SCOTUS weighs the limits of the First Amendment

The Supreme Court heard the case of Hobby Lobby, on the HHS mandate that requires most businesses that employ over 50 individuals to provide coverage for 21 forms of birth control. The businesses that are parties to the suit, while they are private for-profit companies, have incorporated or otherwise stated in their mission statements, that their businesses are owned and operated by individuals that include their religious practices in their work.

Due to their religious beliefs, that are freely stated to potential employees before they consent to work for these companies, they object to providing some or all of the contraceptives in the HHS mandate on moral grounds. The government presented the case that since they are not religious organizations per se, they do not have the freedom to run their businesses with religious overtones, at least not when it interferes with governmental mandates.

That is a thumbnail sketch of the case, and in spite of the fact that SCOTUS will not hand down a ruling until June, there are plenty of pundits offering opinions on exactly how that will end up. It’s interesting to attempt to guess what a given Justice will say on this issue, based on the questions presented during the case yesterday, however, it probably isn’t going to serve anyone to do that. Let’s not forget the ruling that the ObamaCare penalties were actually taxes by Chief Justice John Roberts, that got us to this point in the first place.

While it seems that quite a few of the commentators out there seem to think that this will fall in favor of Hobby Lobby, and the other corporations involved, perhaps at this point it would be better to think about “what comes next?” if that isn’t the case.

Relying on SCOTUS to fix legislative errors is the largest part of the problem we’re facing, so perhaps it’s time to consider the legal strength (or weakness) of the First Amendment. We have a self-proclaimed Constitutional scholar in the White House, and have witnessed his complete disregard for even the laws he has promoted, along with the personal liberties of citizens of this nation, and others worldwide.

The fact that this case exists at all in the first place is the real problem. It would be easy to end up going through the entire laundry list of abuses of the law by this administration here, but because this is about the Hobby Lobby case, this will be limited to just religious freedoms.

When everyone first learned about the First Amendment, it was typically in the context of the Revolutionary War, and the Founders’ desire to prevent the creation of a state religion. It was something that they felt was done wrong in England, and they didn’t want to repeat that mistake. And by the time the Revolutionary War came along, there were already a great deal of citizens in this New World that arrived here to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. Now, instead of a state sanctioned religion taking over to the exclusion of all others, we have gone to another, no better extreme.

Government is supposed to be secular, however it is not meant to make the citizens and society as a whole secular. Instead of protecting the rights of the citizens to observe the religions of their choosing, government has started creating laws that prevent religious observation. The religious persecution that people sought to escape by coming here forced them to observe their faith in private. That’s precisely what the government is forcing here.

In this current case, the companies in question have never hidden their guiding principles from their employees. The people that work for them chose to do so, knowing that the circumstances of their employment would be guided at least in part by the religious beliefs of the owners.

While the government is enamored with the concept of pointing out that those employees may not completely agree with the beliefs of their employers, the bottom line remains that these people still chose to work for these companies. Whatever differences there may be were obviously manageable, or these people wouldn’t work for these companies. No one is forcibly employed by anyone here — if that wasn’t the case, this would also be about a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.

If SCOTUS rules in favor of the government in this case, the people will need to start talking with their representatives and senators on the Hill about clarifying the First Amendment. It will mean that the government needs to be reminded that the amendment was written not only to protect the government from becoming entangled in one religion, but also to protect all religions from governmental interference. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” It’s not a particularly unclear statement, but apparently it has become a matter for debate, since we’ve become so enlightened over the years. If the justices were brutally honest with themselves, there wouldn’t be a debate at all about this.

Free exercise of religion should include observing one’s faith in the process of doing business. In all honesty, if more people took “God” to work, perhaps we’d have far fewer court cases over fraud. There is nothing inherently wrong with a private business owner, regardless of the size of that business, using religious beliefs to guide business decisions and day-to-day activities.

Whether the government likes it or not, multiple Judeo-Christian sects encourage their followers to do precisely that, as a part of the practice of their faith. There is a reason why people refer to it as “living their faith.” The truly insulting situation here is that government has the audacity to suggest that people must leave their faith at the door of their respective houses of worship. At least they should do that if they happen to own a business that the government wants to control.

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