March 22 2014
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case.
Cast aside images that may come to mind of arty-crafty women making tchotchkes with flowers and frames. Understand that this case is of unprecedented importance for the national conversation on religious liberty.
At stake are no less than two questions: do Americans give up their religious freedom when they start a family business? Are all Americans free to live and work according to their beliefs? Or should some Americans be required by the government to go against their religious beliefs and violate their consciences?
Hobby Lobby, of course, is the very successful private arts-and-crafts company which employs 13,000 people. It is owned by the Green family, Christians who carry their beliefs into their business: their stores are not open on Sunday, unlike their competitions’. They pay above minimum wage and they offer generous insurance.
Under the HHS employer mandate, the Greens will be required to provide coverage for four drugs and devices that may operate to terminate early life. This part of the mandated health insurance is in contradiction to their faith. They are disputing this requirement. They’re willing to offer the rest – just not those four.
But if Hobby Lobby refuses provide coverage for those four objectionable drugs and devices, the government will fine it $36,500 per year, per employee.
In other words, the government is willing to put Hobby Lobby out of business by fining it $47 million a year.
The Administration has said it made an “accommodation” to protect religious freedom in health care. True, if you are a house of worship you are exempted from the requirement. But the so-called “accommodation” offered by HHS is nothing more than an accounting sleight-of-hand—one that the Little Sisters of the Poor were not willing to play along with. Hence there is another lawsuit from The Little Sisters – one of nearly 100 in the courts.
Pastor Rick Warren captured the narrowness of the administration’s compromise, so called, in a piece headlined “The Contraceptive Mandate Hurts America.” Warren writes:
Does our Constitution guarantee the freedom of religion, or does it merely allow a more limited freedom to worship? The difference is profound. Worship is an event. Religion is a way of life.
Specifically, does the First Amendment guarantee believers of all faiths the freedom to practice their ethics, educate their children and operate family businesses based on their religious beliefs, moral convictions and freedom of conscience? Do Americans have the freedom to place our beliefs and ethics at the center of our business practices — or must we ignore them when we form a company?
The Green Family maintains that the government should not be allowed to conscript them into doing something they believe is sinful. They believe they should not be required to check their moral convictions at the door because they are in business creating jobs and serving the public.
One hundred million Americans – who work for thousands of other companies such as trade unions and large corporations—have been exempted from parts of the ACA for various reasons. Yet Hobby Lobby was denied even a partial exemption.
Fifty-nine amicus briefs support Hobby Lobby—including ones signed by the Independent Women’s Forum and Cato Institute, and another one signed by 88 U. S. Senators and Members of Congress. IWF Director of Health Policy Hadley Heath understands that this case “is about the principles of liberty that animate our Constitution. It is about empowering women to choose the healthcare and salary options that best fit their needs. And it is about employers, many of them women, being able to follow their deeply held religious beliefs.”
Do not dismiss this case as a “Christian” issue. The same Constitutional principles that protect kosher butchers also protect the Green family, after all. Orthodox Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and other minority religions are among those supporting the Green family with amicus briefs.
At stake in this case is whether Americans have the freedom to form beliefs and act on them in private as well as in public. No American should be forced to choose between following her faith and submitting to unnecessary government mandates.
Isn’t that why the Pilgrims decided to buy tickets on the Mayflower, after all?