Last week’s Supreme Court ruling that family-owned corporations cannot be required by the government to provide insurance coverage that includes contraceptives, if doing so violates the owners’ religious beliefs, came at an ironically fortuitous time.
After all, when better for the nation to find itself embroiled in a discussion of religious freedom, personal rights and government power than the days immediately preceding the Fourth of July?
Somehow we don’t imagine the legal question involved in the debate is one the Founding Fathers ever could have imagined. That’s not because of the modern nature of issues such as contraception and group health insurance, but rather the concept that the federal government could have ever imagined usurping such authority in the first place.
“The greatest (calamity) which could befall (us would be) submission to a government of unlimited powers,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, who would be amazed to think there was ever a legal question as to whether the government he helped to create should have the authority to force the private owners of a business to abandon religious beliefs to satisfy legislative mandate.
The ruling in the case involving Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties provided a buffet of hot-topic issues about which liberals could rail, touching as it did on abortion, mandatory insurance, the “war on women,” big business and religion.
Liberals thought surely an enlightened Supreme Court contemplating any one of those perspectives would rule in favor of the government.
But it didn’t happen, at least not this time. By the slightest of margins, the justices ruled 5-4 that there is, indeed, a limit to the government’s power. At least for now.
In this instance, the advocates who argued for religious freedom from government excess were victorious. But the fact that four of the nine justices of the Supreme Court felt the government was within its power to force owners of private businesses to abandon their own religious convictions in favor of the “common good” is frightening.
“I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power. I am naturally very jealous for the rights and liberties of my country, and the least encroachment of those invaluable privileges is apt to make my blood boil,” said the esteemed Benjamin Franklin.
And how could you not argue the Affordable Care Act is the result of an arbitrary government attempting to exercise unlimited power so as to encroach on individual privileges?
We have reached the point where we have to step back and ask: How much longer can our nation survive when there are so many among us who are willing — no eager — to entrust such authority to government while ignoring the rights of indivi-duals?
It wasn’t that Hobby Lobby refused to provide insurance for its employees. It wasn’t even that it refused to provide coverage for contraceptives; it did that as well. What it argued against doing was providing insurance that would pay for certain types of contraceptives that were abortive rather than preventive in nature.
To see the incredible chasm between the legal and political spectrums in the nation, one need look no further than the dissenting opinion of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who warned that the courts had set a dangerous precedent by extending religious freedoms to “the commercial, profit-making world.”
“The court’s expansive notion of corporate personhood invites for-profit entities to seek religion-based exemptions from regulations they deem offensive to their faiths,” she wrote.
And therein lies the rub; to those of a liberal mindset, the “commercial, profit-making world” is an evil entity that has nothing to do with individual people, at least not at the ownership level. They ignore the fact that the nation’s business economy is dependent on real people who create financial success by virtue of their own hard work, ingenuity, business acumen and willingness to bet their future on an idea.
People don’t give up the rights and freedoms our forefathers envisioned and fought for simply because they start a business and believe in free enterprise and capitalism. There are those in legislative and judicial power in this country who would rather destroy it than see a successful “profit-making world.”
And note as well the freedom enjoyed by those who operate businesses extends to those who work there: Anyone who finds their employer’s policies too restrictive or unsupportive are free to find a workplace more to their liking. Companies that offer more benefits may lure and retain more good workers, yet that’s a choice best made by business owners, not forced upon them.
Opponents of the court’s ruling were quick to warn the decision would open the door to other instances where corporations, and perhaps even individuals, were allowed to put their own personal beliefs above those of an all-powerful and benevolent government.
The drafters of the Declaration of Independence, the existence of which we celebrate this weekend, wrote of the king of England: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”
Is our own power-hungry federal government so different than ol’ King George?