March 1, 2012 by David K. Sutton
The ‘Free Exercise’ Of Religion Also Means Protection From Religion
It is both remarkable and frightening that so many Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), lack a basic understanding of the First Amendment and the ‘free exercise’ of religion.
Today the Senate killed the ‘Blunt amendment’ that, if passed, would have allowed employers to deny health care coverage for religious reasons.
Under the Blunt amendment, not only would church-affiliated organizations such as Catholic hospitals, universities, schools and charities have been free to opt out of the coverage, any non-religious employer with a moral objection would have qualified.
The amendment would also have allowed such employers to refuse to cover any other preventive procedures required under the administration’s rule if they had a religious or moral objection.
The defeat of this bill is great news for the clear-minded among us because we understand that the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion applies equally to all.
The Senators who supported this bill have it backwards when it comes to protection of religious freedom. They seem to think that religious objection is a suitable pretense to allow people to bypass laws and regulations they find disagreeable. The First Amendment guarantees free practice of religion without government interference, but that freedom ends when it arrives at the doorstep of infringement. The freedoms of one cannot subjugate the freedoms of another.
A government regulation with the explicit purpose of providing easy and equal access (in this case) to birth control for all citizens is not infringing upon anyone’s religious freedom. It does not stop you from believing what you want to believe. It does not prohibit you from prayer. It does not mandate any changes to your personal faith and relationship to God. You are still free to attend church on Sunday and practice your religion every day, but your religious freedom has to respect the freedom of others. If you consider the words or actions of someone else an infringement of your religious freedom, then I’m afraid the problem is with you, and there is nothing in the First Amendment that can protect you from yourself.
We cannot be a nation of freedom and liberty if intolerance is the law.