Obamacare versus religious freedom

An interesting sidebar to the ruckus that is Obamacare is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It’s an important issue — whether a company must provide specific contraceptives as part of its health care benefits package as directed under the Affordable Healthcare Act. The government says “yes,” but the owners of a large arts and crafts chain say it goes against their religious principles.

The Green family started Hobby Lobby more than 40 years ago. Today, it has more than 500 stores in 41 states. The family, under CEO David Green, also owns Mardel Christian Book Stores. The two chains are privately insured and offer birth control contraceptives as part of their plan. They do not, however, offer what many refer to as the “morning after pill” or the “week after pill.”

In a recent Op-Ed in USA Today, Green wrote, “A new government health care mandate says that our family business must provide what I believe are abortion-causing drugs as part of our health insurance. Being Christians, we don't pay for drugs that might cause abortions. Which means that we don't cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill.

“We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one.”

Hobby Lobby is very similar in practice to a well-known Georgia-based company, Chick-fil-A. Both are run by professed Christians. Both close their stores on Sunday. They make no apologies for what they stand for, nor what they want their companies and employees to stand for.

This latest case highlights government intrusion at its most insidious. For decades, the government has forced the removal of simple Nativity scenes on public property. The Ten Commandments have been removed from courtrooms.

The First Amendment continues to be trampled on by the federal government, especially with regards to religious freedoms for Christians. Despite liberal interpretations, the First Amendment never mentions anything about the separation of church and state. Rather, it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In other words, Congress can’t set up a national religion, nor can it prevent people from practicing their religion. That’s it.

Now the federal government is telling a business to pay for a morning-after pill that goes completely against the company’s moral stance. To the Greens, it’s paying for an abortion.

The case centers around whether a company can pursue a claim against the federal mandate on religious grounds. The Supreme Court, in the “Citizens United” case, recognized a First Amendment right for companies to express themselves for political purposes.

In June 2013, a federal appeals court sided with Hobby Lobby, basically saying religious expression is just as valid. And that ruling paved the way for the case to go to the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court has recognized a First Amendment right of for-profit corporations to express themselves for political purposes, applies,” the appeals court wrote. “We see no reason the Supreme Court would recognize constitutional protection for a corporation’s political expression but not its religious expression.”

The bottom line: Hobby Lobby offers contraceptives, but refuses to pay for contraceptives they believe are nothing more than abortion pills. Employees are not forbidden — nor would the company know — if an employee decided to purchase a morning-after pill out of their own pocket.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court will see the light and rule that companies can oppose certain aspects of Obamacare based on strongly held and publicly-known religious reasons.



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