Freedom has become misidentified. More specifically, freedom of religion has taken on numerous definitions that are ill fitting, including ones that bastardize it’s true intention. Freedom of religion is intended—at least in part—to defend the faithful, and to protect them from the unfaithful. It is designed to allow one to live out their personally selected faith without interference from the government, or anyone else. It is also intended to secure our God-given freedom to practice our faith in a way that can be legally defended.
Freedom of religion has been bastardized most effectively by those who despise faith. These people have convinced many others that freedom of religion means freedom from religion. They have begun to use freedom of religion as a weapon, and they have warped the central conceit of this constitutionally guaranteed freedom to persecute people of faith for not honoring the desires of the unfaithful.
Most notably, this weaponization of our basic freedom has targeted those who stand against abortion. Tomorrow, the United States Supreme Court will be hearing two cases involving faith, and abortion. The final ruling in these two cases will either further secure a right which has been slowly degraded, or it will deal a death blow to a country of faithful business owners.
Hobby Lobby, a national chain run by Southern Baptists, is facing the fight of a lifetime. The proprietors of Hobby Lobby don’t want to be forced to provide to their employees certain contraceptives which have been shown to terminate fertilized embryos, contraceptives such as Plan B, and certain intrauterine devices. It is because of their Christian faith that they object to these contraceptives. However, under an Obamacare mandate, Hobby Lobby would have to provide these contraceptives to their employees in their healthcare packages.
According to Steven Nelson of USNews:
“Citing the Supreme Court’s extension of certain First Amendment rights to corporations in the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act – which says the government cannot “substantially burden” the exercise of a person’s sincerely held religious beliefs unless there is a compelling government interest – attorneys representing the business say it cannot be forced to pay for the contested contraceptives.”
Hobby Lobby’s entire argument rests on this question: To whom, and to what ends do religious rights, and freedoms extend? According to the Citizens United case, corporations do have first amendment rights. Given that, it makes sense to grant Hobby Lobby an exemption, as the business is an extension of its owners.
However, Steven Nelson suggests that the Supreme Court—specifically conservative judge Antonin Scalia—may have a problem ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby because of previous statements made by Scalia regarding religious exemptions. In the 1990 Supreme Court case Employment Division v. Smith, Scalia, who authored the majority opinion, stood against offering an drug law exemption for a Native American man who smoked peyote as part of his religious practice. Scalia wrote:
“The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind…”
In Reynolds v. United States, the court wrote:
“[Laws] are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices…Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.”
Once again, for Employment a Division v. Smith, Scalia wrote:
“The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind — ranging from…compulsory military service…to the payment of taxes…to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws…compulsory vaccination laws…drug laws…and traffic laws…to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws…child labor laws…animal cruelty laws…The First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty does not require this.”
Steven Nelson cites the above opinion by Scalia as a possible problem. He wonders if the contraception mandate would fall under the same logic as Employment Division v. Smith. However, from my perspective—and I am not a lawyer—these opinions (both from Reynolds v. United States, and Employment Division v. Smith) regard actions, not inaction.
The Hobby Lobby case involves a business wanting an exemption from participating in an action which violates their religious principles, whereas the other examples involve the desire for exemptions so that they may act. It is certainly understandable that exemptions shouldn’t be given to individuals wanting to act to break the law, but it is quite understandable to provide exemptions which would allow a person of faith to opt out of participating in a certain activity which violates their beliefs. Law would not be broken by action, but rather exempted with inaction.
It is clear to me that the cited precedent does not apply to the Hobby Lobby case. However, time will tell whether or not I am correct in my understanding of the law. This is a case of supreme importance. This decision will have substantial impact on our religious freedoms, regardless of the outcome. Let’s hope the court sides with the constitution, and not the faithless, liberal agenda.