Last week’s narrow victory for religious freedom is still causing heads to explode on the political Left. An MSNBC poll found that one hundred percent of its viewers opposed the decision that permits “closely held” businesses not to provide birth control coverage if doing so violates their owners’ sincerely held religious beliefs.
The case centered on the Hobby Lobby chain of craft shops which voluntarily offers sixteen types of birth control in its health coverage but refuses four others because they can induce abortions. The company is owned by the Green family, who are observant Christians.
The wailing and gnashing of teeth from the likes of NARAL, NOW, and the Daily Kos is more of the same hysterical overreaction they have to everything. They seem worried that if we allow any religious exemption to any law, no matter how small, then everyone will cite “sincerely held religious belief” whenever the law inconveniences them. Anarchy will then ensue and the whole world will end.
Of course, Hobby Lobby did not ask for the law to be waived for them. The court sided with them because the law—the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or RFRA—is on their side. I would argue that the First Amendment is too, though the court didn’t speak to that.
Ryan Grim of The Huffington Post penned a piece in which he expressed the slippery slope argument fairly well. “8 Other Laws That Could be Ignored Now That Christians Get to Pick and Choose” is a hyperbolic harangue riddled with errors but the basic gist is that everything is now in jeopardy because Christians, and only Christians, can do whatever they want.
Among Grim’s list of laws that could be ignored are bans on hemp and LSD because some people use them religiously. “While we’re at it, all drug laws rub up against religious practice,” Grim argues. “Sorry officer, this is our church.”
I wonder if Grim knows that the religious use of otherwise illegal substances is how we got here in the first place. If we’re on some kind of slippery slope toward anarchy now because Hobby Lobby isn’t required to pay to kill babies, it’s the same slope we’ve been on since Alfred Smith and Galen Black, two members of the Native American Church, filed a free exercise suit against the State of Oregon because of its prohibition on the psychedelic peyote cactus, which they use in religious ceremonies. The Supreme Court decided their case in 1990.
Tough nookie, Native American Church. You lose.
Which is really too bad, because I don’t think the decision comports with the Constitution. The court decided that while the government may carve out accommodating exceptions to laws that incidentally infringe upon someone’s free exercise rights, they don’t have to. In my opinion the ruling just about guts the supposed protection of the First Amendment, but that’s what the court decided.
Congress responded to the ruling by passing the aforementioned Religious Freedom Restoration Act with broad bipartisan support. In effect, it afforded the Church the exception to narcotics laws that the court permitted but did not require.
While the act was written with the Native American Church in mind it applied equally to all religions. The RFRA stated that the government must accommodate religious practices unless such practices conflict with a compelling government interest that cannot be achieved without restricting free exercise rights.
The RFRA was Hobby Lobby’s saving grace. The majority decision unfortunately assumed that birth control is a compelling governmental interest, which is nonsense, but the court also found that the government could have achieved that compelling interest some other way. Ergo, it doesn’t pass the test required by the RFRA, which liberals claimed to support. Why aren’t they happy about this ruling?
Two reasons, actually. First, they never expected that the law would protect white Christians, whom they despise. They only liked it when it protected American Indians because it seemed grossly unfair to them that the white man’s law should be allowed to tell red men how to worship. Second, the Green family’s religious freedom impedes their agenda in ways that the Native American Church’s freedom does not. They don’t really care if a bunch of American Indians get high. They probably think it’s cool.
That’s where liberals stand on the religious freedom issue. Before they can get behind it, they apply a two-prong test. First—do they like you? If the answer is no, then you’re a bigot. Sorry, but bigots have no rights. Second—is their agenda in any way impeded? If the answer is yes, then freedom of religion does not apply.
I don’t remember any liberals howling that religious exemptions would lead to privileged groups picking and choosing which laws they would follow back when a Democrat-controlled Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the RFRA. They should have argued that everyone must follow all laws, no exceptions. If we allow a religious exemption for American Indians and their holy stash, next thing you know Christians might think that they have rights too! Then we won’t be able to force them to pay for someone else’s abortifacients. It’s a slippery slope. Let’s not go there.
The government allows religious exemptions for all sorts of people. Since World War I, certain religious groups have been able to avoid military conscription because of their pacifist beliefs. Why are they above the law? A Sikh doctor asked the US Army to allow him to serve while maintaining his turban and beard. The Army said okay. No one else may grow a beard or wear similar headgear, only Sikhs. These people are just picking and choosing which laws they will follow! It’s anarchy!
The Left is throwing a tantrum over the Hobby Lobby case precisely because they intend to further curtail religious liberty. All this free exercise stuff terrifies them. If people can simply say “It’s my religion” then liberals won’t be able to force military chaplains to perform same-sex marriages and people will be free to teach their children what they want. Religious liberty is a huge problem for people who recognize no higher power than the state.