Religious freedom is a fundamental right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, which declares, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The government is prohibiting the free exercise of religion with President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
The First Amendment was just defended by the president on Religious Freedom Day this year when he wrote, “Because of the protections guaranteed by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose. As we observe Religious Freedom Day, let us remember the legacy of faith and independence we have inherited, and let us honor it by forever upholding our right to exercise our beliefs free from prejudice or persecution.”
However, prosecution must be acceptable, since the White House has been arguing in court that religious employers and thousands of religious institutions, such as church operated schools and social services, must violate their religious conscience by offering “free” abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization when providing insurance for their workers.
Religious conscience is defined as the inner sense of what is right and wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward the right action. The Affordable Care Act tramples the very core of religious freedom by mandating that an individual must act against the teachings of their faith.
Religious Freedom Day commemorates the anniversary of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson and passed by the state assembly in 1786.
Jefferson wrote that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion.”
Unburdened by Jefferson’s view, the ACA anti-conscience mandate has a narrow religious exemption that applies only to formal houses of worship. The mandate allows government to determine what defines a religion, who can exercise it, and where they can exercise it.
Countless other religious employers, such as universities, hospitals, charitable organizations, and other non-profits will be forced to provide coverage for the mandated services, despite their moral or religious objections – simply because they step outside the four walls of their church to serve others of different faiths.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, President of the U.S. Conference of Bishops wrote in a statement released by the bishops conference, “These ministries are integral to our Church and worthy of the same exemption as our Catholic churches.”
“The government would require all employees in our ‘accommodated’ ministries to have the illicit coverage – they may not opt out, nor even opt out for their children,” he said. That would directly affect both the Catholics and non-Catholics to fund procedures and medicines, which their faith does not allow.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, explained the significance of the Administration’s mandate and its impact on those institutions, remarking that, “For the first time in this country’s history, the government’s new definition of religious institutions suggests that some of the very institutions that put our faith into practice–schools, hospitals, and social service organizations–are not ‘religious enough.’”
Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins said, “If the government wants to provide such services, means are available that do not compel religious organizations to serve as its agents.”
The Administration has tried to obscure the real nature of religious objection by claiming that those with such objections want to deny contraception to women. But birth control will continue to be widely available and easily affordable.
The Illinois Appellate Court and other state courts have ruled that the state does not have the power to force pharmacists and pharmacies to stock and dispense abortion-inducing drugs in violation of their religious beliefs.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in favor of a Catholic couple who run a construction company and sought to avoid compliance with the ACA edict, which they knew was a violation of their faith. The federal court said in its ruling that the government had not justified its “substantial burden” on religious freedom.
The real and disquieting question is why would the American government try to mold everything, including religious belief, to its political will? Wouldn’t the ACA force religious organizations to essentially become instruments of the government, subservient to the state?
If our government, seeking to expand its control over American citizens, can override our religious freedom and use religious organizations to advance policies that undercut their spiritual values, then the government could do the same for other Constitutional rights. There would be no limit to the government’s power.
The current administration thinks that their electoral and legislative victories vindicate their views. Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution regardless of the current majority view, if America is to remain a nation of laws rather than of men.
Religious freedom compels us to ask, if America has reached a point, where being a Christian and speaking out for religious freedom is now considered unprotected speech or un-American because of beliefs based on the commandment, “Thou Shalt not Kill,” as opposed to the dictates of the current Washington administration?