Religious liberty for any American must not require the subordination of any other American. No matter how fervently one believes in the dogmas of one’s creed, others are not required to concur. Americans are quite diverse religiously with no sectarian creed claiming much more than a quarter of the populace. While many profess some variety of Christianity, this broad label is quite diverse within itself. All Americans are Constitutionally assured of the right to follow the dictates of their own consciences in religious matters and no Americans are anointed to prescribe the religious preferences and practices for any other.
The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear two lower court cases challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage provisions. The court will consider two cases. One of the cases involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees. The other case is an appeal from Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Pennsylvania company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets. Lower courts upheld Hobby Lobby and rejected Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp.
In both cases, the fundamentalist families that own the companies say that providing some forms of contraception violates their religious beliefs. “The key issue is whether profit-making corporations may assert religious beliefs under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act or the First Amendment provision guaranteeing Americans the right to believe and worship as they choose.” The fact that this contention has made its way to the docket of the Supreme Court shows how addled many Americans are where religious belief and practice are concerned.
In the first place, religious freedom is not under attack in the United States. The Constitutional separation of church and state is under siege by misguided people who believe the Bible, not the Constitution is the foundational law of the land. These people seems to contend that the Constitution should be regarded as a Christian, not a secular, document. Because the Constitution is the unquestioned foundation of American governance, the implication would be that American government is Christian, not secular in nature. This oft repeated argument is in trouble from the start. First, there is no obvious and unequivocal statement in the Constitution which specifies the importance or even relevance of Christian principles or morals. In fact, there is a stipulation that there be “no religious test” for office or position of trust under the Constitution. Such tests were common at the time the Constitution was being drafted and debated. Why would the Framers have excluded them if they wanted Christianity in some form to dominate governance in the Republic? Christianity is not even mentioned in the Constitution and in no way is it stipulated as a basis for any provision, principle, process, or institution of the Republic. Furthermore, the First Amendment to the Constitution specifies that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Once again, Christianity is given no special status.
The actual, as contrasted with the fabricated, history of the Constitution and the First Amendment shows clearly that the Framers did not want sectarian officials empowered to impose their beliefs on other citizens. The First Amendment is a protection of individuals from religiously motivated authorities, not a protection of religiously motivated authorities from the general laws of the land. The Framers wrote and championed the Constitution in a time with state supported religious denominations. They worked against this and did not want any such thing for the nation as a whole. Opponents of the Constitution during the ratification process wrote and said that “the authors of the Constitution showed general disregard of and cold indifference towards religion.”
Because of the ongoing agitation and persistent fixation of the ostentatiously devout, too many Americans are unwilling to practice their religions and allow every other American to do the same. In the two cases accepted by the Supreme Court, the religious preferences of two families are seeking dominion over the religious beliefs of nearly 14,000 people employed in the two companies. The owners assert that they do not condone some forms of contraception such as morning after pills and IUDs. A constant characteristic of the conspicuously pious is how they feel threatened if everyone is not compelled to conform to their beliefs and practices. In these cases, a few people seek to deny many people access to devices and medicines the few inaccurately label abortaficients. This charge is based on inaccurate, FDA-mandated labelling on emergency contraception pills. It seems the “Food and Drug Administration (FDA) felt obliged to mention the possibility that emergency contraception could thwart implantation of a fertilized egg — even though there was no scientific evidence of that fact — on the label, back in 1999.” The label is mistaken. Morning after pills do not work in the way described. “The pills work: by delaying ovulation — the release of eggs from the ovaries, which occurs before fertilization — to keep sperm from reaching the egg. Depending on the pill, emergency contraception may also work by thickening cervical mucus so sperm have trouble getting around. So, the pills block fertilization from happening in the first place.” So the FDA and those who believe that a fertilized egg is a person, are both in error. The morning after pills do not prevent the implantation of the fertilized egg and are therefore, not remotely akin to abortion. Dr. Petra M. Casey, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Mayo, said” “These medications are there to prevent or delay ovulation. They don’t act after fertilization.” Consequently, the drive of true -believer employers to impose their beliefs on every one they employ is not only oppressive, but it is based on scientifically demonstrable error.
The true-believing employers also often object to IUDs. There are two types of IUDs —small, T-shaped devices available. The copper IUD, which effectively prevents pregnancy for 10 years, releases a small amount of copper into the uterus, preventing fertilization. In addition, copper interferes with the sperm’s ability to move through the uterus and into the Fallopian tubes. The device can also be used for emergency contraception when inserted within five days of unprotected sex. The hormonal IUD releases progestin into the uterus that thickens cervical mucus and thins the uterine lining. It may also make the sperm less active, decreasing the ability of egg and sperm to remain viable in the Fallopian tube. The most up-to-date and authoritative studies on IUDs suggest they work at a much earlier stage of reproduction than previously thought and that their dominant mode of action is prevention of fertilization. Thus, IUDs are not actually akin to abortion by any logic whatsoever. Even if one shares the sectarian beliefs of the true-believing employers, the contraceptive methods they seek to deny their employees are not abortaficients; they are birth control.
Neither the historical context of the Constitution and the First Amendment nor the scientific evidence pertinent to the contraceptives true-believing employers object to will assuredly preserve the rights of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. The context and evidence must be recognized by a majority of the Supreme Court. The Justices must see through the religious liberty hoax. The rights protected by the Constitution and its Amendments are the rights of all Americans. They do not pertain only to wealthy, powerful, flamboyantly devout males. They are the inheritance and endowment of all Americans. Being in somebody’s employ does not make one a chattel; one remains a citizen no matter for whom one works. Let us hope the Supreme Court realizes that these cases are actually an effort by some influential Americans to impose their beliefs and choices on other more ordinary Americans. If the cost of freedom is business ownership, then millions of Americans are not free. In their most intimate decisions all Americans should have the right to decide for themselves based on their own convictions. That and that alone is freedom of conscience worthy of the name.