You’ve probably heard about the decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to force religious employers who aren’t specifically in the Word-and-Sacrament business (hospitals, colleges, etc.) to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, including abortifacients such as IUDs. Almost all of the outrage that has been expressed since has come from Roman Catholic leaders or from commentators such as Michael GersonYuval Levin, and James Capretta (whose column is especially worth reading) who have focused almost exclusively on the impact the decision will have on Catholic institutions. But lots of other religious folks should be concerned, too.

For one thing, this will effect conservative Protestant organizations just as much as Catholic ones. Every para-church organization, from Focus on the Family to the Wycliffe Bible Translators to Inter-Varsity, will come under this mandate, because they are not primarily houses of worship. Evangelical Protestant schools from Wheaton College to Reformed Theological Seminary will also be effected. In the rule that was finalized on January 20, HHS says this about who is exempt from the requirement:

Specifically, the Departments seek to provide for a religious accommodation that respects the unique relationship between a house of worship and its employees in ministerial positions….

…[T]he amended regulations specify that, for purposes of this policy, a religious employer is one that: (1) Has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii) of the Code. Section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) and (iii) refer to churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches, as well as to the exclusively religious activities of any religious order.

So one thing to keep in mind is that it isn’t only Catholics who are going to be told, “we don’t care what your religious principles are–you have to cover this at your own expense.”

For another, while those mainstream news outlets that have bothered to cover this issue have generally referred to the decision as covering “birth control,” at least some are in fact abortifacients. For instance, the “emergency contraception” drug Ella, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2010, acts to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Supporters say it doesn’t “terminate pregnancy,” because technically speaking “pregnancy” doesn’t begin under implantation. It does end a unique human life, however. Under this decision, religious organizations that object to abortion and believe the scientific evidence that a human life begins with conception will be forced to pay for such drugs.

Finally, something that has been missing in all of the commentary I’ve read is that the supporters of this decision have no intention of stopping here. It is their goal that eventually the federal government will force all religious organizations, including churches, to include all manner of “reproductive services” in their insurance policies, or face government fines if they refuse. The Moloch-worshiping Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, for instance, said this when the HHS decision was announced:

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) celebrates the decision by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on January 20, 2012 to reaffirm the importance of contraceptive services as essential to the new health care plans and requiring that most religious employers comply with it. We recognize this is a victory for many women, but her decision not to extend this coverage to all Americans, no matter the religious perspective of their employer, is disappointing. All women deserve access to affordable birth control.

The Sebelius decision permits some religious institutions to refuse to provide contraceptive services if they are devoted to worship and employ and serve people of the same faith. Other religiously-affiliated nonprofits and employers will be required to offer contraceptive coverage with no co-pays or deductibles. In her ruling, Sebelius finalized rules proposed on August 3, 2011. She also allowed some religiously-based institutions to have an additional year to comply with the ruling.

We believe contraceptive services are critical for women’s reproductive health, regardless of religious affiliation. RCRC supports individual decision making about the use of contraception, based on the exercise of an individual’s conscience and values. The Sebelius decision reaffirms the critical need for contraceptive coverage by limiting the types of religiously-based institutions that can refuse to offer these contraceptive services to a narrow group. [Emphasis added.]

The RCRC, you’ll remember, includes the Episcopal Church, UCC, PCUSA, and General Board of Church and Society and Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church. They apparently stand for the power of the government to force their fellow Christians to bow the knee to Caesar and deny their Lord.

Planned Parenthood certainly doesn’t like exempting those religious Neanderthals, according to head honcho Cecile Richards:

The Obama administration reached this decision after hearing from major medical societies, patient advocates, members of Congress, and, most importantly, regular Americans who disagreed with efforts to undermine the birth control benefit. Indeed, a small but vocal group of women’s health opponents launched a campaign to pressure the administration to exempt religiously affiliated universities, hospitals, social service agencies, and schools from the birth control benefit. The law already allows religious organizations like churches and church associations to deny birth control coverage for their employees–an exemption Planned Parenthood disagrees with. But that wasn’t enough for opponents of contraception….

No employer should dictate whether their workers have access to affordable birth control, especially since it’s basic health care. [Emphasis added.]

The grand poobah of NARAL Pro-choice America doesn’t put it as baldly as these, but it’s still clear where she wants to go:

All women should have access to contraceptive coverage, regardless of where they work,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “The administration stood firm against intensive lobbying efforts from anti-birth-control organizations trying to expand the refusal option even further to allow organizations and corporations to deny their employees contraceptive coverage. As a result, millions will get access to contraception—and they will not have to ask their bosses for permission.” [Emphasis added.]

Make no mistake about it: this is the camel’s nose under the tent, and it isn’t just a Catholic tent, either. Sooner or later, these and their fellow “reproductive rights” fanatics will be demanding insurance coverage for abortion from every employer in America, religious convictions be damned.

UPDATE: Via MCJ, here’s Ace (of Ace of Spades HQ) on what lies behind this decision, a bit of cultural analysis that hits the matter square on the head:

I don’t know what to say except the arrogance is breath-taking. Obama doesn’t understand the point of government.

The point of government is to run an orderly house in which a great many people may live together in relative harmony despite sharply disagreeing with each other on many things.

A hotelier, if his goal is to just run a successful hotel, should not care very much if some rooms are rented by Jews, and some by Catholics, and some by atheists; and some by families, and some by pairs of cheatin’ spouses.

Only if the hotelier puts his own moralism over the business would he attempt to force his guests to live by his specific rules of life.

Obama is a moralist, and an arrogant one. For all the talk of Christians being rigid moralists, the dirty little secret is that the left is far more rigidly, arrogantly moralistic, and it is cheerleaded by our cultural institutions (media, academia) rather than pushed back against, so its arrogance is encouraged.

Obama is pushing, very hard, a rigid moral system, and attempting to “shove it down the throats” of people who do not seek nor need his moral instruction.

It just happens to be that his code of morality is an unconventional one, borne not in the first century but in the twentieth, and which, when taken to extremes, has included conceptions of sexuality which are essentially Satanic in their license.

Can he make a little space for those who do not rush to embrace his Madonna Moralism?

No. For to do so would be to confess doubt about the Moral Scheme he has in mind for people; it would signal that he’s not utterly certain of his own moral beliefs.

And few on the political left have any sense of modesty about any of their culture-changing schemes.

They are so right that of course the coercive power of the state — with its machinery of stripping away the property and liberty of those who run afoul of it — should be deployed to wipe out mendicants and heretics.

One of the most cherished rights, never expressed anywhere but truly central to any truly free society, is the right to be Wrong. By which I mean, you should not just be free to do the things which the hegemonic culture deems to be “right.” No one ever tries to outlaw that which they themselves believe to be right.

What they attempt to do, of course, is outlaw that which they believe to be wrong.

If you do not respect a citizen’s right to be wrong — if your first impulse is to use the frightening machinery of state coercion to compel him to be “right,” as you see “right” — then you do not respect him at all.

This is the chief character flaw of the leftist movement — their inability to respect anyone at all but their own. A very provincial and solipisitically childish way to view the world, of course, which leads to a vicious arrogance in attempting to pound, pound, pound square pegs into the round holes the state has cut for them.

The left would just be wrong, and not dangerous, if it weren’t so arrogant about disposing of people’s freedom with a single thoughtless line of legislation.

It is that, the arrogance and the profound disrespect of anyone who does not wear the feathers and warpaint of their tribe, that makes them not just wrong but sinister. [Emphasis added.]