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Religious Freedom Versus White House War Of Regulations

The church/state debate continues to heat up in spite of the recent unanimous 9-0 margin, when the Supreme Court overruled the idea that the federal government can tell a church who it must employ as a minister if the church violates anti-discrimination employment guidelines. The White House claimed that there is no special protection for clergy in our Constitution. However, the Supreme Court ruled that it “is hard to square with the text of the First Amendment itself, which gives special consideration to the rights of religious organizations. We cannot accept the remarkable view that the Religion Clauses have nothing to say about a religious organization’s freedom to select its own ministers.”

Now, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010, seeks to force Catholic universities, hospitals, and charities to give insurance to their employees covering contraception — even though this violates the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The policy says that Catholic hospitals can only invoke the “conscience clause” — and get an exemption on the new rules — if they turn away patients of other faiths. Catholic hospitals have never turned people away because of their religious beliefs. Instead of asking “”Are you hungry or sick?” The Church would be forced to ask “”Are you Catholic?”

Arlington (Va.) Bishop Paul Loverde called the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services order “a direct attack against religious liberty.” Bishop Alexander Sample of Marquette, Mich., stated: “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.” This is not just a Catholic issue; there is growing concern in other denominations that this is an assault on religious freedom.

Let us take a look at what the First Amendment actually says:

I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We often hear about “”a wall of separation” between church and state in America. However, this phrase cannot be found in either the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. The phrase occurs in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to an assembly of Baptists in Connecticut. The quote is usually used out of context.

The real purpose of the “Establishment Clause was to prohibit Congress from imposing a national religion upon the people; and to prohibit Congress (and the Federal government generally) from meddling with existing church-state relations in the several States. Thus the “Establishment Clause is linked directly to the “Free Exercise Clause. It was designed to promote religious freedom by forbidding Congress to prefer one Christian denomination over another Christian denomination.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment was not intended as a declaration of governmental hostility toward religion. The phrase “”prohibiting the free exercise thereof” was meant to keep Congress from ever meddling in the disputes among religious bodies or interfering with their mode of worship and seeking to regulate the many ministries of the church.

Since Thomas Jefferson quote is the source of much of the negative political view of religion as expressed by the political left in our country, we would do well to find out what else Jefferson had to say about the First Amendment Establishment Clause:

“In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the general [federal] government. (Jefferson, Second Inaugural Address, 1805)

“[O]ur excellent Constitution . . . has not placed our religious rights under the power of any public functionary. (Jefferson, Letter to the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1808)

“I consider the government of the United States as interdicted [prohibited] by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions . . . or exercises. (Jefferson, Letter to Samuel Millar, 1808)

It is clear that Jefferson believed the First Amendment did not allow the Federal Government to limit, restrict, regulate, or interfere with public religious practices and religious institutions. The intent of the First Amendment’s “establishment” clause was, according to Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, “. . . to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects.” This is confirmed by the preliminary draft of the First Amendment proposed by James Madison to the House of Representatives in 1789:

“The Civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.

President James Madison also appointed Joseph Story (1779-1845) as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Joseph Story continued on the bench for 34 years, until his death in 1845. Joseph Story wrote tremendously influential works, including: Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 1833; and A Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States, 1840. The following are a few of Justice Story‘s quotes about the “Establishment Clause:

“Probably, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the Amendment to it now under consideration, the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship.

“Temporary delusions, prejudices, excitements, and objects have irresistible influence in mere questions of policy. And the policy of one age may ill suit the wishes or the policy of another. The constitution is not subject to such fluctuations. It is to have a fixed, uniform, permanent construction. It should be, so far at least as human infirmity will allow, not dependent upon the passions or parties of particular times, but the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.

“It yet remains a problem to be solved in human affairs, whether free government can be permanent, where the public worship of God, and the support of religion, constitute no part of the policy or duty of the state in any assignable shape. . . .

But the duty of supporting religion, and especially the Christian religion, is very different from the right to force the consciences of other men, or to punish them for worshipping God in the manner, which, they believe, their accountability to him requires.

In the case of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we see clearly an attempt by Federal authorities to assault religious freedom by forcing the hospital ministry of the Catholic Church to violate it’s own moral teachings. I wonder which protestant denomination the government bureaucrats will be coming for next?

14 Responses

  1. […] From Christian Persecution News Source: https://samuelatgilgal.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/religious-fre… ____________________________________________________ […]

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  2. I couldn’t agree more! The “separation of church and state” lie is the main tool liberal progressives and islamists are using to dismantle America one court case at a time.

