Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has issued a stay against the federal government from imposing the contraception mandate on Little Sisters of the Poor, perhaps the most famous non-profit challenger to the mandate and to all Roman Catholic non-profits who use the same health plan, the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust). This is a big deal, as it shows that even a “liberal” justice thinks something is seriously wrong with what the feds are doing to religious non-profits. So the contraception mandate is big news, once more.
I’ve said enough about why I think the contraception mandate is illiberal and immoral. But the New York Times editorial board’s Christmas defense of the mandate is awful and needs to be identified as such.
The brief article criticizes Federal District Court justice Brian Cogan for exempting some religious non-profits (not Hobby Lobby) from having to notify insurance administrators that they object to contraception coverage. I won’t address this issue, though it is considerably more complicated than the NYT lets on. The outrage comes in the last sentence:
What Judge Cogan missed, and the justices need to recognize, is the threat to religious liberty comes from employers trying to impose their religious views on workers.
It is one thing to say that Cogan got it wrong. It is another thing entirely to say that these non-profit employers are trying to “impose their religious views” on their workers. A small number of employers are refusing to buy generally cheap contraception for their employees. They’re not restricting their employees’ liberty at all. If John refuses to buy Bob a condom, on no plausible understanding of religious liberty is John imposing his religious views on Bob. I can sort of understand the claim that these employers are failing to provide proper medical care to their employers, but it is just false to say that employers are restricting liberty. That is an abuse of the English language.
Worse is the NYT’s claim that the threat to religious liberty with respect to the contraception mandate is from a small number of non-profit religious employers, rather than the federal government. The federal government is plainly coercing these religious non-profits and in general has infinitely more power over our day-to-day lives than Little Sisters of the Poor. To say that religious non-profits pose more of a threat to liberty than the federal government would be seriously confused. But to deny that the federal government poses a threat is unacceptable.
We see here some of the worst moral blind spots of the elite center-left attitude towards government, which the NYT exemplifies. They are so statist that they cannot see the federal government as a threat and so confused about the nature of liberty that they misapply the concept in the most rudimentary manner.