UPFRONT: The Shepherd and the Sheep
Bishop Trautman and the Diocese of Erie have filed a lawsuit against the federal government. The religiously devout Upfront weighs in on these developments.
Those of you who know me know that I am a devoutly religious person. This column will not however, be about my religion, per se, but I thought I should let you know that I am a person of faith right off the bat so you know where I am coming from with this installment of Upfront. You see, yesterday, I read a troubling story on my new favorite local news website about Bishop Donald Trautman and the Diocese of Erie filing suit against the federal government.
Earlier this year, the Obama Administration took a bold step in ending religious discrimination by announcing that it would require all employers, including religious groups, to include contraception in their employees' health-care coverage. Currently, religious groups like the Catholic Church discriminate against employees who may not share the same religious beliefs as the Church by denying such coverage; because of Obama's decision, the Church will soon be obligated to, regardless of religious beliefs, serve all people.
"It really complicates our efforts to reach out and serve all people," Trautman told John Last on ErieTVnews.com.
Wait, what? You mean, this opportunity to reach out and serve all people – starting with your own employees – complicates your efforts to reach out and serve all people? What?
"It goes against our conscience rights, as well, when we are forced to provide and pay for insurance coverage for services that are certainly against our beliefs."
I feel you, Bishop Trautman. I do; you see, we're not so different, you and me, despite our differing faiths. I, too, share your outrage, for I too, am forced to pay for all sorts of things that are against my beliefs; among these things are excessive income taxes and skyrocketing property taxes.
Don't get me wrong, I, like every other American, am glad to pay my fair share; I'm just tired of paying more than my fair share because some freeloaders pay nothing at all. You feel me, Bishop Trautman? Oh, wait…the Catholic Church is a nonprofit that doesn't pay any taxes – meaning we all pay more in rent and utilities and taxes because you pay nothing! In effect, we're all subsidizing you, and, well, I'm afraid that's certainly against my beliefs. The taxpayers aren't subsidizing my religion, that's for sure. That goes against my "conscience rights."
Now, I am a reasonable man, and I recognize that your organization does provide some immediate good in our community. However, your organization also creates a financial impact, an impact that some taxpayers are forced to subsidize against their will. Therefore, I'd like to provide your organization with the opportunity to repent, financially speaking. It's called the "PILOT" program.
PILOT stands for "payment in lieu of taxes," and is a voluntary program whereby dozens of prominent nonprofits who also provide some immediate good in our community can and do reduce their financial impact by freely, eagerly, and willingly contributing a sum equal to half of what they would have paid were they assessed taxes, which they are not.
Sounds crazy, right? Who would freely, eagerly, and willingly give money to those in need? Besides Jesus, I mean. Well, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Mecicine, for one. And Gannon University. And Mercyhurst University. And UPMC Hamot. And St. Vincent Health System, just to name a few. There are others, I'm sure, but that's just locally; there are empty pockets and outstretched hands in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., too, that could sure use alms.
As I said, Bishop Trautman, I share your outrage at being forced to pay for something against your beliefs. You shouldn't have to subsidize contraception for your employees any more than I should have to subsidize your organization – an organization that lies in direct conflict with my particular faith.
Sounds ridiculous, right? If we all have the right to pick and choose which moral obligations we pay for and which we don't, well, that would just be mayhem, wouldn't it? That's why it's called the "United" States – we are all forced, on a daily basis, to respect and endure beliefs that conflict with our own; nay, we are called and demanded by virtue of our status as Americans, to be willing to pick up a rifle and defend those beliefs at a moment's notice, even when – and especially when – those beliefs conflict with our own personal beliefs. I'm sure you see what a slippery slope this is—for, if the shepherd doesn't have to respect the beliefs of others, then why do the sheep?
Bishop Trautman's quotes above were taken directly from John Last's story on http://www.erietvnews.com/story/18575959/diocese-of-erie-files-suit-against-us-government.