Monday, January 6, 2014

Religious liberty at stake? Really?

If you look at the actual facts of the case in which the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged claims that the federal government is infringing on its religious liberty, any fair person can see how frivolous the arguments are.

The case revolves around the government’s requirement that employer group health insurance policies provide access to birth control services.

Religious organizations are exempt from the requirement if they choose. It’s that simple. All they have to do is fill out the form and give it to their insurance carrier.

The insurance carrier is then required to offer the service to employees, if it qualifies for any government assistance. The service is, in essence is then paid for through government subsidy and not the policy holder, in this case Little Sisters.

However, in this particular case, the insurance carrier also qualifies as a religious institution and, thus, is not forced to provide the contraceptives coverage.

The Little Sisters argue that the very act of filling out a form that in other circumstances would allow the insurer to provide the services violates the organization’s religious liberty.

We’re splitting hairs here folks.

Religious liberty, like personal liberty, does not free a person or group from the necessity to comply with laws in general. We are all subject to the law.

Actually, the government itself defines religious liberty. As Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. points out in his argument in the case, it is the Internal Revenue Service that defines religious employers. The IRS code spells out the definition of non-profit organizations regarding, as Verrilli states, “churches, their integrated auxiliaries, conventions or associations of churches, and the exclusively religious activities of any religious order.”

The Little Sisters organization claims the regulations governing contraceptives “violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 … which provides that the government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless the application of that burden is the least restrictive means to advance a compelling governmental interest.”

Notice that the verbiage gives the government — which is, after all, the people — rights too. “Compelling governmental interest.”

As Verrilli points out, courts previously have held that to qualify as an infringement, the alleged violation must be  “indisputably clear.”

RFRA itself defines infringement as an act that “substantially” burdens a person’s exercise of religion.

Let fair-minded individuals weigh in on this case. Read Verrilli’s argument. Then decide whether you really think the Obama administration is an enemy of religious liberty.

At this writing, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has issued a retraining order that sides with Little Sisters. She can either rule on the case’s merits herself or refer it to the court as a whole.

The case proves two things. First of all,  any constitutional guarantees are worthless if you have a bad government.

Secondly, regardless of how this case comes out, it illustrates that the United States is a world model for religious liberty. All the Little Sisters have been asked to do to claim their freedom of conscience is sign a paper.

Is that unreasonable? You be the judge, but in fairness, read Verrilli’s argument first.

No comments:

Post a Comment