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A few days ago, I was a guest on Fairness Radio with Chuck Morse and Patrick O’Heffernan. In the course of our conversation, the claim was made that Muslims and other religious groups are exempt from the mandates of the new health care law. I expressed some doubt about it. It just didn’t make much sense to me that Health and Human Services would come out so strongly against exemptions of religiously affiliated institutions if the law itself carved out such exemptions.

A little research showed the claim to be substantially untrue. The good folks at snopes.com debunked it some time ago. I’m just going to hit the highlights here. You should check out the above link if you want the whole story.

First: There is no mention of exemptions for Islam or any other specific religion in the health care bill.

Second: There is in fact a mention of a “religious conscience objection” in the law. It states that certain religious sects may be exempt from the health care mandates if they fall into a particular category set out in Section 1402(g)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code. When you look up that section of the code, you find that the exemptions are for specific religious sects that have conscientious objections to receiving government assistance, both because they preach self-sufficiency and because their members make a moral commitment to caring for one another themselves. The code was written this way to deal with Social Security and Medicare tax issues. The reasoning, as I understand it, is that the members of these faiths are morally obligated never to participate in Social Security or Medicare, so they should be exempt from those taxes.

For the most part, these religious groups are Old Amish and Mennonite sects with a long history of self-sufficiency and caring for their own. As long as they work for one another only, and do not hire outsiders, they have been allowed not to pay Social Security taxes. The health care law obviously contemplates the same sort of exemptions for these groups. None of the sects recognized under this part of the IRS code is Muslim as far as I can tell. You can check the list for yourself on this spreadsheet (Careful—this link will download an Excel spreadsheet to your computer!), which was compiled by Factcheck.org.

In addition, the IRS has been really hard-nosed about these exemptions. When the exempted groups do hire outsiders, they have been required to pay Social Security taxes for those workers. Factcheck.org sums it up this way:

The Social Security bureaucracy has been slow to respond to our queries about which religious groups have been granted exemptions from the payroll tax. But both the federal government and the courts have been very strict on such exemptions in the past. For instance, in 1982 the Supreme Court found that a member of the Old Order Amish claiming exemption under 1402(g) was in fact subject to payroll tax for his employees. That section, the Court said, is applicable only to the self-employed. And in two cases where self-employed individuals claimed a religious opposition to Social Security but weren’t members of approved sects, they were also ordered to pay the tax.
While it is conceivable that some new religious group may try to become exempt under these sections of the tax code, an extremely high bar has been set for them. They would have to demonstrate not only a conscientious objection to receiving government aid, but also a history of, and a mechanism for, taking care of their own. Most religions, including Catholicism and Islam, would have a very, very difficult time making such a case.

So the notion that the health care law already contains lots of religious exemptions—and, in particular, that it contains exemptions for specifically Muslim groups—is simply mistaken.

But it also points up a real problem with the so-called religious-freedom objections that are being thrown around on the right. Religiously affiliated institutions want to access the government support that makes them viable (religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals, for instance, probably couldn’t exist without government subventions), but they don't want to fulfill the duties to their fellow citizens that taking the support entails. This is especially so in the case of the Roman Catholic bishops’ objections to the health care mandate, in which the only possible conflict of conscience is a Catholic’s putative reluctance to be indirectly involved with someone else’s decision to commit what the Catholic considers to be a sin.

But Catholics really don’t object very much to this kind of indirect involvement, or there would have been much more outcry before now, since a number of states already have health care mandates for birth control coverage. And they don’t seem to object to any other sort of indirect involvement in other people’s decisions to commit sins. I don't think there are too many Catholic NRA supporters who lose much sleep over the fact that their backing for plentiful and easily obtainable guns of all sorts indirectly contributes to the decision of someone else to pick up a gun and murder someone.

