Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says that Americans can either have their free exercise rights or they can start a business but not both. “You’re born with a religion or you adopt a religion,” said Schumer at a press conference on July 10th. “You have to obey the precepts of that religion and the government gives you a wide penumbra – you don’t have to form a corporation,” said Schumer.
He speaks as if those who work for other people have unhindered free exercise rights. Nothing could be further from the truth. As society becomes increasingly hostile to people of faith, employees are discovering that they cannot keep their jobs and remain true to their sincerely held beliefs, which the Civil Rights Act of 1964 supposedly guarantees. That portion of the law everyone hypocritically claims to adore is routinely ignored.
One solution has been to start your own business though that doesn’t always solve the problem. As the Green family of Hobby Lobby has learned, even being your own boss doesn’t guarantee that you can live your life according to your faith.
You can’t practice your religion if you work for yourself and you can’t practice your religion if you work for someone else. What do you think this is? America?
Schumer’s remarks were delivered at a press conference in support of the misnamed and ultimately doomed Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, which ought to have been called the Abolish Religious Freedom Act because that’s what it really is. Its purpose was to do an end-run around last month’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, thus forcing religious business owners to purchase abortion-inducing drugs for their employees. Thankfully, it failed even in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Like most great charlatans, Chuck Schumer speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He is conscious that he sounds hostile to free exercise rights so he makes the effort to begin each sentence with a pro forma affirmation of his adoration for religious liberty, followed by the word “but.” If it sounds like lip service that’s because it is.
Nearly every government in the world pays lip service to religious liberty. Even the North Korean constitution guarantees that “Citizens shall have freedom of religion.” Such guarantees of religious freedom are a sham of course, brushed aside whenever Kim Jong-Un feels inconvenienced, which is almost always.
Britain claims that it guarantees religious liberty yet authorities have arrested street preachers who proclaim the sinfulness of homosexuality. Canada claims that it respects religious freedom but one of its provinces prohibits Catholic schools from teaching that abortion is wrong because such lessons amount to “bullying.”
As the aforementioned examples illustrate, in some localities religious liberty is just words on a page. For religious liberty to mean something it has to protect us from the Chuck Schumers of this world who claim to support that religious freedom jive unless it impedes their legislative agenda.
Schumer’s insincerity is apparent when one of his sentences is broken in half. He begins by saying, “We wouldn’t tell the owners of Hobby Lobby to convert to a different religion or disobey their religion…” Well yes, as a matter of fact “we”—the government, that is—would. That’s exactly what this lawsuit was about. This first part of the sentence is the pro forma portion that Schumer doesn’t really believe because it isn’t true. “We” really do want to bludgeon the Green family into submission, which is why “we” wasted millions of taxpayer dollars trying to force them to comply with the illegal mandate.
The senator continues: “…but we don’t say that they have to open up a company and go sell toys or hobby kits.” See? So the Greens brought it upon themselves by opening a business. They should have known that business owners don’t have the same rights as other people.
Schumer’s point, if you can call it that, is that people who go into business for themselves waive their religious rights under the Constitution and in fact will be forced to disobey their religion, which is exactly what Schumer says “we” don’t want to do.
It doesn’t matter to Senator Schumer that David Green started his business forty years before the illegal Obamacare abortifacient mandate. Working out of his garage and starting with just six hundred dollars of borrowed cash, he started a company that would eventually grow to 527 stores and employ 21,000 people.
He has always made his Christian values the cornerstone of his company. That wasn’t a problem for the first four decades of Hobby Lobby’s existence because the idea that a Christian business owner had a right to run his business according to Christian principles was remarkably uncontroversial.
But then came the “You didn’t build that” mentality, which essentially argues that private companies aren’t really private. The people who take the risk of starting a business, run the day-to-day operations, pay the taxes and insurance, and meet the payroll are mere managers who can be overruled in all instances by an intrusive and all-powerful government, even when its mandates run afoul of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or even the US Constitution.
That same intrusive government decided that Mr. Green’s values weren’t right for Mr. Green’s company. His values were to be supplanted by those of Ms. Sebelius, who, as governor of Kansas, proved to be one of the most radically pro-abortion figures in US politics. If she had had her way she would be in charge of Hobby Lobby now and if Mr. Green didn’t like it, he could have abandoned the company he spent his whole life building, closed its 527 stores and fired its 21,000 employees.
Schumer’s contention here is that Americans can’t have it both ways. We can go into business for ourselves or we can have our constitutional rights but not both. That’s too much freedom. It makes Chuck woozy.
The court decided in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby that the choice Schumer offers is a false one. An old campaign slogan comes to mind—Yes we can! Yes we can start businesses and have our freedom too. There’s no reason why constitutional rights have to be forfeited as a cost of doing business. And that’s a beautiful thing.