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Liberty v. Ideology: Which Will Prevail?

church-vs-stateThose concerned with the preservation of religious liberty in America are keeping a keen eye on the Supreme Court in 2014. The august body of jurists that comprise America’s highest court will be reviewing some cases that speak to the very heart of our nation’s political and civil heritage. Namely, are a person’s religious beliefs a fundamental liberty protected under the First Amendment, or does government have the authority to abridge religious conscience in order to advance an ideologically-motivated policy agenda?

According to the judgement of some, religious liberty has no standing in the realm of public conduct. You can believe what you want, but you must not allow these beliefs to influence your behavior as a citizen. Apparently this is part of America’s social contract: “As a New Mexico Supreme Court justice wrote this past summer, for religious believers, compromising ‘the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives’ and ‘[channeling] their conduct, not their beliefs, so as to leave space for other Americans who believe something different’ is the ‘price of citizenship.'”

It is true that there are legitimate reasons why the obligations of citizenship might trump a person’s religious conscience. America’s constitutional commitment to equal protection under the law, for example, does not allow discrimination based on factors like race or gender. A business owner might have a “religious conviction” that whites are superior to blacks, but they cannot allow those beliefs to influence their hiring and firing practices because to do so fundamentally undermines the basic constitutional rights of African Americans. Everyone should have a right to compete in the workforce.

The Obama administration – with the HHS Mandate – is treating birth control and abortion as if they are fundamental components of “basic health care.” This is a radical assertion. Despite the impassioned claims of feminists and ivory tower intellectuals everywhere, pregnancy is not a disease. It is, on the contrary, the natural result of human biology working the way it is designed to work. Everyone knows how conception occurs and the steps necessary to prevent it. Doing so is an individual responsibility. It is not your employer’s responsibility to pay for your contraception. If you choose to forgo the free method of contraception – that is, abstinence – then it is YOUR responsibility and YOURS ALONE to finance an alternate form of birth control.

The idea that an employer must finance birth control and abortion for their employees as part of his “civic duty” is outrageous. That such a spurious claim is even being taken seriously by our courts illustrates how far government has veered from its roots and how far we have moved from the notion that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, including the right to life. The HHS Mandate would turn the values expressed in the Declaration of Independence upside down. Instead of upholding our commitment to the sacred value of life, it tramples upon the rights of those who view life as sacred in favor of those who believe its their right to play God with the lives of unborn children.

In the year ahead, will the court recognize and protect the religious beliefs of its citizens and protect this unwarranted intrusion on religious liberty? Hopefully, yes, but if not then men and women of conscience (Christians and others of similar moral conviction) are going to have to consider civil disobedience. No American should be made to engage in that which God forbids or forbidden from doing that which God compels. In the face of such compulsion, we have a duty to resist peaceably and to be prepared to live with the consequences.

This is only the start of an ever growing tension between a secularized government and its religious constituents. The outcome of these cases will have significant impact how on faithful Americans order our lives vis a vis government in the future.


Kenneth L. Connor is the Chairman of the Center for a Just Society, 1220 L St. NW, Suite 100-371, Washington, DC 20005. Email: info@centerforajustsociety.org and website: http://www.centerforajustsociety.org.
  • Struble

    Good article. My one quarrel is with the phrase “august body of jurists” to describe the politburo of nine usurpers bedecked in the black robes of an unconstitutional oligarchy. Citing a “living, breathing Constitution,” they amend the written Constitution according to their fancies, contrary to Article V which confines amending authority to Congress and/or “a convention for proposing Amendments.”

  • goral

    Idem! My quarrel is with the statement that we have “an ever growing tension between a secularized gov’t and its religious constituents”.
    I would say that we have ever-growing irreligious constituents who hold the gov’t to the status of their god.

    This
    is only the start of an ever growing tension between a secularized
    government and its religious constituents. – See more at:
    http://www.catholiclane.com/liberty-v-ideology-which-will-prevail/#sthash.tgwwJxZE.dpuf
    This
    is only the start of an ever growing tension between a secularized
    government and its religious constituents. – See more at:
    http://www.catholiclane.com/liberty-v-ideology-which-will-prevail/#sthash.tgwwJxZE.dpuf

  • Christopher Fish

    Please excuse my ignorance.

    I ask because I want to understand and truly have never really ‘gotten’ this point of law.

    In the article you state “A business owner might have a “religious conviction” that whites are superior to blacks, but they cannot allow those beliefs to influence their hiring and firing practices because to do so fundamentally undermines the basic constitutional rights of African Americans ”
    I don’t disagree , in the slightest with the practice of forcing employers to not discriminate against people because of their skin color. It’s been that way my whole life and I see it is only just.
    what I don’t get is where does it say that in the constitution?
    Is there a ‘right to work’ clause that I missed somewhere?
    and why should it abridge the right to free association , which seems like one of the most fundamental of human freedoms.
    I understand laws that regulate corporations, which are legal entities that exist only at the grant for the expressed purpose of betting society by creating economic advantage to some that is assumed to benefit the society at large as well, so there is no reason the government should not regulate them in whatever way they feel best serves society at large, or simply withdraw their charter if they fail to obey those laws.
    Where it really starts to seem dicey to me is when you apply this to private property and peoples personal money. (maids , babysitters, employees of sole proprietorships) If I run a business out of my home, or I own or rent a building. I am the sole owner and the income from the business 100% mine. Then why should I be forced to consider paying my money and working with Catholics, protestants, bigots, liberals, conservatives, homosexuals, thieves, drunks, or any other group of people I don’t want to spend my time around? Where in the constitution is the are right granted that federal or any government to decide, who I find acceptable as an associate and who I don’t?
    Even more so when you apply it to whom you will or will not do business with.
    For full disclosure part of the reason this thought even occurs to me is because it is becoming the fashion to consider ‘homosexuals’ as a protected minority group. So much so that a Christian bakery was forced to provide a cake for a gay wedding or go to jail and photographers who object to gay marriage are forced to work ‘gay weddings’ or quit.
    Homosexuals or a group defined only by their actions. The next group already lobbing for the same treatment of their ‘orientation’ is pedophiles.
    So would it be constitutional for the government to make it a crime to discriminate against pedophiles when employing day car workers. ( assuming of coarse they successfully lobby for the repeal of all anti-childlover laws, and can get themselves classed as a protected minority following exactly the same playbook as the homosexuals have?) .