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    • Separation of church and state is a bedrock principle of our Constitution much like the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. In the Constitution, the founders did not simply say in so many words that there should be separation of powers and checks and balances; rather, they actually separated the powers of government among three branches and established checks and balances. Similarly, they did not merely say there should be separation of church and state; rather, they actually separated them by (1) establishing a secular government on the power of “We the people” (not a deity), (2) saying nothing to connect that government to god(s) or religion, (3) saying nothing to give that government power over matters of god(s) or religion, and (4), indeed, saying nothing substantive about god(s) or religion at all except in a provision precluding any religious test for public office. Given the norms of the day, the founders’ avoidance of any expression in the Constitution suggesting that the government is somehow based on any religious belief was quite a remarkable and plainly intentional choice. They later buttressed this separation of government and religion with the First Amendment, which constrains the government from undertaking to establish religion or prohibit individuals from freely exercising their religions. The basic principle, thus, rests on much more than just the First Amendment.

      James Madison, who had a central role in drafting the Constitution and the First Amendment, confirmed that he understood them to “[s]trongly guard[] . . . the separation between Religion and Government.” Madison, Detached Memoranda (~1820). He made plain, too, that they guarded against more than just laws creating state sponsored churches or imposing a state religion. Mindful that even as new principles are proclaimed, old habits die hard and citizens and politicians could tend to entangle government and religion (e.g., “the appointment of chaplains to the two houses of Congress” and “for the army and navy” and “[r]eligious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings and fasts”), he considered the question whether these actions were “consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom” and responded: “In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the United States forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion.”

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      • “Separation of church and state” would be a bedrock principle of the Constitution; if it were recorded in the Constitution, it is not. The first amendment protects the citizens from Congress passing legislation that establishes a national religion. Now I live in literal-ville, so I read no more or no less into that statement. It also protects the citizens from Congress passing legislation prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Once again, I live in literal-ville, so I read nothing else into the statement, nor any less.

        One of the biggest problems we have in our nation is liberal-progressive judges legislating their own beliefs concerning so called constitutional issues, and setting new “precedents”. Which subverts and undermines the very document the judiciary pretends to interpret.

        In your statement, you make an error in you initial premise, you separate the Constitution from the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration spells out the “why” of our country, the Constitution is the “how” of our country. In the Declaration, the words used and their placement is very important to understand, because the words and their placement define the importance and very meaning of the document. The Declaration states that our rights come from “Nature’s God” and that He compels us to show good cause for our separation from the body politick of England. A letter of “divorcement” if you will. Now most people know a little bit about the Declaration, portions of it, a peice here and there, but look towards the end of the document. In the closing paragraph the document states some really interesting religious concepts.

        “We, therefore, the Representitives of United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, Solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the Support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance of the protection of divine Providence, me mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

        Let me start with the first line, These men directed this portion of the Declaration as a prayer to God for the rectitude of their intentions.
        And the last line, explains that the subscribers had steadfastly placed their trust in God to see them to His protection and the freedom that only He could grant them.

        Now to strech history to the point to say that these men and countrymen who wrote and supported this document in 1776 had backslidden to point of writing and ratifying a completely Secular Constitution in 1789 is historically inaccurate.

        Now the Constitution is a supporting document of the Declaration, And in its opening line it names Liberty as a Blessing. To strive to be historically accurate, blessings come from God. It also states that the Constitution is Ordained to promote domestic tranquility and establish Justice, and to promote a more perfect union. Ordain is also a decidedly Christian word.

        The first amendment, states Congress shall not make no law respecting an establishment of religion; or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. So the house of representitives and the military can have chaplains, because the Congress didn’t pass a law establishing a religion. We can have “In God We Trust” on our currency, because Congress didn’t pass a law establishing a religion. What i’m proposing, is that many things can happen that athiests and agnostics can get upset over, but because Congress hasn’t passed any legislation concerning the establishment of a religion there is absolutely nothing unconstitutional about them. Furthermore, because Congress cannot prohibit the free exercise
        of religion, Judges and Courts using their religious bigotry should not constitutionally be able to
        either. If a child prays in school, how could that possibly be “unconstitutional”? Congress didn’t pass any law that established a religion, but it’s ok that the childs first amendment right to pray is subverted and usurped by the Judiciary imposing their standards onto the child, which also crushes thier rights of conscious as a person of faith.

