Well, if you're offering the last word, I'll take it:
You did indeed say that. And my response then (and now) is that the argument is circular: you're defending a law based on its legality. Which is not defending it at all.
Whether or not you find contraception to be an important part of health care matters not one whit to the argument I'm making. I find free speech to be an immensely important right, but that doesn't mean I have to loan you my megaphone. If you feel otherwise, how about a deal: the Catholic church pays for your contraception, and you pay for their communion wine. That's what our freedom apparently means now, right? Not just the right to buy something, but the right to make other people provide it.
That, I'm afraid, is the part of your argument that just doesn't follow. Even if I accept your...er...interesting personal definition of "bullying," and even if I concede that the Declaration of Independence should be retroactively modified to include "contraception" right between "life" and "liberty," there is nothing about that belief that necessitates that it has to be provided by one's employer.
I am not a Catholic, nor a libertarian, nor am I against contraception at all. But those are my conclusions, and everyone gets to decide these things for themselves. There is no dictionary, no common usage, no lingo, under which someone who doesn't want to buy you something is denying you your right to it. There is no way of looking at this issue in which the Catholic church is imposing things on you. It is just the opposite: the church is insisting on a society where each individual gets to decide whether or not they purchase contraception. You're insisting on one where they don't. It's as simple as that.
While I appreciate the "hey, diff'rent strokes" sentiment, I don't feel that's an accurate assessment of our disagreement. If you look at my comments I think you'll notice that I've been pretty consistent in making one point over and over again, and that it's a point that remains unaddressed: the point about the specific rhetoric being used.
I would not have bothered to reply at all if my only contention sprang from our fundamentally different views on healthcare. I've had enough discussions with people who believe healthcare to be an innate human right to wander into another one. No, like any decent argument, I was disagreeing with something that I felt didn't make sense even if I were to assume your general view of things: the insinuation that Catholics were trying to impose their beliefs by not wanting to participate.
You may find the more libertarian view of healthcare I'm talking about to be foolish, heartless, or a million other things. But the one thing it cannot be is bullying. It may be many things, but it is not compulsion or imposition. There is no angle from which that particular accusation makes sense, regardless of whether you're Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich. You may think it necessary to force this on people whose religious faith condemns it. I strongly disagree, but there is an argument to be had there. But there is no way to pretend, without doing things to the words involved that would easily violate the Geneva Conventions, to pretend that their wanting to be left alone on this issue is somehow bullying others.
@Chris Potter: I'm not sure what argument is made by detailing the government's long and illustrious history of interference. That no more justifies this particular interference than it would justify the Iraq War if I reminded you that we are, in fact, legally allowed to go to war and have done so many times before. In fact, it seems this entire discussion has been me trying to explain why this mandate is unfair, and you just telling me it's law. The problem is, when the argument is about whether or not something should be law, pointing to its legality is circular.
You say my hypothetical is different...but I don't see where you say why. The only difference I see is that mine is clearly ridiculous, which is the entire point. We can do this a million ways: If you don't buy me a gun, are you interfering with my second amendment rights? If you don't buy me a company car, are you "bullying" me into walking? If you don't buy me a pony, are you imposing your anti-pony prejudices on me? If the answer to these questions is "no" (and it is) then all the rhetoric about Catholics imposing anything on anyone needs to be recognized for the hysterical gibberish it is. It flies in the face of both logic and the dictionary.
If your response, as it seems to be, is only that these things aren't laws, then the ballgame's over. Because if the only argument for a law is that it's the law, then we have on our hands both a really bad law and a really bad argument. And that's without even getting into the fact that, unlike the other regulations you mention, this one isn't contingent on any action: you're mandated to purchase it merely for being alive.
And, justness or unjustness aside, this is a pretty pointless wielding of government power. We're not talking about whether or not we should be allowed to draft Quakers in times of war. We're not talking about a scenario where the clear, undisputed responsibilities of government come into natural conflict with religious belief. This fight was picked. And as you alluded to in your article, mandating contraception is only going to decrease wages to pay for it, anyway. It's of questionable value even if you completely strip away the religious aspect.
Helpful questions, and your guess is correct: I don't think bishops should be treated better than Amish farmers. I don't think we should be making major exceptions to broad mandates. But the fact that this dispute exists is not an argument against those exceptions, it's an argument against the mandate.
We both, I would hope, agree that there are such things as unjust or unreasonable laws. If the law required that I buy you contraceptives, even though I'm not your employer and have no formal relationship to you whatsoever, I would not be "bullying" you by resisting, despite the fact that such a situation would be, to use your words, "deny[ing] [you] benefits the government would otherwise require." This is clearly an absurd situation, but almost all of the arguments you're using in defense of current law could be used in defense of this farcical hypothetical one, because almost all of them "proceed from the fact that the Obama Administration is mandating such an obligation." Any ridiculous or unjust law can be defended if you get to ignore the part of the argument about whether or not it should be law.
The problem, then, is that the arguments presuppose the very thing being disputed. You assume the law is fair and reasonable. But the dispute is not strictly about whether or not to make a religious exception, but about the integrity of a law that would put us in that position in the first place.
"If I oppose birth control, I can impose that limitation on myself, but I don't have any means to impose that morality on anyone else. My employer, however, has the ability to impose his preferences through the kind of coverage he purchases."
He really doesn't. You can buy it or not, and your employer can't stop you. Absolutely zilch is being imposed on you in this scenario. I don't see the thought process in the idea that anything you are not being explicitly provided by your employer, you are somehow being denied. By that logic, as I said before, isn't your employer also "bullying" you and imposing their values on you by not providing dental? Hell, by not providing ANYTHING?
I don't see how these questions are at all dealt with by saying the mandate is a "separate argument." Conflicts like this are one of the reasons people oppose the mandate in the first place; it is the inevitable consequence of it, not some side issue. These are the worms inside the can. And even if we try to maintain the fiction that we can cordon the effect off from its cause, that still doesn't explain how anything is being imposed on you...
...unless, as I suggested before, you're operating under the assumption that contraception (not access to contraception, but actual contraception) is a fundmanetal right. AND the assumption that it's somehow the job of your employer to secure that right and make it manifest. To make the arguments you're making, both of these things need to be true, and it seems to me that neither of them are.
Also, I can't for the life of me discern the apparent significance of making a distinction between make "you" do something and making your employer do it. What's the logic there? That I shouldn't be outraged because someone ELSE is being compelled to do something they shouldn't be compelled to do? Hell, what if I AM an employer? The problem is the law; whether or not every person complaining about it is directly affected is beside the point. You could pass a law raising taxes on anyone over 6'5", and I'd still find it horribly unjust, even though it wouldn't apply to me.
"The debate has put conservatives in an awkward position: telling you that in order for you to be free, you have to be bullied by your employer."
No it hasn't. It's put you in the awkward position of pretending anything your employer does not provide for you you are somehow being unjustly denied. Is an employer "bullying" their employees when they don't offer dental, too?
The logic is remarkably simple: having the right to do something or buy something is not the same thing as having the right to compel someone to buy it for you. This isn't that complicated.
"Memo to the bishops: It's not society's fault you can no longer inspire obedience, but only seek to compel it."
Er, your side is the one using compulsion, last I checked.
It seems the problem with your argument is that you're operating under the assumption that contraception is a fundamental right. It isn't. Therefore, all the sarcastic hypotheticals about people who have a religion that forbids them to pay the minimum wage are invalidated. The church's stance against contraception does not invalidate your rights, because you don't have to be involved with the church. You're coming into their yard, not the other way around.
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