Article 25

Ask an Unemployed Lawyer

In Uncategorized on 07/05/2012 at 3:39 pm


A Mussulman Walks into a Bar

By U.L.


Dear U.L.:


Religious institutions – be they local churches or schools – enjoy the benefits of tax-free status and other benefits that for-profit businesses don’t get. And yet these institutions are run as businesses. They are required to pay unemployment and social security taxes and, comply with labor laws. Most observe national holidays. So where is the line between the religion and business, especially when it comes to things like providing birth control and other medical services that might conflict with doctrine?

Just because the CEO of a for-profit company is Catholic doesn’t mean he can force his company to not cover birth control for women and allow overage for erectile dysfunction for men (necessary for creating babies). A for-profit can be closed on Sunday, as one fast food company does, so that employees can go to church, spend time with family, play softball or whatever. But that same company doesn’t get to dictate the medical-related decision of employees, does it? How come a religion-based business does?

Where is the line between being a church and being a business?


Confused and Befuddled


Dear B-Fudd:


I’ll use this church/state question as an excuse to quote from the Treaty of Tripoli, because it’s a neat bar trick. Just in case anyone ever asks you if the Founding Fathers stated whether America was a Christian Nation, you can say, why yes, they even codified it. Article 11 of the treaty says:


As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion – as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen (Muslims) – and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan (Muslim) nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

The treaty was ratified by a unanimous U.S. Senate and signed into law by President John Adams in 1797.

Here’s another neat bar trick: If anyone ever asks if the Bible says anything about abortion, say, ‘”Why, yes, it does! Ecclesiastes 4:3 says, ‘But the person who hasn’t been born yet is better off than both of them. He hasn’t seen the evil that’s done under the sun.’ ” (God’s Word translation).

Now that you’ve learned that we are not a Christian nation and the Bible is pro-abortion, my conscience is clean, your confirmation bias is validated, and I can write a bunch of crap after this and it won’t matter.

(And before anyone wants to fire off an angry missive, let’s remember that this is our World Choir Games edition, and all members of the media must appease our eventual Chinese overlords. This information can only help. You’re welcome, 3CDC.

Here is how lawyers do their jobs (if I remember right): You come to them with a question or problem, and they help you frame the issue in a way the legal system will understand it. As a drunk lawyer once told me, “The law is a stupid animal. It only responds to certain phrases. I’m not a lawyer, man. I’m a goddamn Law Whisperer.”

Your issue here isn’t with drawing the line between a church and a business. Almost all non-profits are run as businesses, absent the profit and taxes (they even have boards of directors).  You want office politics? Go to a university faculty gathering.

Likewise, I’d say employers have a great deal to say about the medical-related decisions of their employees. My last employer dictated that I get no medical coverage at all when it de-friended my employment, for instance.

The issue you are referencing, I presume, is that starting Jan.1, women will have access to FDA-approved birth control through their employer-based coverage without a co-payment. Churches are specifically exempt, but church-related non-profits, such as hospitals, are not.

A number of bishops and Catholic groups have protested that because their religion prohibits contraception, forcing them to provide pills and IUDs to their employees is a violation of their religious liberty.

Forty-three Catholic dioceses, universities and charities filed lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last month, essentially arguing that, in the Constitution, the Free Exercise Clause (right to practice your religion) is more important than the Establishment Clause (prohibiting the government from endorsing or favoring any religion).

It’s tempting to say something like, well, it’s an important issue, because everyone knows the only time Catholics have sex is to make a baby, so it’s deeply offensive to even mention “birth control” around them.

There have been a couple of similar state cases suggesting that this issue will go nowhere in federal court, but who knows? I never thought our conservative non-activist court would allow governments to use eminent domain to confiscate private property for corporate profits. I never thought “freedom of speech” would mean “corporations may spend all the money on political issues they want to.” I never thought the Supreme Court would decide a presidential election, and I never thought it would decide a legislative attempt to regulate health care would be overreaching.

Just stop worrying about it. Go enjoy the World Choir Games in Cincinnati USA. Your purpose in life is to be distracted, so go get you some. If there are any wedge issues to get excited about, they’ll let you know.

Never take the advice of an Unemployed Lawyer. Always consult with an attorney for any legal advice in your situation. If, however, you want to ask, write to



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