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Most Americans See No Threat to Religious Freedom

photo woman doctor with chart  courtesy of: usa.gov
photo woman doctor with chart courtesy of: usa.gov
October 8, 2012

ST. LOUIS - A Missouri company, owned by a staunch Catholic, has filed notice of appeal after losing a "religious freedom" lawsuit over the government's plan to require health insurance to cover contraceptives.

Several other companies have filed similar lawsuits. But Dan Cox, research director with the Public Religion Research Institute, says they did a survey and found that most people don't have a problem with the mandate.

"Most Americans, including most religious groups, do not think that the right of religious liberty is being threatened in America today."

Cox says 62 percent of Americans support the mandate, and he says two-thirds of the Catholics they questioned support it, even though their bishops are fighting it. In the Missouri case, the judge ruled that religious freedom does not protect a business owner when his money "circuitously flows" to support the conduct of those with different religious beliefs. The health reform law requires insurance companies to offer birth control coverage starting in 2013.

Cox says 39 percent of those polled perceived threats to their religious freedom, but not from insurance companies paying for birth control.

"We asked them in their own words, 'Well, why do you think religious freedom is being threatened?' Almost no one mentioned the contraception mandate."

Cox says only 6 percent mentioned the mandate. Opponents contend that it threatens religious freedom, even though an exception has been made for religious institutions. The judge who struck down the lawsuit agreed with those who say that the mandate is meant to improve health care for women. There are still several cases making their way through the courts.

More information is at www.whitehouse.gov and at publicreligion.org.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO