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Religious Liberty is Not the Dark Side and Cecile Richards is No Obi Wan Kenobi

January 13, 2014

Planned Parenthood president, Cecile Richards.  Image courtesy of the New York Times.

By Jeremy Dys

When I see the head of the nation’s largest provider of abortion write in reference to the contraceptive mandate of Obamacare, “No one’s freedom to practice religion is compromised,” I tend to think she is attempting her best Obi Wan Kenobi, Jedi mind trick on the nation.

But, this is not Tatooine and the guarantee of religious liberty is not science fiction.  Cecile Richards is attempting to make the case that a religious order of nuns – though not a church, nor an extension of one – should be coerced by power of law to provide abortifacients to their employees.

For Richards, it’s no big deal.  “The only thing Little Sisters must do is fill out a one-page form stating that it objects to providing contraceptive coverage, and send the form to its insurer.”

Did anyone see that proviso in the First Amendment?  Yeah, I didn’t either.

When the Founding Fathers affirmed our religious liberty – a liberty that was self-evidently endowed to us as humans by our Creator, according to the Declaration of Independence – they did so without qualification.  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .”  At best, what Richards is attempting to get you to bite on is a compromise: fill out the form and you can have the, “freedom to practice religion.”  Don’t take the bait!

Religious liberty is an unqualified guarantee by our constitution.  It means that as a citizen of this country – indeed, as a human creation – you have the freedom to live, learn, and do business according to the dictates of your faith.  Your government may not demand that you first provide verification and proof of the bona fides of your religion.  Rather, you must demand that any compromise to the free exercise of your religion by your government is considered only after your government provides the most compelling of compelling interests.

There are fine-sounding arguments being made by proponents of Obamacare and Richards is deft in selling her life-ending wares.  To compromise religious liberty in order to gain ubiquitous access to life-ending drugs is to undermine the foundation of our First Amendment and grant to government authority they have not been given.

If your government can compel you to, “just fill out this form,” in order to provide you with what the First Amendment says you already possess, what is next?

“Pastor, please submit the prayer you want to pray at that grave side funeral of a veteran.”

“Please provide your greeting cards to a board of chaplains.  We will determine whether or not your card that says, ‘God bless you’ is safe for distribution.”

“You cannot provide a service to the public and hold a religious conviction against popular sexual mores.  ‘That’s the price of citizenship.'”

“If you try to engage in the exercise of your faith by feeding the homeless on public property without permission, you may be subject to arrest.”

Oh, wait.  Each of those has happened already – and they continue to happen every day   Can we afford to erode religious liberty any further?

Richards is motivated by one thing only: funneling more taxpayer money into her billion dollar  company.  She – and others – will gladly push your God-given, government-affirmed religious liberty out of the way in order to get it.

Do not let them.

Jeremy Dys is Senior Counsel to Liberty Institute, a nationwide religious liberty law firm. As a First Amendment attorney, Dys works with Liberty Institute across the country to restore and defend religious liberty.  Dys is regularly featured in local, state, and national print, radio, and television outlets. He lives in a log home on the edge of the country close to Charleston, West Virginia, with his wife and four sons.

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