A Quaker answers Christian objections to contraception coverage

JISHOU, HUNAN — Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) have a long history of conscientious objection and non-violent resistance to laws they feel contradict divine law. Notable examples have included slavery from the early 1700s to 1865 in the USA, war since the 17th century. and conscription in the 20th.

Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act, some conservative Christian employers have objected to the ACA’s mandate that company health care plans should cover contraception and abortions for those employees needing them. Hobby Lobby’s owners, in particular, have taken their objections to the US Supreme Court, saying they should be allowed to essentially be “conscientious objectors” and refuse such coverage.

Seems reasonable, right? Well, not quite. As blogger Annalee Flower Horne explains, a CO should not expect life to be so easy.

As a Quaker, I believe in Conscience Protection. I believe people should have the right to refuse work that violates their principles. If a draft were called tomorrow, I would wholeheartedly support people’s right not to serve.

But if someone serving in the military came to me and said they wanted me to defend their right to refuse military service, but that they also wanted to keep their job and be paid as if they were actually serving in combat, I would laugh in their face.

A pharmacist demanding the right to keep their job even if they refuse to dispense legal medication is like a Marine demanding to keep their job even if they refuse to follow lawful orders. That’s not “conscience protection,” that’s a handout to someone who wants to be paid not to work.

I feel the same way about Hobby Lobby’s Affordable Care Act stunt.

In other words, if Hobby Lobby’s owners want to refuse contraception coverage to their employees, they can. But they should also understand they are breaking the law as written now, and should face the consequences. Instead, they want the Supreme Court to give them a “Get out of jail free” card.

Contrast that to the situation of COs resisting the draft. One of my older Quaker friends spent part of World War II in a federal prison, because he refused to register for the draft. Somewhat younger Friends/friends were COs during the Vietnam War, but did alternative, required service. The law was the law, and they did not expect, or ask for, special treatment because of their religious convictions. They accepted the penalties for breaking the law.

Hobby Lobby’s owners don’t want any penalties. They want to change law to make their lives easier. That, by most definitions, is not conscientious objection.

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