Lecture on contraceptives and workplace insurance sparks debate

Oct. 6, 2014

Eleanor Skelton
[email protected]

The Hobby Lobby debate is one of the more noted recent examples of the ongoing debate on the Affordable Care Act and corporations requesting religious exemptions for contraceptive coverage.

While the University of Notre Dame is less publicized, they are undergoing a similar debate. The Roman Catholic Church does not allow for contraceptive use except when for regulation of female hormones. Not for birth control, whether the contraceptive would inhibit fertilization or implantation.

Professor Robert Audi, faculty member at UND, is a leading philosopher who has published many articles engaging in this debate. Audi lectured Oct. 2 in UC 302.

Dr. Jeff Scholes of the philosophy department introduced Audi. Scholes runs the Center for Religious Diversity and hosts lectures about controversial religious topics throughout each semester as well as a weekly discussion of news events pertaining to religion every Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. at Clyde’s.

Audi’s lecture centered on the liberty principle, that “government should defend a moral right to ‘maximal’ freedom,” the equality principle, that “government should treat different religions equally,” and the neutrality principle, “that government should be neutral with respect to religion.”

Based on these propositions, Audi centered his lecture on the interaction between the government and the Roman Catholic Church and what the Church’s options are in dealing with government mandates.

The Church could choose to justify something like mandatory coverage of contraceptives because the employer health insurance would have both good and bad effects morally from the church’s perspective.

Audi took questions from the audience after his lecture and below is a sample of the conversations that were sparked by the lecture.

Audience Member 1: Why is it that the freedom of religion isn’t purely on the individual basis?

Audi: I think that’s a fair question. Under American law, corporations are legal persons and you may be wondering whether that isn’t just awfully artificial so I’ll bypass that since law isn’t automatically ethical and just argue that organizations are run by people and people identify with them. So if we go with you, and we say that individuals are the primary object of concern under good government, we may still find that to respect individuals properly we have to give them, in their institutional capacities, some privileges. To say that you’re free as an individual but not as a minister would be very, very odd.