Rights or Restrictions? the New Debate over the Meaning of Religious Freedom

By Boston, Rob | The Humanist, March-April 2014 | Go to article overview

Rights or Restrictions? the New Debate over the Meaning of Religious Freedom


Boston, Rob, The Humanist


In March the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in two important cases that could establish new parameters for what religious liberty means.

The two cases, which the high court has consolidated into one, concern access to birth control. In itself that's a highly compelling issue. But just below the surface lurks a host of questions that will define what type of nation we're going to be: one where rights are extended to all and everyone must play by the same rules or one where religious people, by mere dint of their faith, receive special treatment and a free pass from complying with certain laws and regulations.

The legal cases were brought by two for-profit companies--Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Corporation--that don't want to comply with the federal regulations that require most secular employers to include no-cost birth control coverage in employee healthcare plans.

Both firms are owned by conservative Protestants who say they're offended by certain types of birth control, which they insist is really abortion in disguise.

They're wrong about that scientifically and medically, but the court won't likely look at that issue. Instead, the core question before the justices is this: Does religious belief exempt a person from following an otherwise generally applicable law?

These cases were sparked by the Obama administration's attempt to apply the "contraceptive mandate" of the Affordable Care Act. The administration argues, with ample justification, that the use of birth control is so common in the United States that it makes no sense to erect barriers to its access. Under the mandate, no one is forced to use birth control, of course. Secular employers must merely tolerate its presence in the healthcare plans their employees receive. The decision of whether to use it rests entirely with the employee.

Religious entities (houses of worship, ministries, and so forth) are wholly exempt from the mandate; they do not have to comply at all. Religiously-affiliated groups (church-run hospitals, colleges, and so on) are not required to provide birth control directly, although they must allow it to be given to those employees who want it through a third-party provider.

Even the latter accommodation is being fought, and many observers believe that question too will end up before the Supreme Court.

But right now, the issue facing the justices concerns for-profit, secular entities. Remember, the firms objecting to the mandate have nothing to do with religion. Some are factories and manufacturing companies. Hobby Lobby is a nationwide chain of craft stores. Conestoga Wood manufactures materials used in home building and renovation.

In each case, these corporations happen to be owned by people whose religion forbids the use of certain forms of birth control. Those owners object, and they would like to subject all of their employees to the dictates of their faith.

That's bad enough. But when we go a little deeper, we quickly see that these cases could establish a much broader--and more dangerous--precedent.

Across the country, religious fundamentalists are demanding the right to ignore virtually any laws they dislike. For example, they want the right to actively discriminate against LGBTQ Americans.

U.S. law has long required secular businesses to refrain from rank forms of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, and gender.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Rights or Restrictions? the New Debate over the Meaning of Religious Freedom
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.