* * * * *

Now where did this mistaken idea come from? Like many similar beliefs that have currency inside the conservative bubble (as Bill Maher likes to call it), the Muslim heath-care exemption meme seems to have started with chain emails sent around among conservatives. These emails were being circulated during the furor following passage of the Affordable Care Act in December of 2009—like the following email from early 2010:

Subject: Dhimmitude
Word of the Day: Dhimmitude
Dhimmitude is the Muslim system of controlling non-Muslim populations conquered through jihad. Specifically, it is the TAXING of non-Muslims in exchange for tolerating their presence AND as a coercive means of converting conquered remnants to Islam.
The ObamaCare bill is the establishment of Dhimmitude and Sharia Muslim diktat in the United States. Muslims are specifically exempted from the government mandate to purchase insurance, and also from the penalty tax for being uninsured. Islam considers insurance to be “gambling,” “risk-taking,” and “usury,” and is thus banned. Muslims are specifically granted exemption based on this. How convenient. So I, Ann Barnhardt, a Christian, will have crippling IRS liens placed against all of my assets, including real estate, cattle, and even accounts receivables, and will face hard prison time because I refuse to buy insurance or pay the penalty tax. Meanwhile, Louis Farrakhan will have no such penalty and will have 100% of his health needs paid for by the de facto government insurance. Non-Muslims will be paying a tax to subsidize Muslims. Period. This is Dhimmitude.

Dhimmitude serves two purposes: it enriches the Muslim masters AND serves to drive conversions to Islam. In this case, the incentive to convert to Islam will be taken up by those in the inner cities as well as the godless Generation X, Y and Z types who have no moral anchor. If you don’t believe in Christ to begin with, it is no problem whatsoever to sell Him for 30 pieces of silver. “Sure, I’ll be a Muslim if it means free health insurance and no taxes. Where do I sign, bro?”

I recommend sending this post to your contacts. This is desperately important and people need to know about it—quickly.

The intellectual pedigree of this communication is quite manifest. It comes from the “Christians under attack” subgroup within the conservative bubble. (The obvious racist and Christian supremacist orientation is just icing on the cake.) This subgroup lives in fear of multiculturalism and the inevitable cosmopolitanism that is the quite natural result of instant global communication. As more and more people realize that the universal claims of the world’s various religious faiths cannot all be true, the “Christians under attack” feel increasingly more threatened. Many of their beliefs about the how the world works, and especially their religious beliefs, simply conflict with different beliefs on the same issues held by different people in different parts of the world. Everyone who is plugged into the internet knows that this is simply a fact. Young people, who are disproportionately plugged in, already accept it as a fact.

For the “Christians under attack” group, this is a frightening reality. Since Christianity’s ancient claims to some sort of dominance over temporal goods as well as spiritual goods depended on ignorance of other faiths, those claims are being eroded by the new knowledge. As the relativity of religious beliefs to time and place becomes more obvious, the “Christians under attack” see themselves as losing power. How can they maintain their superiority in a world where their religious beliefs have no privileged status?

And of course, since these people tend to conflate religion and morality, they simply jump to the conclusion that relativity of religious beliefs implies relativity of morality. This is simply not the case. Everyone knows that religion is no guarantee of morality: James Madison famously pointed out in The Federalist No. 10 that “neither moral nor religious motives can be relied on as an adequate control” for the tyranny of the majority. And some people know that you can be a person of extremely high moral standards without religion: anyone who has understood Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics knows that you can construct an ethics of virtue based solely on human happiness in this life. The fact that you can be moral with or without religion means that relativity among religious beliefs has nothing to do with relativity of morals. The latter is a sign of poor education and weak-mindedness. The former is just a factual consequence of history and culture.

I understand that none of these objections holds any weight inside the conservative bubble. I understand that fear is very rarely dispelled by reason. But those of us who live outside the bubble shouldn’t allow ourselves to be taken in by the fearful hysteria that reigns inside. Every “bubble fact” that goes unchallenged is a seed of corruption in the real world. And while fear generates far too many “bubble facts” to stay on top of, we should be ready to weed up any that begin to set roots outside the bubble.

So if you hear the one about Muslim exemptions to the Affordable Health Care Act, you know what to say.

Originally posted to ThePlainThinker on Fri Mar 09, 2012 at 05:30 AM PST.

Also republished by Pro Choice, Muslims at Daily Kos, Community Spotlight, and Street Prophets .

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