Protecting religious freedom is not just a hobby

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The Constitution is under assault. So is our way of life.

Do you care?

Too many people don’t, or at least won’t do anything to stand up for it, which is why it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the proud experiment in liberty called We the People is about to end in abysmal failure.

Case in point, the June 30 opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court known colloquially as the Hobby Lobby decision. The 5-4 ruling concluded that Hobby Lobby, a regional chain of arts and crafts stores, was permitted to refuse to provide its female employees with insurance coverage for certain forms of contraception because the owners had a religious objection to offering abortifacients as part of the benefit.

This would seem on the face of it to be a blow for freedom. Protecting the religious conscience of Americans from tyrannical abuse is certainly a large part of what our Founding Fathers envisioned when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and then the Constitution.

But the court’s ruling does not in any way protect our individual religious freedom; what it does instead is uphold the right of the government to decide for us what religious freedoms we are allowed to have.

A true defense of freedom would have found in favor of the Hobby Lobby corporation based on the First Amendment to the Constitution, the relevant portion of which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

There is no doubt that the Affordable Care Act and the regulations it spawned are laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion. When the federal government ordered Hobby Lobby and other corporations to provide services to its employees which violate the beliefs of the owners of the store, they ipso facto prohibited the owners from exercising their religious beliefs in the only way that matters — through action. If I oppose abortion on religious grounds, but the government tells me I have to support abortion with my money and my employment policies, then the government is using its power to enslave me as surely as if it had thrown me in the Tower of London.

The Supreme Court could have said that, but it didn’t. Instead, its tiny-minded majority opinion only said that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to participate in the federal mandate because Congress had passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993. That’s well and good, but it ultimately says that the government does have the power to restrict my religious freedom as long as it repeals the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In other words, religious freedom is granted to Americans by Congress, and is not an inalienable right granted to mankind by God. We enjoy our freedoms only at the pleasure of a tyrannical government.

And that government — or at least the portion of the government controlled by Democrats — is poised to strike. Within days of the court’s ruling, legislation was being introduced to overturn it. The government giveth, and the government taketh away.

Montana’s liberal Democratic senators put out a press release on July 9 saying that they were introducing the “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act” to prevent employers “from making healthcare decisions for their employees.”

Outrageously, Sen. John Walsh said, “No boss should have a say in the healthcare employees receive,” thus confusing health care with employment benefits. They are not the same thing.

Sen. Tester was just as bad. “Thanks to the Supreme Court, a nameless, faceless corporation can stand between a woman and her basic health care needs,” he opined. NO THEY CAN’T. Whether or not I have dental insurance, I am free to see the dentist. Whether or not I have vision insurance, I am free to visit the optometrist. And whether or not I have contraceptive coverage, I am free to pop down to the grocery story and pick up whatever kind of “protection” I want to use. It may require a visit to the doctor, but that is my responsibility, not my employer’s.

Bottom line: Either we are free or we are not. We are either free to accept employment or we are not. We are either free to offer employment or we are not. And we are either free to reach our own decisions about what we want out of life or we are not.

Employers should be free to offer whatever kind of benefits they wish to offer, and employees or potential employees should be free to make up their own minds whether they want to work for that wage and benefit package. If the workers don’t accept the compensation, the company improves it or shuts its doors. Either way, it’s none of the government’s business, unless the employees in question are government employees.

Is this really too hard to grasp?

One more thing. The demagogues who are trying to take away your freedom have framed the issue as “poor helpless employees” versus “big heartless corporations.”

Sen. Walsh wrote that “The five man majority ruled that bosses have a right to tell their employees what type of medical care they deserve.”

Well, no they didn’t, but any sane person would argue that employers should have the right to tell employees what benefits are available for a certain position in a certain company. And no one but a socialist would argue that government should decide what benefits a private company must offer to its employees.

Of course, one of the main arguments against the Hobby Lobby decision is that it gives corporations rights that only people should have. Huh? So when I as an employer decide to incorporate my business because the government has structured tax laws to make it disadvantageous to remain unincorporated, I have to give up my rights to freedom of religion and conscience? I have to become a tool of the government’s agenda and beliefs, not my own? 

But take a look back at the First Amendment I quoted above. You will notice that it does not have anything to do with the rights of the individual OR corporations. It doesn’t say you as a citizen have the right to freely exercise your religion; it says that “Congress shall make NO law ... prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. It is about restricting government from making oppressive laws, and that restriction is universal and unconditional.

It doesn’t matter if the oppressive law takes the form of a regulation of corporations or a provision of a massive health-care law — if it prohibits me from freely following my conscience, it is a violation of the Constitution and an offense against humanity.

Do you care? Or don’t you?

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