You may have heard by now that a federal judge has recently issued an order prohibiting the administration from enforcing the HHS Mandate against a Christian family business; more specifically, it has halted the requirement that the Newlands provide insurance coverage for abortion inducing drugs, contraception or sterilization, that would violate their religious beliefs. But some argue that there should not be any type of exemption for people who have a sincerely held religious belief against providing this coverage.
Let’s start with a practical response. As the judge recognized, there are 191 million Americans that are exempt from the reach of this Mandate for various non-religious reasons. That is a staggering near 2/3rds of the entire population. Can it be that the government’s reasons for enforcing this Mandate are so “compelling,” rising to the level of importance equal to our own national security, that it voluntarily exempts the large majority of people for non-religious reasons but not for religious reasons? This “massive exemption” alone eviscerates the alleged importance.
And that brings up a legal response. The Constitution includes specific protection for exercising one’s religion, known as the Free Exercise Clause, which states in relevant part that “Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]. Congress has also passed what is known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) that also provides specific protection for the free exercise of religion. Given this (and there’s more), how can it be that the administration has deemed it permissible NOT to exempt, and therefore protect, religious freedom, but rather to exempt millions of people for non-religious reasons? This turns the Constitution on its head as religious freedom deserves more protection, not less.
To quickly address another argument pressed by the administration. Since the families’ religious liberty is presumably violated in other ways, such as contributing to Medicaid, which also includes provision for some of these objectionable services, an additional violation here is no big deal. Let’s unpack that scary logic for a minute. So if a person’s rights are being violated, it is no big deal to violate additional rights, or the same right in additional ways? Really? You would think that the proper response would be to address the first violation, not add to it.
Secondly, a mandatory contribution to Medicaid–where the government then decides how to spend the funds—is not the same as forcing the family to fund or provide abortion inducing drugs themselves.
Short story: it would be more beneficial for everyone if the government actually safeguarded our precious liberties, rather than find ways to violate them.