Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … unless they really want to. That’s how Democrats interpret the First Amendment.
Part of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its liberal allies’ big government agenda was rejected in the Hobby Lobby decision after “several unpersuasive arguments” before the Supreme Court a couple of weeks ago, yet it appears that they never read the opinion of the court because they keep making the same sorry arguments.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) sponsored a bill last week titled the Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014 and a sister bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY).
“The purpose of this Act,” reads Senate Bill 2578, “is to ensure that employers that provide health benefits to their employees cannot deny any specific health benefits, including contraception coverage, to any of their employees or the covered dependents of such employees entitled by Federal law to receive such coverage.”
Written in the bill is an extensive list of reasons why Democrats believe that employers should be forced to violate their religious conscience:
“Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women use birth control at least once in their lifetimes,” birth control is “one of the Ten Great Public Health Achievements of the 20th century,” “birth control has been directly connected to women’s economic success and ability to participate in society equally,” “Women with access to birth control are more likely to have higher educational achievement and career achievement, and to be paid higher wages,” etc.
Wait a second. Do the politicians supporting this bill think that the Supreme Court ruled that birth control is unconstitutional? Are women being denied the freedom to use birth control if they desire? The text communicates an unreasonable feeling of panic that birth control faces extinction.
This is when it helps to take a deep breath and check the facts.
In the opinion of the Supreme Court it is clearly explained that “HHS’s contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion” by requiring Hobby Lobby owners to violate sincere religious beliefs. It also makes clear that “it is not for the Court to say that the religious beliefs of the plaintiffs are mistaken or unreasonable.” It is not for Congress to say either.
In this case, nothing was decided about the ethical nature of birth control, and women’s access to contraceptives was not restricted in any way. If Democrats believe that women are unable to access the contraceptives that they need, they should do something about it. The solution, which is one of the main reasons their argument failed a couple weeks ago, is straightforward in the Supreme Court’s opinion:
“HHS has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion. The Government could, e.g., assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives to women unable to obtain coverage due to their employers’ religious objections. Or it could extend the accommodation that HHS has already established for religious nonprofit organizations to non-profit employers with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate.”
HHS has effectively exempted religious nonprofit organizations with religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services in the past, and it is inconceivable to define the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as a protection for natural persons, non-profit corporations, but not for-profit corporations. Though some people have concerns about for-profit corporations receiving these protections, the court ruled that HHS hasn’t even “pointed to any example of a publicly traded corporation asserting RFRA rights, and numerous practical restraints would likely prevent that from occurring.”
So while the new bill claims to be consistent with RFRA, it is inconsistent in its ability to carry out the responsibility that now rests on the government’s shoulders and not on the shoulders of those who have conflicting religious beliefs.
To some people this doesn’t make sense at all. The Democrats just lost in the Supreme Court two weeks ago and without changing any part of their argument, they are taking it to Congress. How can they expect to win by using the same already-defeated argument?
The truth is they don’t expect the bill to become law. For the same reason their argument failed in the Supreme Court, it will fail in Congress, but that’s not the point.
Think about it. Democrats are saying that “legislation is needed to clarify that employers may not discriminate against their employees and dependents.” Who is being discriminated against? Harry Reid says that men in the Supreme Court need to stop telling women what to do. What did the Supreme Court men tell women to do? Did women lose anything in this case?
The misleading Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014 is carefully crafted with the knowledge that when it is up for vote—possibly this week—Republicans will strike it down because it violates religious freedom rights and because conservatives know that nothing, absolutely nothing, is being taken away from women or any other American citizens by the Hobby Lobby decision.
If Democrats can turn this religious freedom issue into a “war on women,” when elections come around they will point back to this bill and say that Republicans discriminate, they don’t care about women, and they are out of touch. All this born-to-fail bill does is function as a tool to enforce political deceit and promote acceptance of an increasingly liberal agenda. Few may remember that this religious freedom victory was a First Amendment victory for Americans of any political party, faith, or gender.