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        • You tacitly concede those aspects of the Constitution I described, but fail to recognize they are reflections of the very separation of church and state you otherwise deny. That the phrase “separation of church and state” does not appear in the text of the Constitution assumes much importance, it seems, to some who may have once labored under the misimpression it was there and, upon learning they were mistaken, reckon they’ve discovered a smoking gun solving a Constitutional mystery. To those familiar with the Constitution, the absence of the metaphor commonly used to name one of its principles is no more consequential than the absence of other phrases (e.g., Bill of Rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, fair trial, religious liberty) used to describe other undoubted Constitutional principles.

          While some also draw meaning from the references to “Nature’s God” and “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence (references that could mean any number of things, some at odds with the Christian idea of God) and try to connect that meaning to the Constitution, the effort is largely baseless. Important as the Declaration is in our history, it did not operate to bring about independence (that required winning a war), nor did it found a government, nor did it even create any law, and it certainly did not say or do anything that somehow dictated the meaning of a Constitution adopted twelve years later. The colonists issued the Declaration not to do any of that, but rather to politically explain and justify the move to independence that was already well underway. Nothing in the Constitution depends on anything said in the Declaration. Nor does anything said in the Declaration purport to limit or define the government later formed by the free people of the former colonies. Nor could it even if it purported to do so. Once independent, the people of the former colonies were free to choose whether to form a collective government at all and, if so, whatever form of government they deemed appropriate. They were not somehow limited by anything said in the Declaration. Sure, they could take its words as inspiration and guidance if, and to the extent, they chose–or they could not. They could have formed a theocracy if they wished–or, as they ultimately chose, a government founded on the power of the people (not a deity) and separated from religion.

          While the First Amendment undoubtedly was intended to preclude the government from establishing a national religion as you note, that was hardly the limit of its intended scope. The first Congress debated and rejected just such a narrow provision (“no religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed”) and ultimately chose the more broadly phrased prohibition now found in the Amendment. During his presidency, Madison vetoed two bills, neither of which would form a national religion or compel observance of any religion, on the ground that they were contrary to the establishment clause. While some in Congress expressed surprise that the Constitution prohibited Congress from incorporating a church in the town of Alexandria in the District of Columbia or granting land to a church in the Mississippi Territory, Congress upheld both vetoes. In keeping with the Amendment’s terms and legislative history and other evidence, the courts have wisely interpreted it to restrict the government from taking steps that could establish religion de facto as well as de jure. Were the Amendment interpreted merely to preclude government from enacting a statute formally establishing a state church, the intent of the Amendment could easily be circumvented by government doing all sorts of things to promote this or that religion–stopping just short of cutting a ribbon to open its new church.

          By the way, the First Amendment protects that child’s right to pray in school. It is important to distinguish between “individual” and “government” speech about religion. The First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views–publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

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  3. Some, including apparently the Church, have resorted to lies to in their efforts to oppose the health care law. Contrary to wild-eyed cries to the contrary, IT DOES NOT FORCE ANYONE TO ACT CONTRARY TO THEIR BELIEFS.

    Questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith are entirely real, but not new. The courts have occasionally confronted such issues and have generally ruled that the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, fraud, negligence, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. Were it otherwise and people could opt out of this or that law with the excuse that their religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate. When moral binds for individuals can be anticipated, provisions may be added to laws affording some relief to conscientious objectors.

    Here, it may be questioned whether there is real need for such an exemption, since no one is being “forced,” as some commentators rage, to act contrary to his or her belief. In keeping with the law, those with conscientious objections to providing their employees with qualifying health plans may decline to provide their employees with any health plans and pay an assessment instead or, alternatively, provide their employees with health plans that do not qualify (e.g., ones without provisions they deem objectionable) and pay lower assessments.

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    • Their are a select group of people who are young and healthy who were not purchasing health insurance for those reasons alone, now under Obama care they will be forced to purchase “healthcare insurance” or pay a fine (tax) for not purchasing “health care” for themselves, (against their beliefs), or face jail time for not purchasing “health care”. By its arbitrary rules, Obama care DOES indeed force citizens to act contrary beliefs. And it’s individual mandate is unconstitutional.

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      • In the end, the law requires only that employers who do not provide qualifying health plans pay assessments to the government. Unless one supposes that the employers’ religion forbids payments of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion), then the law’s requirement to pay assessments DOES NOT compel those employers to act contrary to their beliefs.

