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What “free exercise of religion” means
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By Rick Holmes
Feb. 27, 2013 11:05 a.m.



I’ve been having a long-running, so far fruitless debate with some Catholics (most recently Sue Ianni) who argue that the constitutionally-protected “free exercise of religion” requires employers have the freedom to deny contraception coverage in their employee health insurance policies.  I may be wrong – and I’m sure someone will correct me if that’s the case – but I assume this stems from a religious obligation placed upon Catholics either prevent others from sinning or refuse to collaborate in their sinning.  Why the employee compensation in the form of health insurance is a different degree of complicity from employee compensation in the form of cash remains a mystery. Should a devout Catholic not buy a car from someone he has reason to think might spend it on birth control? Beats me.



But another question occurs to me. Jehovah’s Witnesses, I recently read, have a strong religious objection to blood transfusions.  I’ve seen nothing to indicate they are called to impose this restriction on others, but what if they did?  What if, as an example, the CEO of WalMart was a Jehovah’s Witness, and decided his religion required him to prevent any of the company’s 1.4 million U.S. employees from getting blood transfusions.  Would the First Amendment protect his right to do so?

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