The owners of Hobby Lobby, a private corporation, went all the way to the Supreme Court in the name of religious liberty. The Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to be exempt from paying for services which conflict with the religious convictions of the owners. The ruling applied a section of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as the mechanism for resolving the conflict between the interests of government and the values of free citizens. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act provided an easy way out of the conflict between private convictions and public agendas.
This resolution of the matter is not acceptable to some people, because there are actually citizens in the USA who do not want Christians to be free to live according their consciences. A law is being proposed in the US Senate which says that and employer ‘shall not deny coverage of a specific health care item or service’ such as abortifacient drugs mislabeled as contraceptives. The bill S2578 includes a statement intended to prevent an outcome in the Supreme Court such as the Hobby Lobby decision. It says that this provision “shall apply to employers notwithstanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” The title of the bill, “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014,” cloaks the subversion of religious liberty in a political agenda that demonizes corporations and pretends to respond to a threat not in existence, all in order to move forward an agenda designed ultimately to shut all reference to religion or its moral and ethical teachings out of public life.
In the body of the bill S 2578, the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case is referenced, and the accusation is made that “some for-profit corporations can take away the birth control coverage guaranteed to their employees and the covered dependents of such employees through their group health plan.” The reader will immediately notice that the language says, “take away” birth control coverage, a statement that is ridiculous in view of the fact that the employer in question provided 16 different methods of birth control.
S 2578 further states that the Hobby Lobby decision allows Hobby Lobby “to treat a critical women’s health service differently than other comparable services.” The “critical health service” is birth control, and the decision only addresses 4 of the 20 FDA-approved methods of birth control. With regard to the 4 pertinent items, the Supreme Court decision assures the employees that those 4 items will be available to the employees without cost-sharing, just as federal law requires. The change that takes place as a consequence of the decision is completely administrative and not visible in the experience of the employees. They suffer no loss. If they want abortifacient drugs at no charge to themselves, the Hobby Lobby decision in no way impedes their ability to obtain them and in no way costs them any money. The Hobby Lobby owners might actually wish that nobody used abortifacient drugs instead of birth control, but the decision rendered does not have that result. The Supreme Court protected the owners of Hobby Lobby without creating any intereference for someone who prefers to abort an existing baby rather than prevent conception in the first place.
The real consequence of the Hobby Lobby decision is that government is required to respect the religious conviction of the owners of Hobby Lobby, a conviction rooted in moral values upheld in their faith for thousands of years, a moral standard that says it is a sin for believers to participate in the murder of unborn human beings. Senator Murray’s bill fails to state that it is all about authorizing the murder of unborn babies, because the politicians do not want to say that the drugs in question are abortifacient, and they most emphatically do not want to say that abortion is the murder of unborn human beings. That sounds terrible. Barbaric. Completely uncivilized. It sounds like something the most primitive tribe along the Amazon would know was evil, so politicians do not want to say in public that they think the murder of unborn human beings is something every woman ought to be able to do, even if she must compel her employer to participate in the murder by paying for the drug that does the deed.
It is not possible to read the bill S 2578 without concluding that religious liberty is not respected by the supporters of this bill. The First Amendment to the US Constitution was passed by the very First Congress of the USA, and it was speedily ratified by all thirteen original states. Citizens in those states valued freedom from a state-sponsored religion and the freedom to exercise their own faith. They all felt that their faith was the proper source of guidance in matters of right and wrong, and when the state chose a course that conflicted with a person’s faith-guided conscience, the first citizens of our nation believed that the state should step back. The citizens who founded the USA did not want the government to decree moral standards; they felt that morality was best expressed in the consciences of voters who would, in their votes and in their voices to elected representatives, make their moral standards heard. It was expected that the moral voice of the people would be reflected in the actions of their elected representatives and senators. When the people’s representatives and senators overstepped their bounds, the first citizens of the USA looked to the Supreme Court to reign in the inappropriate actions of the Congress. Just as citizens today continue to do. It was the most natural thing conceivable that Hobby Lobby’s case should come to the Supreme Court, because it is an instance of conflict between a political agenda enacted into law and a citizen’s religious conviction which defines what is morally right and wrong. The First Amendment was intended to resolve those instances where such conflicts arose with a bias toward preserving personal religious liberty.
In the early 90’s a series of events led Congress to decide that the First Amendment protections were in danger, and Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to bolster the protections provided by the First Amendment. Harry Reid and many others who are still in the Senate today voted for that law. It was viewed as a good and necessary enhancement to protect religious liberty in the US.
Now, the Senate is considering a law that pulls the teeth of the very protections the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was designed to strengthen. This proposed law would override the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and force employers to do exactly what the Hobby Lobby decision exempted them from doing. This proposed bill is a malicious and vindictive assault on the freedom of people of any faith whatsoever to live according to the teachings of their faith.
This law is not only bad for the employers who are encumbered by the Affordable Care Act. It is an omen of future events. If the Congress of the United States of America passes such a law, it is a clear indicator that the Congress does not want citizens to have religious liberty. If this law passes, the next time Congress considers a law that requires people to do the opposite of what their faith teaches them is right, the precedent set by this law would be to include the same statement in the new law: “shall apply to employers notwithstanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” If Patty Murry’s bill to force employers to pay for abortifacient drugs despite their religious convictions to the contrary, it will mean that the Congress has the desire and the will to end religious liberty in the USA.
Time for prayer. Time to write your Senator and say “Vote No on S 2578” . Time to tell your neighbor to do the same thing.