Most outsiders are puzzled by the complaint of the American Roman Catholic churches so here's a bit of background as I understand it. In most civilized countries, universal health care provides all services to all citizens regardless of their personal beliefs. Thus, everyone can get "free" blood transfusions paid for by your taxes. Jehovah's Witnesses are under no obligation to get a blood transfusion if they prefer to die instead.
Similarly, birth control pills are covered by basic health insurance in most (all?) civilized states, as are abortions under a variety of circumstances. Nobody is forced to use contraceptives and nobody is forced to have an abortion but your taxes support these options, as they should.
Things are different in America because the cost of health insurance has to be paid, in part, by employers. This creates a conflict. Let's consider the hypothetical case of a group of employees working for the Jehovah's Witnesses. The church wants to remove blood transfusions from the coverage because blood transfusions are against their religious beliefs. Apparently, forcing the Jehovah's Witnesses to fund blood transfusions for their atheist, Catholic, and Muslim employees is a violation of religious freedom!
That's a hypothetical case. The real case involves funding contraception and abortion coverage for employees of Roman Catholic churches. Here's a copy of the letter that was read in many Roman Catholic churches last Sunday. This sort of convoluted logic could only make sense in America.
The solution is obvious: universal single-payer health care is the best way to enforce tolerance. You can't count on tolerance from the Roman Catholic Church. (The irony is that a majority Roman Catholic employees would make use of health care coverage that included abortion and contraception, in spite of what the church says.)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith. The federal government, which claims to be "of, by, and for the people," has just been dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people -- the Catholic population -- and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees' health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those "services" in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.
In so ruling, the Obama Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation's first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to either violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The Obama Administration's sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.
We cannot--we will not--comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America's cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.
And therefore, I would ask of you two things. First, as a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible. Second, I would also recommend visiting www.usccb.org/conscience, to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the Obama Administration's decision.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Alexander K. Sample
Most Reverend Alexander K. Sample
Bishop of Marquette
[Hat Tip: RichardDawkins.net: Catholics hear anti-Obama letter in church]