal, F.D. Maurice, remarked: “A [man] is most often right what [he] affirms, and wrong in what [he] denies.” This observation rings true in the debate underway between the U.S. government and the U.S. Catholic bishops on a provision of the Obama Health Care policy calling for public financing of contraceptive services.
Two basic American principles are in conflict here: freedom (of religion) and equality (among all citizens). The bishops cite the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercize thereof..” And the government is working off the foundational statement in the Declaration of independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [men] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…” There we have it: freedom/equality. Which is more important: the freedom of a Catholic employer not to financially support a tax-supported health bill countenancing contraception, violating his/her religious belief, or the equality of a well-intentioned Protestant (and many Catholic) employee not to be subjected to the religious belief of a Catholic employer? (The abortion issue is not part of this debate. It’s strictly about contraception).
In recent history, Republicans have generally supported the freedom principle on many issues, whereas Democrats have supported the equality principle. That’s why they differ so much in approaching various issues. Frequently, one person’s insistence on freedom ends up infringing on another person’s well-being, just as another person’s emphasis on equality results in restricting another’s desire to be free. Does Maurice’s observation above help: “A [man] is most often right right in what [he] affirms, and wrong in what [he] denies.”?