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Religious freedom is at a precipice in America. Your faith can cost you a lot, but now it may cost you your business.
For the first time in our nation’s history, the Supreme Court will determine if the federal government is permitted to force Americans to pay for a service that they find morally objectionable—or face devastating penalties.
On March 25, the Supreme Court will consider two challenges brought by for-profit businesses (Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp.) to ObamaCare’s HHS mandate.
The Obama Administration’s mandate requires that every business that provides group health plans to its employees (which all businesses with more than 50 employees will be required to do) must provide coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients — abortion pills. The penalty for failure to comply is an astounding $36,500 a year per employee — enough to send any business into bankruptcy.
Regardless of your personal view of contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion pills, millions of Americans find them morally repugnant. Our faith dictates to us that paying for, facilitating, or providing a product that ends the life of an unborn human being is wrong. It’s morally reprehensible. It violates the core of our religious beliefs.
Put another way, the Obama Administration is forcing people of faith to pay for something that they consider sin.
Yet, the Obama Administration says all of that doesn’t matter, because your faith shouldn’t have anything to do with how you conduct your business. The Administration literally argues to the Supreme Court that the religious beliefs of businessmen have no bearing on how they run and operate their businesses.
That’s an astonishingly bold and obtuse characterization of how thousands upon thousands of business owners run and conduct their businesses.
At the ACLJ, we recently filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on behalf of nearly 100,000 Americans and 21 individual businesses pointing out the abject absurdity of this argument:
Most, if not all, religious traditions teach that every dimension of one’s life, whether personal or public, in the home or in the workplace, should be directed, first and foremost, by one’s religious commitments. For such people of faith, religion is not a matter of mere taste, preference, or inclination that can be set aside or ignored when materially advantageous to do so. It is a fundamental and guiding principle that shapes how they think, act, and live their lives in the world.
This is no less true when it comes to business, whether working for a company or owning and controlling one.
Freedom of religion means much more than the freedom to live in accordance with the dictates of your faith only while seated in your pew on Sunday morning. It means that we are free to live our lives, direct our communications, determine our associations, build relationships, and yes, conduct business in accordance with our religious beliefs.
The government is no more allowed to direct us to attend a strip club in our free time than it is allowed to force a businessman to pay for abortion pills.
The Obama Administration essentially argues that the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, except in the course of conducting one’s business.”
The Obama Administration specifically argues that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (an extension of the First Amendment’s religious free exercise protections) does not apply to businesses because only the corporation and not the owner is forced to provide the abortion pills to their employees.
How exactly are those insurance plans going to cover abortion pills without the owners’ consent, direction, and funding? It’s a legal absurdity.
Of course, any action a business takes comes at the direction or permission of the owner. And regardless of whether the Obama Administration admits it, such action falls on the owner’s conscience as well.
If religious free exercise doesn’t apply to our business dealings, might it not apply to our recreational actives, our hobbies, how we raise our families, or any other aspect of our life? If the government can tell us that, regardless of our deeply held religious beliefs, we are required to violate them as the price of citizenship, we would have no religious liberty at all.
Nearly 50 years ago, the Supreme Court famously held that neither “students [n]or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Now the Supreme Court will decide whether businessmen shed their right to freedom of religion at the entrance to their storefront.
The stakes could not be higher. More than 45 lawsuits against the mandate have been filed by for-profit businesses, and dozens more have been filed by religious non-profits, that yes, the mandate also forces to pay for abortion pills. The Supreme Court recently issued a stay allowing a group of Catholic nuns to refrain from paying for contraceptives and abortions pills as their case continues. In that case, the Obama Administration’s arguments reach an all-new level of absurdity, even suggesting that religious employers would be better served to just drop their insurance plans altogether.
We at the ACLJ currently represent 32 individuals and corporations in seven pending actions against the government, including a case with a Petition for Certiorari currently pending before the high Court. We have obtained preliminary injunctive relief for our clients — for-profit businesses — in all seven cases.
For-profit is not the abnegation of faith; one does not lay down their conscience to conduct business. In fact, the Bible itself plainly and clearly commands just the opposite. As the Apostle Paul exhorts, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”
The cost of our faith may be high, but it must never be the cost of doing business.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article belong to the authors.