Hospitals Are Not “Religious Institutions”

Wow! I haven’t posted for a long time – so to get my feet wet again, here’s a quick comment on the current controversy over whether Catholic hospitals and universities should have to cover contraception in their employee health insurance.

The bishops are arguing that this requirement violates their religious freedom. In my view, freedom of religion applies to – religion! It does not mean that a church can run a business – and these days, hospitals and universities are businesses above all – and avoid obeying the law.

If a Catholic order offers free care as a mission, that is a religious activity. If the Catholic church owns a big hospital, hires people who are not Catholics to work there, offers care to the general public, and charges much the cost of that care to the government – that is not a religious activity. It is a business activity, and should follow the same rules as everyone else.

Similarly, if a group of Jesuit priests runs a seminary to train future priests, that is a religious activity. If they run a big university with athletic teams, faculty and staff from all religious beliefs and non-beliefs, and high tuition – that is not a religious activity.

It seems pretty clear to me.