Columnist Cal Thomas (“What is a ‘Church,’” Tuesday’s MDJ) declares that for “government to decide such things” as what properly defines a church “violates the ... First Amendment.”
I agree with Thomas on this, but he should be careful about pressing the point. Only if government can decide what constitutes a church can it allow churches to be treated differently regarding taxes and the deductibility of donations. If no government can define what it means to be a church, then no church can expect to be treated differently from other nonprofit organizations. That would mean churches would have to be accountable for what they do with tax deductible donations, as every other nonprofit must — something many churches desperately want to avoid.
Another thing Thomas and the Catholic bishops need to explain is how the Catholic Church is allowed to define Catholic Charities as “Catholic” when over half their funding comes from the federal government — from taxpayers. Facts like that should undercut the power of the bishops to make their wrongs superior to women’s rights.
Finally, why would anyone argue that a business owner’s right of conscience should extend to denying his employees their own right of conscience? Why is it reasonable for Hobby Lobby to deny their female staff access to health insurance that covers contraception like everyone else’s insurance does under the law — or for the Christian Science Monitor to deny employees health insurance at all, since Christian Scientists don’t believe in medical care?
Religious freedom doesn’t mean the power to control religious decisions for others — only for yourself.