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Letters: Obamacare and religion in the workplace

Re "These claims shouldn't have a prayer," Opinion, March 18, and "Religious rights in a for-profit world," Opinion, March 19

Both these compelling Op-Ed articles allude to conundrums that inevitably arise from allowing religious beliefs to trump common sense.

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It's regrettable that the Obama administration exempted churches and some religious organizations from providing employee health insurance that covers contraception. But had that legal bone not been thrown to Christian legislators, the Affordable Car Act — enacted by the narrowest of margins — probably would not have survived.

So now how do we curb an endless flood of nettlesome litigation over religious nitpicking?

Simple: The Supreme Court should rule once and for all that government has a preeminent "compelling interest" in ensuring universal availability of contraception to women. Employers unable to abide by that ruling can either look for a different way to earn a living or move to a theocratic country.

Gloria Martel

Los Angeles

Michael A. Helfand claims that the government has no business delving into "theology" by defining what "exercising religion" is, or is not, for businesses as it applies to the contraception debate. I believe the writer is wrong for two reasons.

First, without some de-limiting of "exercising religion," the phrase becomes meaningless. Any person or for-profit corporation could claim their actions count as religious and be exempt from all laws. If for-profit businesses are religious entities, then any regulatory actions by government would be theological, ending governance as we know it.

Second, contrary to Helfand's assumption that one cannot separate theology from its practice and sometimes that practice spills into the public sphere, government requires that the practice does not harm others — in this case, women.

This is a matter of morality, which should always trump religion.

The Rev. Douglas J. Miller

Santa Barbara

Various religions' tenets have been modified as the world has become more civilized. Outrageous as it now seems, many churches — most famously, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until 1978 — discriminated against people of color.

Where some religions' tenets have evolved with respect to skin color, their outdated views on contraception similarly should evolve. With infant mortality rates plunging over the last century and life expectancies steadily rising, many major religions now view contraceptive usage as a socially responsible means of slowing population growth.

The compelling societal interest in enabling every woman to control her reproduction cannot be denied. No business owner of any faith should be allowed to thwart that interest.

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The Supreme Court should finally put religion in its place: that is, within adherents' homes and houses of worship and out of the business world.

Sandra Perez

Santa Maria

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