ENDA Will Increase Forced Government Compliance While Violating Religious Rights

February 7, 2014

First Amendmentby Nathan A. Cherry

There is a concerted effort to force Christian business owners to violate their religious convictions just to satisfy government compliance. Even though such policies are unjust and violate constitutional freedoms, the government, under the direction of President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, wants to force people of faith to choose between their religious convictions and their businesses.

A culminating moment in this battle will take place in March when two cases come before the Supreme Court. The case of Hobby Lobby, represented by The Becket Fund, and the case of Conestoga Wood Specialties, represented by Alliance Defending Freedom.

In each of these cases, what is at stake is whether or not the federal government can force a Christian business owner to violate his or her religious convictions just to continue operating a business. In particular is the HHS mandate with the fact that it forces Christian business owners that object to abortion to provide contraceptives, abortion drugs and services, through insurance, to employees. Up to this point business owners have been able to keep those items out of the insurance plans offered through their businesses. The HHS mandate seeks to end that freedom and demand that all employer based insurance plans offer these services.

Another side to this issue is the fact that the government is continually trying to establish a “right” to abortion. At one time abortion was merely a freedom the Supreme Court conceded should be available to all; a dubious ruling to this day. Now the government would like to establish that abortion is a right that every person is entitled to. I defy anyone to find a “right” to kill another human being in the Constitution or even the Bill of Rights.

What this comes down to is a difference in understanding of the terms “religious freedom.” President Obama has repeatedly replaced religious freedom with “freedom of worship.” His understanding is that every person has the right to worship freely, in their church, as they see fit. But that freedom begins and ends at the doors of the church. This understanding blatantly goes against the intent of the Founders who saw religious freedom as a guaranteed right extending to every aspect of private and public life; including in the workplace. 

The First Amendment plainly says that “Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof.”

Once it is understood that “religion” does not begin or end at the doors of the church it becomes clear that our Founders were seeking to protect the expression of faith in the public sector. The idea that religion would not be a force to guide America as we establish laws and advance as a society is absolutely false. Consider what President John Adams said:

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Adams, as well as our Founders, believed that freedom of religion was an essential liberty to be protected at all costs. The Founders wrote the First Amendment to protect against unjust laws like the HHS mandate. This prophetic statement takes on greater importance when one considers the efforts to re-write our Constitution through modern interpretation. The fact that many in government believe the Constitution is outdated and in need of revision underscores Adams’ statement and should frighten every American.

ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman shares, in modern terms, what the Founders intended with the First Amendment:

“Unjust laws are not valid laws – and the government shouldn’t be allowed to punish Americans for exercising their constitutionally protected freedoms. This administration has no business whatsoever forcing citizens to choose between making a living and living free.”

And yet the government continues to try and punish people of faith for living out their religious convictions in public. The cases of a baker in Colorado, a photographer in New Mexico, a florist in Washington, and a church in New Jersey are just a few of the many cases that show the government penalizing Christians for adhering to their faith. The troubling part of this is that if the government can force a Christian business owner to violate his or her faith, how long before the government forces the church to violate their religious convictions?

We might look at the case of the baker in Colorado that refused to make a cake for a homosexual couple as merely discrimination that needs to be stamped out. It’s not. This is a case of a Christian man not wanting to violate his religious belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman by performing a service that essentially celebrates a “marriage” he is religiously opposed to. This is no different than the government demanding a black photographer take pictures of a KKK rally, or a Jewish woman provides food for a Nazi event. Our government would never entertain such thoughts, so why would they force a Christian to celebrate a wedding he believes is sinful?

Many of the states where these cases are happening first enacted ENDA laws. These laws, on the surface look good. But in reality they create a back door whereby people of faith are forced to violate their convictions or face the penalty of law. ENDA laws masquerade as “non-discrimination” laws but in the end they discriminate against the religious convictions of Christians and religious business owners. Where this comes full circle is in the news that West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler has once again introduced an ENDA bill for consideration. Though the bill has failed three times already, he continues to push a dangerous agenda that will ultimately lead to persecution of religious schools, charities, business owners, and perhaps even churches.

Regardless of your religious views, or lack thereof, we can all agree that it is a dangerous and very bad idea to allow the government to force citizens to render services, violate their moral or religious convictions, or take part in any celebration. If one group is forced under the weight of the government you can be sure that it is just a matter of time before other groups will face the same force.

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