Judge Allows Moral, Not Just Religious, Contraception Exemptions

Sep 2, 2015

Associated Press

By Adam Liptak

Employers do not need to provide insurance coverage for contraception even if their objections are moral rather than religious, a federal judge here ruled on Monday.

The case concerned a group called March for Life, which was formed after the Supreme Court recognized a constitutional right to abortion in 1973 inRoe v. Wade. The group, Monday’s decision said, “is a nonprofit, nonreligious pro-life organization.”

It opposes methods of contraception that it says can amount to abortion, including hormonal products, intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptives. Many scientists disagree that those methods of contraception are equivalent to abortion.

President Obama’s health care law and related regulations require most employers to provide free contraception coverage to their female workers. But there are exceptions and accommodations for religious groups and their affiliates.

March for Life sued the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies, arguing that the government had violated equal protection principles by treating it differently from “similarly situated employers.” The government responded that it had a rational basis for the differing treatment, as the group “is not religious and is not a church.”

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23 comments on “Judge Allows Moral, Not Just Religious, Contraception Exemptions

  • What a judgement! Now vegans could opt out of paying taxes used to protect the public from dodgy animal products, pacifists could exempt themselves from a proportion of their taxes which go to the military, those who believe in the suppression of women could refuse to pay whatever proportion goes to pay for women’s education. The list will become as near infinite as makes no difference.

    Once you allow one exemption to the law for moral reasons, albeit piggybacked on a religious exemption, it’s difficult to see how you can avoid wholesale exemptions for any scruple whatsoever.

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  • Religion has always, sadly, enjoyed a special place in respect of obedience to certain laws but moral objections have nothing to do with law. Laws at many times set purely arbitrary boundaries such as speed limits, the age of consent, all of which differ from country to country. A man could for example take a 15 year old girl to Spain, have completely legal consensual sex with her yet be jailed for the same thing in the UK. Or drive at 160 mph on a German autobahn. Nonetheless laws as they have been enacted have to be obeyed even when they are bad laws or completely nonsensical. The remedy is to redact the legislation not give people a “get out of jail free” card. This judge seems to have reached his current position without even beginning to comprehend his actual area of study.

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  • 4
    Miserablegit says:

    Once morals are allowed as an exemption in law then the whole thing Is fucked and you might as well not bother having any laws at all.

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  • This judgement is the exact opposite of what the rule of law means.

    We are either all equal under the law, or law-abiding simply does not exist and we are all free to make our excuses and act how we feel.

    Judge Richard J. Leon of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia has clearly made a judgement that MUST SURELY MEAN that Judge Leon will be immediately fired or impeached?

    I ask all U.S. citizens to begin an immediate campaign for exactly such treatment. The rule of law is a foundation stone of democracy. Without it the United States teeters on the brink of a political abyss.

    Judge Leon says: “The characteristic that warrants protection [is] an employment relationship based in part on a shared objection … ”

    Oh, so if I share an opinion with someone else the rule of law is null and void?

    You have got to be kidding me. It’s a spoof, right? No wait, I know, The U.S. has switched to appointing judges by lottery …


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  • Stephen of Wimbledon
    Sep 2, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    This judgement is the exact opposite of what the rule of law means.

    He didn’t study “LAW” and legal “reasoning”, at Liberty University by any chance??

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  • Now! How about undercutting competitors, by developing a “moral” objection to providing, or paying for, any legally required employment benefits to employees of the company? We could also develop “moral” objections to paying into pension schemes, paying tax, paying wages, paying suppliers, etc. if personal “moral” objections confer immunity from legal obligations!

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  • The two key paragraphs.

    Giving religious groups special treatment, Judge Leon wrote, amounts to “regulatory favoritism.” Moral philosophy, he said, should be accorded the same treatment as religious belief.

    Most of you above have easily spotted the consequences of this legal ruling and have made cogent legal arguments. Judge Leon will forever be remembered for this ruling. Judge Leon also demonstrates an ignorance of Moral philosophy. It differs substantially from ideological philosophy (an oxymoron??) or religious philosophy. Moral philosophy is supported by a rational examination of evidence. The other two are unsupported personal beliefs.

    The government is likely to appeal the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

    The government have also spotted the legal error, and it will appeal and win. The principle of exemption from the law for some personal moral thought bubble would bring chaos. It will quickly be overturned.

    An after thought. In a rational nation, it would quickly be overturned. The US, however, sometimes has fits of irrationality in matters like this. Will watch with far away curiosity.

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  • Hi Vicki,

    Thank you for your response.

    It is my understanding that Leon is a Federal Judge, and was therefore nominated by a U.S. President and his appointment approved by Congress.

    I confess, as this judgement is so obviously crass – not to say dangerously stupid, that I was tempted to also claim he could not possibly have studied law, but that is obviously not the case or he could never have passed the above scrutiny.

