“Religious Freedom” Laws Violate First Amendment


Much of the discussion about recently passed religious freedom laws in Indiana, North Carolina and Georgia has focused on the belief that “religious freedom” are code words for discrimination against people in the LGBT community.  I believe the issue is broader than that as evidenced by the Supreme Court’s non-decision yesterday (a 4-4 tie) related to the inclusion of contraception in health care policies issued in accordance with the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Act (ACA).

What if someone believes religion was created as a way to bring some order to an otherwise unruly world?  (Comedian Lewis Black reminds us, “When the Old Testament was written, we were just one hair short of being an orangutan.”) What if someone thinks that Catholic doctrine on birth control and Jewish adherence to kosher laws are outdated responses to issues which are no longer relevant?  Those opinions–the right to be non-religious–are also protected by the first amendment.

Back to the recent Supreme Court case.  A group of nuns called the “Little Sisters of the Poor” (actually the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty) filed a suit arguing the inclusion of contraception in an employee health plan violated their religious freedom.  Keep in mind, the ACA does not require anyone to use contraception, it only necessitates the inclusion of contraception as an eligible medical expense.  It also does NOT mandate a religious organization to pay for contraception, only that it be available under the plan.  If the Little Sisters want to persuade their employees that contraception is contrary to God’s law, that too is protected under the First Amendment.

But what if an employee is a member of an organized religion which believes God wants us to be guardians of the earth which is threatened by overpopulation.  Therefore, contraception is one means of achieving that spiritual goal.  For the Little Sisters to deprive this employee of her religious beliefs also constitutes a violation of the First Amendment.  In a previous blog, I referred to Joe Biden’s admonition, “Beware of people who say ‘Power to the People.’  What they are actually saying is, ‘Power to MY people.'”  The same thing applies here.  The advocates of “religious freedom” laws are seeking protection for their followers, not everyone.

For what it’s worth.