The Supreme Court's ruling will extend to all deeply held beliefs, not just Christians
Several years ago, public outcry over blood diamonds — those mined in war-torn countries and sold to finance the activities of brutal warlords — was everywhere. Women were returning jewelry that was not certified as "conflict-free." It even became the cause-du-jour of Hollywood, culminating with an award-winning film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
What if the U.S. government mandated that all diamonds come from a country notorious for its trade in blood diamonds? All engagement rings, anniversary earrings, and Mother's Day necklaces could only contain diamonds mined in the suspect country. Should the jewelry retailers, many of whom believe that using such diamonds is immoral and have adopted policies to ensure that such gems are not sold in their stores, be forced to comply with this mandate? Should they be forced to violate their sincerely held belief that selling diamonds that might have caused the suffering and death of innocent people is a grave wrong?
This is exactly what the Obama administration's abortion-pill mandate, which requires family businesses to pay for items that they believe can cause abortions, imposes upon both Hobby Lobby and our client, Conestoga Wood Specialties — a small Pennsylvania-based cabinet manufacturer owned by a devout Christian Mennonite family. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against this mandate.
To socially conscious family businesses like Conestoga, it is a grave moral wrong to deliberately terminate a human life no matter how long it has been since that life was conceived. While the Hollywood elite may not have taken up their cause, these families have courageously taken a stand for the sanctity of every human life even though it means openly defying the demands of the government.
This ought to be an easy case. Among the fundamental rights our Founding Fathers enumerated is the right to not be coerced into doing something that violates your sincerely held religious beliefs. If a person (or the family business he operates) can be forced to transgress those beliefs, then the guarantee of free exercise of religion is not worth the paper on which it is written. Any law or government policy that furthers such coercion is fundamentally unjust.
But in this debate over the legality of the mandate, the left has created and exalted a "right" to employer-provided abortifacients — a right James Madison must have missed when drafting the Bill of Rights. This "right" demands that my employer, who I probably knew was religious when I applied for my job, must pay for pills that can terminate a human life. Apparently, it is too much of a burden to expect a person who wants these pills — which cost less than a couple of large pizzas — to pay for them.
It would be the same as me walking into my local jewelry store and proclaiming that I have a "right" to purchase blood diamonds because it is just too expensive to pay for those conflict-free certified diamonds. Under the left's concept of freedom, my right to that low-cost engagement ring trumps the jewelry store's deeply-held moral opposition to the gems.
And this "right" to employer-provided abortifacients is enforced by none other than your friendly neighborhood Internal Revenue Service — the same government agency currently under investigation by Congress for targeting socially conservative organizations and losing the e-mails. For a family business like Conestoga, the potential IRS penalties of $100 per employee per day for not complying with the mandate are devastating.
Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to recognize this new "right" to abortifacients. Instead, it recognized that no one, whether sitting at their kitchen table or behind the desk at their company office, should be forced to violate their deeply held beliefs in this manner.
This is a victory for everyone, even those who desire access to abortion pills. If the government has the power to force Conestoga Wood Specialties and Hobby Lobby to pay for morally objectionable items, then tomorrow it has the power to force you to violate your own beliefs. Preventing that harm is what freedom of religion is all about.
David A. Cortman is senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented the Hahn family and Conestoga Wood Specialties in their Supreme Court challenge to the Obama administration's abortion-pill mandate.
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