First, I will acknowledge my bias. I must admit that, theologically speaking, I am extremely unsympathetic to the Catholic teaching that the use of any form of birth control (except for medical reasons) is immoral. I think what is immoral is expecting impoverished married couples to either abstain from sex, or to have more children than they can afford to take care of.
But this isn’t really about that. It’s about the separation of Church and State. Which, just to be clear, comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson, not from the language of the First Amendment.
I’ve been thinking about this recently. I work for a 501(c)(3) religious organization. To what extent is my employment with them a religious affair, and to what extent is it a civic affair? Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, they are allowed to make employment decisions (hiring, discipline, promotion, firing) based on religion. But what does that mean? Does it mean they could fire me even though I’m a Christian because I disagree about one minor doctrine? Not that they would, but could they? Is that morally right? Religious doctrines cover nearly every aspect of life. To what extent can they dictate my activities while I’m not at work? Can they say I must go to church? Can they say which churches I may and may not attend? Can they dictate what I eat or drink? How I use the bathroom? What I do in my bedroom? What I read or watch or listen to?
Now my employer is not like this at all. But what if they were? What if I got written up for writing this blog post, for thinking for myself?
Honestly, I’m starting to think that employment falls in the State category and not in the Church category. Now appointment of ministers is different. That’s a church affair. And maybe it shouldn’t even be considered employment. If religious organizations want to stipulate that their ministers can only pee once per hour and must flagellate themselves and say ‘mea culpa’ afterward, let them knock themselves out. They might have trouble finding applicants, though…
For non-ministerial employees, I think religious organizations should have to demonstrate and document BFOQ (Bona fide occupational qualification), i.e. why it’s necessary that someone be a Christian in order to keep your books or build your website. And if they can’t demonstrate BFOQ but still want someone of their own faith… well, there’s always volunteers. Good luck with that.
As for the Catholic Church, it’s one thing to teach that the use of non-therapeutic contraception is wrong. It’s another to deny your employees medical care. Because even HumanÃ¦ VitÃ¦ acknowledges that it’s sometimes medically necessary. And Catholic ministers? They’re male and celibate. Problem solved.