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Pomp and Circuit Stance


Tony Perkins
President, Family Research Council - Family Research Council


Under this administration, sexual freedom isn't just treated like a religion -- it gets more protection than one. In case after case, the freedom of faithful people and organizations is being crushed by this "conform or else" mentality that demands religious people's beliefs take a backseat to the Left's.

This continues to play out in an epic battle of the courts, where faith-based groups are fighting for the same relief that companies like Hobby Lobby won: an exemption from the ObamaCare mandate -- which is the demand, by the government, that they fund contraception that can end a pregnancy. Like the nuns at Little Sisters of the Poor, Priests for Life and the Catholic Archbishop of D.C. are all desperately trying to wriggle free of the government's suffocating grip and win back the right to opt out of providing coverage that violates their faith.

Those hopes were dashed -- at least temporarily -- at the D.C. Court of Appeals yesterday, when the judges decided not to rehear the case before the whole bench, leaving in place a horrible ruling that ignores the groups' most fundamental freedom. After years of legal wrangling over the HHS mandate, the Supreme Court's landmark opinion in the Hobby Lobby-Conestoga Wood case was supposed to settle the matter. Now, two years later, the courts still haven't extended the same protection to religious nonprofits that it has to for-profit companies.

At question is yesterday's case with the accounting gimmick designed by the Obama administration to accommodate religious organizations by driving the abortion coverage through a third party. Like the Seventh Circuit Court on Tuesday, which ruled that birth control was more of a "compelling state interest" than religious liberty, the D.C. court rationalized that this "compromise" somehow relieved the burden from faith-based groups, even though they are still facilitating the transactions.

Judge Janice Rogers Brown cut through the nonsense in a powerful dissent that blasts her colleagues for elevating themselves above the First Amendment. "Viewed objectively," she writes, "the Plaintiffs' belief that the acts the regulations compel them to perform would facilitate access to contraception in a manner that violates the teachings of their Church may ‘seem incredible, if not preposterous,' to some people. However, this Court is neither qualified nor authorized to so scrutinize any religious belief. The panel trespassed into an area of inquiry Supreme Court precedent forecloses… Under the panel's analysis, it seems no claim of substantial burden may prevail where the religious significance of conduct under scripture as interpreted by a faith tradition differs from the legal significance of that conduct under the laws of the United States as interpreted by federal judges."

The government, she explained, has taken over the role of the church -- imposing its own orthodoxy on the people. "Consequently, orthodoxy has been rehabilitated, and dissent from the government's determinations may be quelled through coercion -- onerous fines or banishment from commerce and the public square." In this case, as in others, the battle is less about birth control and more about the kind of protection we need from government and activist judges.


Priests for Life
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