For many, the most precious and sacred of all freedoms is the freedom to practice and celebrate one’s faith without the fear of judicial intimidation, undue public chastisement, or legislative harassment.
Yet, as never before in the history of this country, the entire construct of religious freedom is coming under attack, with renewed efforts by some to literally drive it out of public life. A subtle, but dangerous theme beginning to emerge in certain quarters of government, the media and the courts, is the false notion that “freedom of religion” should now be understood primarily as the “freedom of worship.”
This is a gross distortion of the original intent expressed by our Founding Fathers. Citizens should be rightly concerned over any attempt to deconstruct and reframe a liberty that signifies the very core of our national heritage.
Kelly Shackelford, President of Liberty Institute and Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, voiced the following in an open letter to the American people.
“This radical departure is one that threatens to make true religious liberty vulnerable, conditional, and limited. As some have said, it is a freedom ‘only within four walls.’ That is, you are free to worship within the four walls of your home, church, or synagogue, but when you enter the public square the message is, ‘leave your religion at home. ’”1
Their point may seem insignificant and harmless on the surface, but the potential implications are disturbing. Ongoing secularization within the marketplace is leading some to believe—and even insist—that once a person of faith establishes a “for profit” business, the practice of religion should be disallowed.This claim recently surfaced in a lawsuit brought by the Newland family, owners of Hercules Industries, a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning manufacturer in Denver that employs nearly 300 workers.
The Newlands are among a score of other determined employers who have simply said, “Enough!” and are taking initiative by pushing back in court. Businesses like Hercules Industriesare facing outrageous fines embedded within the Obama Affordable Care Act (in this case, up to $10 million a year) for refusing to compromise their moral conscience – fines that if not reversed, will mostly likely force them to shut their doors and lay off employees. Sadly, this scenario is being replayed across the country, which is especially disheartening in a time of such economic uncertainty.
Thankfully, Hercules Industries won a preliminary injunction stating they did not have to provide employees with insurance coverage that also included abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization, something its owners maintained clearly disregarded their Catholic beliefs. The legal defense team had submitted a strong justification provided by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (passed in 1993), which requires that the government prove it has a “compelling state interest” when legally forcing individuals to violate the tenets of their faith. The rebuttal put forth by the Department of Justice is alarming.
The following is an excerpt from an article written by Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism:
“The government’s ‘Memorandum in Support of Motion to Dismiss’ argues:
‘Hercules Industries is a for-profit, secular employer, and a secular entity by definition does not practice religion . . . It is well established that a corporation and its owners are wholly separate entities and the Court should not permit the Newlands to eliminate that legal separation to impose their personal religious beliefs on the corporate entity or its employees . . .’”2
This argument proposes that the Newlands should not be allowed to “impose” their religious beliefs on the corporation’s group health plan or its employees. However, upon closer examination, the government’s brief exposes a faulty assertion—namely it is not the act of incorporating that supposedly strips business owners of religious liberties in the marketplace, but merely when they are seeking to make a profit.In other words, the federal government is advocating that every private business or enterprise must function as a religion-free zone.
Once we enter the stream of commerce—even, it would seem, as a sole proprietor—we are being asked to leave our religious liberties at the dock. Every business owner in America has good reason to give pause and that is only part of the secularization agenda found in this incredible legal brief.
To summarize, the government claims that:
1) Seeking profit is a wholly secularist pursuit.
2) Once someone goes into business, they should forfeit their religious freedoms in the context of those activities.
3) All who engage in such secular undertakings must then accede to the precepts of a wholly secular ideology.
4) The passage of laws and promulgation of regulations to enforce these boundaries should be established.3
We are in the greatest battle for religious liberty ever seen since the birth of our nation. Many of our national leaders are equally troubled and taking appropriate action. Seventy-nine Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus joined the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) in submitting the following amicus briefs in 12 different lawsuits brought by religious organizations challenging the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ mandate. Unless partially or totally repealed, this legislation will cause many religious organizations and businesses to unfairly surrender their First Amendment rights. You can track the various religious liberty lawsuits here.
Lest we forget, the early patriots and government leaders were also entrepreneurs and like most private business owners, desired to be profitable in their efforts. In fact, they risked their personal fortunes to help fund the American Revolution and preserve the very freedoms now being undermined and threatened. These are the same men who understood perfectly the role of religion and religious liberty in the public arena and its discourse. They open legislative sessions with prayer and advocated the open reading of Scripture. The notion that business should be completely divorced from a vibrant faith would be an utterly foreign and unacceptable concept to them.
John Adams, our second President and one of the framers of the Constitution, wrote the following in a letter addressed to James Warren, one time President of the Provisional Congress after the Battle of Bunker Hill:
“This form of government is productive of everything which is great and excellent among men. But its principles are as easily destroyed, as human nature is corrupted. A government is only to be supported by pure religion or austere morals. Private and public virtue is the only foundation of republics.”4
We cannot stand by and allow our freedoms to by systematically dismantled and taken away without even engaging in the process. Silence and inactivity are the wrong messages and will never stir the hearts of those who are sleeping. If not now…then when? If not us…then who? What will you do to join your national leaders in fighting for religious liberty?
1Shackelford, K. & Perkins, T. (2012). The survey of religious hostility in America. Liberty Institute.
2Smith, W. J (2012). Obama looks to strip entrepreneurs of religious liberty. Retrieved from http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/08/obama-looks-to-strip-entrepreneurs-of-religious-liberty. 08-30-12.
4DeMar, G. (1993). The untold story. Atlanta, GA: American Vision, Inc.