        The employers may not like paying the assessments or what the government will do with the money it receives. But that is not a moral dilemma of the sort supposed by some commentators and cynically claimed by the US Bishops Conference, but rather a garden-variety gripe common to most taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action of the government. That is hardly call for a special “exemption” from the law. Should each of us feel free to deduct from our taxes the portion that we figure would be spent on those actions (e.g., wars, health care, whatever) each of us opposes? If someone has religious or moral objections to the teaching of evolution or to teaching black and white students in the same classroom, should we allow that person not to pay taxes used to support public schools?

        Much the same goes for individuals who pay for qualifying health plans that include things they don’t like. They don’t need to use them. But we need not allow them to withdraw from society to the extent of picking and choosing which laws and which taxes they will deign to accept.

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        • You are passing over the term “individual mandate” which is to say the government is going to force citizens to pay for health insurance whether they have it or not.

          Secondly, on who opts to pay taxes and who doesn’t, why not allow people to be exempted on their beliefs? We as a nation (congress) have already exempted 48-51% of the population from paying income tax already. So why not, the government already takes (steals) from me so the can be generous and charitable ; in my name.

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          • The subject of the post and my comment is the desire of the US Bishops to exempt some employers from the law. You seem ready to concede the law does not force employers to act contrary to their beliefs and, instead, change the discussion to the law’s individual mandate.

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            • I am using the issue of the individual mandate to illustrate just how arbitrary and capricious the entire law is. The health care law is a tyrannical disaster from page 1 to page 2700, the government has no business trying to be a “benevolent master” over its people (for our own good). It has no right to but into my doctor / patient relationship. It forces emplolyer’s to act against its first fiduciary responsibility (which is to make a profit so it can grow and hire more people). If the entire law is not struck down by the Supreme Court, this law will be the final nail in our coffin. It has all the earmarks of a deathly plauge, come to bankrupt a nation.

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            • ……..are you equally indignant with the Obama administration for granting over a 1000 waivers exempting employers from the law?

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              • I am not opposed to conscientious objector exemptions. I am opposed to those who don’t need one (because the law does not force them to act contrary to their religious beliefs) but nonetheless demand one just so they can reduce the scope of a law they dislike.

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  4. The following article comes from The Heritage Foundation:

    The Obama Administration recently reaffirmed a rule under Obamacare that requires many religious employers to provide health care coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and related education and counseling. On the grounds that certain FDA-approved contraceptive methods can sometimes “cause the demise of embryos both after and before uterine implantation,” many groups also believe that the rule forces them to cover abortion.

    The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is calling the contraception mandate an “unprecedented” attack on religious freedom. . . .

    It’s not just Catholics affected by the rule, however. Leaders from other faith traditions have expressed their concern, and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has already filed a lawsuit on behalf of an interdenominational Christian college that objects to providing abortion and related education and counseling in its health care insurance. “The mandate is un-American, unprecedented, and flagrantly unconstitutional,” says an attorney for the college. . . .

    Heritage experts explained years ago that freedom of conscience in health care is closely linked to greater personal freedom over health care decisions. Health care expert James Capretta says that “it was inevitable — only a matter of time,” now that the government is calling the shots and making health care choices for the American people. . . .

    This erosion of fundamental religious freedoms at the hands of the Obamacare bureaucracy is the sort of clash of government versus religious freedom that the Founders foresaw when, in the First Amendment of the Constitution, they prescribed that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Not withstanding that prohibition, the Obama Administration has imposed its will on the very institutions the First Amendment sought to protect. Though the rule provides a narrow exemption for “houses of worship,” it unfortunately burdens their affiliated institutions, schools, and hospitals — thereby violating the freedom of religion. David Addington, Vice President of Domestic and Economic Policy at The Heritage Foundation, explains that the Obama Administration should take action to exempt these institutions and preserve their religious liberty:

    The Department of Health and Human Services should broadly exempt religious institutions in its final regulations implementing the Obamacare contraception mandate, pending repeal of that mandate as part of the Obamacare statute repeal. Such an exemption would allow the religious institutions both to adhere, as they must, to the tenets of their faiths and to provide group health care plans for their employees. Absent such an exemption, many religious institutions, following their faiths, will have no alternative but to stop making group health plans available to their employees and pay any fines for failure to do so. . . .

    Obamacare was designed to place total power in the hands of the federal government — in an unelected bureaucracy with the power to dictate the operation of an industry that is fundamental to Americans’ health and wellbeing. With this decision, the Obama Administration has demonstrated just how far that power can go, what freedoms it can take away, and why this law must be repealed.

    Read more here. . . .

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