    Nevertheless, this judgement must cast doubt on the selection process for Federal Judges. I’m still re-reading that judgement and pinching myself – I still can’t quite believe that any judge, never mind one as senior as Leon, could say something so obviously idiotic and damaging. His judgement is one step away from saying; “Actually why do we have courts to apply the rules, we all have our own moral code, just go with the flow.”


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  • Hi Alan,

    After replying to Vicki (as above) I was motivated to actually look Leon up.

    Apparently he studied at Suffolk, which seems to have a pretty good reputation – though Leon has obviously subtracted from that quite a lot.


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  • The MfL could argue that they are giving equality to atheists – believers’ moral codes are respected by the law, and so should be the moral codes of non-believers. From the report, this seems to be how the judge was thinking.

    I don’t know anything about the man, but maybe he was secretly shooting holes in the theists’ legal position? It certainly opens a can of worms for them – such an absurd state of affairs can’t be allowed to exist and he must know this. Either everyone gets a moral exemption from everything, or no one, whether believer or infidel, gets one. It would be so sweet to see them hoisted by their own petard!

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  • 16
    TwoReplies says:

    I REALLY REALLY HOPE that this gets overturned on the basis of the Kim Davis ruling.

    If you are given a job or a task to do, YOU DO IT.

    You don’t bitch and whine and give excuses like some irrelevant imaginary friend told you not to.

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  • He didn’t study “LAW” and legal “reasoning”, at Liberty University by any chance??

    According to Wikipedia, he was nominated by George W. Bush. So hmmm, technically yes?

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  • TwoReplies
    Sep 3, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    I REALLY REALLY HOPE that this gets overturned on the basis of the Kim Davis ruling.

    That judge was quite definitive on the subject!


    “Her good faith belief is simply not a viable defence,” said Mr Bunning. “Mrs Davis took an oath. Oaths mean things.”

    He added that letting one person’s beliefs supersede the authority of the court would be a dangerous example to set.

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  • Yeah, I posted that in a hurry this morning. My point, which is not obvious, is the real problem is the haphazard way we qualify judges. The guidelines are not stringent enough, and are not consistent across the country. It should be obvious to anyone who looks at the wide differences in rulings. The result has been mandated laws such as ‘three strikes you’re out’ which takes discretion completely out of the judges hands. And that knee-jerk band aid has resulted in prisons packed with non-violent offenders.

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  • Alan4discussion
    Sep 3, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    He added that letting one person’s beliefs supersede the authority of the court would be a dangerous example to set.

    I see on the up-dated link, that some of the usual faith-thinking suspects, are supporting the view that oaths to uphold the law, and laws, can be ignored by those who disagree with those laws!
    There is clearly no point in electing such people to pass laws!

    Various 2016 Republican presidential candidates, like Mike Huckabee, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Marco Rubio, have come out in support of Ms Davis’ decisions.

    Or could it just be the two-faced hypocrisy expected from such politicians, who apply this fumble-brained thinking, only to laws they personally disagree with!?

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  • We are either all equal under the law, or law-abiding simply does not
    exist and we are all free to make our excuses and act how we feel.

    This is not in fact how US law works, and you may find the following video informative:
    TLDR: The 14th amendment allows for protected classes of people to be given special protection from unreasonable laws. This exists to stop four wolves and a sheep voting on what’s for dinner. Under US law the sheep is declared a protected class, and laws can be passed to provide similar minorities special protection against discrimination that they could not reasonable expect to achieve for themselves at the ballot box.

    Of course this depends on whether you consider the pro-life movement is deserving of ‘protected class’ status. Personally I wouldn’t, but apparently the judge thought they did, and that providing contraception would be an undue burden upon them.

    I expect this to be over-turned fairly promptly. Mostly for the same reason as the satanist statue on government ground. If anti-abortionists can have protected secular beliefs, then so can everyone else, and eventually someone will cotton on that that’s a really stupid loophole.

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  • David I can think of two main stream schools of moral philosophy that would fit this definition – prescriptivism and emotivism and I suspect there are others. Philosophy does not rest on evidence it rests on what we can logically argue with syllogisms and some times this chimes with reality and sometimes it doesn’t.
    Anyway I agree with everything you said except where you have elevated philosophy to be more like natural philosophy ie science.

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  • Hi ANTIcarrot,

    Equality under the law is a principle that the 14th Amendment attempts to defend by allowing citizens to apply to the Courts to review legislation. In your example, the Sheep suspects that the Wolves have decided he’s for dinner, but that this does not treat him as an equal citizen.

    Judge Leon has not simply ignored the 14th Amendment – his judgement actively undermines it. In effect, Leon has said that wherever a local majority exists – that agrees on a particular stance, which they agree to label a moral stance – they can create rules that undermine laws that are demonstrably non-discriminatory in every sense other than in a moral sense.

    In effect, Leon’s judgement says: ‘If the Wolves are saying they voted for a mutton dinner on the basis of their shared moral values, then that’s fine’.

    BUT, and it’s a big but, what if Leon had replaced moral values with ‘religious values’? My answer, above look for jihad.


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