Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Church institutions have public duty

A debate has raged during the past few weeks over whether the federal government can require institutions run by the Catholic Church to include contraceptives in its health insurance even though contraception is against the church's doctrine. My answer is emphatically "yes" and this is why.

Our government has granted religious and numerous other organizations nonprofit status, which means they are exempt from all kinds of taxes: property taxes, income taxes, sales tax and any other tax you can name. Catholic Charities USA received in 2010 more than $2 billion in government funds (about half their funding). This means that even though I am not Catholic, I contribute to the church's activities through the increased property taxes, income taxes and sales taxes that I pay because the church doesn't pay. I wasn't given a choice; I wasn't asked if this is acceptable to me, and I certainly wasn't given the option of being exempted.

Although the debate has focused on religious freedom, it doesn't really have anything to do with religious freedom, or the fact that the majority of Catholic women use birth control, or that contraceptive medications are used to treat many female ailments, or that Catholic Charities USA probably employs many non-Catholic women.

From my perspective, Catholic organizations should be required to provide the same health care coverage that every other organization, business or nonprofit institution is required to provide. Anything less is an insult to taxpayers who are not Catholic, and to those Catholic women who require contraceptive medications for whatever reason.

Kathryn Olson


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