Progressive Arguments for Religious Organizational Freedom: Reflections on the HHS Mandate
56 Pages Posted: 24 May 2013 Last revised: 29 Jan 2014
Date Written: May 22, 2013
The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate to cover contraception is the latest in a series of disputes that have made conflicts between politically progressive laws and traditionalist religious beliefs a pervasive feature of the American religious-freedom landscape. This article examines the foundations of the conflict and argues that progressives should support significant protections for faith-based service organizations such as social services and schools. There are sharp ironies when progressives exclude faith-based service organizations from religious-freedom protection, as the HHS mandate originally did. Service to others lies at the core of religious exercise; progressives more than anyone should affirm this; and accommodating such organizations meaningfully both preserves civil liberty and recognizes the overall contributions they make to progressive social goals, such as assisting the needy, even if they conflict with progressive positions on some deeply-felt issues. On the other side, traditionalists have sometimes failed to respect others' liberties, and that has hampered their ability to claim protection from government imposition as a matter of reciprocity, which would otherwise be a strong argument.
Keywords: religious freedom, progressivism, free exercise of religion, religious accommodation, social services, social gospel, religious organizations, contraception, HHS mandate
JEL Classification: K00, L31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation