Today’s NYT features a ponderous defense of the HHS contraception/abortifacient mandate by Dorothy Samuels, a member of the Times editorial board and former ACLU lawyer. If this is the best the Left can do, it is pathetic indeed.
Samuels basic assertion is that those who oppose the mandate have no “right to impose their religious views on millions of Americans who do not share them.” Hang on a minute. Those of us who say that the government should not force religious institutions to violate their core principles are somehow trying to impose our views on others? Presumably, every failure to subsidize a lifestyle choice amounts to an infringement of liberty.
Discussing the First Amendment, Samuels says that “the nation’s founders were seeking a protective balance, one that gave wide berth to religious belief, but drew a line at government entanglement with religion or favoring one faith over another.” Invoking the Founding Fathers is obviously a shrewd move: a moment’s thought will tell you that Madison would be appalled at the thought of individuals having to pay for morning-after pills with their own dough.
Anyway: “a wide berth to religious belief.” That’s how the Left likes to describe the First Amendment — the president refers to “freedom of worship.” But that’s not what the First Amendment says. It says “free exercise” — to exercise one’s religion means the ability to act, or not act, according to the dictates of one’s faith. In the liberal rewrite, you’re free to “believe” or “worship” as you please, but if the State tells you to dispense Plan B, you’d better well hop to it. If that’s what “free exercise” means, there could never be a conscientious objector in wartime.
Besides, you have to get far into the piece before Samuels concedes that the validity of the HHS mandate is to be determined under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which requires that any abridgement of free exercise must advance a “compelling” government interest and must be the “least restrictive means” of promoting that interest. To that, Samuels has a one-sentence ipse dixit: It clearly advances the government’s compelling interest in promoting women’s health and autonomy, and broad participation is the least restrictive way to carry out a complicated national health reform.
It’s “complicated” you see (you neanderthals). It’s all about “autonomy” — women must have it, but religious institutions must not. Now I see what the “free exercise” clause is all about.