First up from the God Machine this week is a closer look at the recently-filed lawsuit, brought by 43 Roman Catholic plaintiffs, challenging the Obama administration's health care policy that includes contraceptives in basic health care coverage for female employees. The policy excludes houses of worship, and includes a compromise for religiously-affiliated employers.
It's one of the reasons the suit is a "dramatic stunt, full of indignation but built on air."
Under the Constitution, churches and other religious organizations have total freedom to preach that contraception is sinful and rail against Mr. Obama for making it more readily available. But the First Amendment is not a license for religious entities to impose their dogma on society through the law. The vast majority of Americans do not agree with the Roman Catholic Church's anti-contraception stance, including most American Catholic women.
The First Amendment also does not exempt religious entities or individuals claiming a sincere religious objection from neutral laws of general applicability, a category the new contraception rule plainly fits. [...]
And there was no violation of religious exercise to begin with. After religious groups protested, the administration put the burden on insurance companies to provide free contraceptive coverage to women who work for religiously affiliated employers like hospitals or universities -- with no employer involvement.
So while file the suit? Because, as E.J. Dionne Jr. explained, "Many bishops seem to want this fight."
The suit is certainly worth watching -- the fact that we're having an election-year fight over contraception in the 21st century may even affect the political landscape -- and as Sarah Kliff explained, the eventual outcome of the litigation is hard to predict.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* In a disturbing video out of Indiana, the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church cheered a small child singing, "Ain't no homo gonna make it to heaven."
* There's a good reason for evangelical Christian leaders' success on Twitter.
* American nuns are fighting back in a big way against criticism from the Vatican.
* In the wake of his racially-charged plagiarism scandal, Richard Land, who leads the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention, has been stripped of his radio show (thanks to R.B. for the tip).
* In West Virginia, a Pentecostal pastor known for his serpent-handling talents died this week after being bitten by a rattlesnake (thanks to R.P. for the tip).