However, I think there is another way to look at this, a way that might make Catholics object to this as much as I do. Doesn’t this put government in charge of determining which parts of religion are worth protecting, and which are not?
Here’s the thing. Either, government makes no exceptions to laws on the basis of religion, and purely bases those laws on the benefit to society as a whole, or government makes religious exceptions to any law that some religious group objects to. However, we run into trouble with the second option almost immediately.
Christianity, to give one example, has a holy book that can be used to support all kinds of things, such as animal and even human sacrifice, slavery, and bigotry. Obviously government shouldn’t just give free reign to those kinds of behaviors simply because some fringe version of Christianity believes they are appropriate. That is self obvious, right?
So doesn’t asking government to make an exception automatically put it in the position of judging how denying contraception is different from the other teachings of the bible? Doesn’t it make the government the arbiter of which teachings are justified and which are not?
You might say that government isn’t making those decisions. Perhaps you say that government is simply weighing the need to protect religion with the need to introduce some new legislation. Sure, but doesn’t that also put them in the position of deciding what weight to put on religious belief? Do you really think government is capable of being consistent in all such cases, and not biased by whatever group is in the majority? I generally trust the government, and even I wouldn’t go that far.
For example, what happens when Catholics or even Christians are no longer in the majority? Aren’t they just setting themselves up for some other religion to come along and hijack all the power they’re asking us to give government? What if Islam now has the final say on what sorts of things get exceptions under the law? Christian teachings wouldn’t get any less protection than they do now, but we’d be seeing Islam getting all sorts of preferential treatment. Once you look at this from the perspective of a minority group, you’ll see why allowing the majority to enshrine their beliefs in law without justifying evidence really just leads to trouble.
Separation of church and state is as much for the protection of the church as it is for the state.