Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
American’s views about whether religiously affiliated employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception differ significantly depending on the type of organization in question. While more than 6-in-10 Americans believe that publicly held corporations should abide by this requirement, a slim majority (52%) say that religiously affiliated social service agencies should also be required to provide this type of coverage. Only about 4-in-10 (42%) of Americans believe that churches and other places of worship should be required to offer health care coverage that includes contraception.
Catholics generally agree with the distinction made by the Obama administration between churches and religiously affiliated institutions: roughly 6-in-10 Catholics report that religiously affiliated social service agencies (59 percent), colleges (60 percent), hospitals (59 percent), and privately owned small businesses (58 percent) should be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception at no cost. In contrast, less than half of Catholics (47 percent) say churches and other places of worship should be required to provide this coverage.
White Catholics, however make much stronger distinctions between religiously affiliated and non-religiously affiliated employers. Less than half of white Catholics believe that churches (43 percent), religiously affiliated colleges (43 percent), social service agencies (44 percent), and hospitals (48 percent) should be required to include no-cost contraception coverage in their insurance plans. In contrast, a majority of white Catholics believe that privately owned small businesses (55 percent) and public corporations (61 percent), should be required to provide employees with contraception coverage at no cost.
Stay tuned to our blog as we unveil more analysis of the “Fortnight of Facts About Religious Liberty.“