Much focus has been on the Supreme Court, as they listened to oral arguments about two companies excercising religious objections to the Federal Government mandate on certain contraceptive drugs in company health policies. This was a mandate from the Affordable Care Act, administered by the department of Health and Human Services. Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestega Wood Specialties v. Sebelius. The companies have sought protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and, of course the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Judge Roberts says the case will be decided on the merits and application of the Religious Restoration Act(RFRA). I suppose that means he wants a narrow decision. The act has language like, “compelling government interest” and ” the least restrictive means”, as well as; the government may not “substantially burden a persons free excerise of religion.”
But is a business corporation a person? Well, a corporation was deemed a “person” in the Citizen United v. Federal Election Commission, as recent as 2010. Citizen United might not be a good example. But, for the purposes of this case, does it matter if it is an individual; a group of individuals, and informal organization of people; or a family corporation, or even a public corporation? Otherwise, you must conclude a business corporation must be blind to moral considerations, and exists for profits only, a challenge Justice Alito posed to the government in the oral arguments. Does the government postiion mean a corporation(family) or public corporation cannot have a conscience? Whoa, that’s big !
America means the supremacy of the conscience ! If America is exceptional, it is the result of the attitude of freedom; both codified and uncodified. The Bill of Rights is for the protection of individuals or groups of individuals against a tyrannical government, mainly the Federal Government. The New York Times, in a recent editorial suggest an exemption for these businessness would damage the FIrst Amendment, claiming it would favor one religion over another. Favoring one religion over another is not pertinent to this case! The Times editorial board must have forgotten the purpose of the Bill of Rights. We must accomodate the conscience which is what the RFRA says as well. Once a government asserts a viewpoint that broadly violates peoples religious beliefs or broadly violates peoples conscience the First Amentment is the loser.
Justice Sotomayer, in the oral arguments, posed many hypatheticals such as objections senstive to various religions. However, the posture of the objections of these two companies was defensive in nature, involving a grave matter. The ownership concurred with most of the policy provisions. Yet, the practice of the Christian faith is compelled to advance. There is no such thing in Christanity as keeping your religion to yourself. Keeping “your religion to yourself” is a fundimental violation of your faith. I assume that is the case with most religions.
If the objections to public policy are too numerous and too upsetting to many people that would indicate a faulty pollicy, something Justice Kennedy alluded to in the arguments. Maybe another good measuring stick would be: if you have a public policy that scoots up uncomfortably close to the Bill of Rights, as the Affordable Care Act does; it’s probably not good policy.