Acton Institute President and Co-Founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico had a busy media day yesterday in the wake of the release of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius case. using the audio player below, you can listen to an interview with Rev. Sirico on The Michael Berry Show on Houston’s 740 AM KTRH radio where the impact of the decision is examined. Additionally, beyond the jump I’ve embedded Rev. Sirico’s appearance on Bloomberg TV’s Street Smart with Trish Regan, where he participated on a panel discussing the decision.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority (5-4) opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The decision was decided in large part because it aligns with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that passed the U.S. Senate 97-3 and was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The law is intended to prevent burdens to a person’s free exercise of religion. At the time, it had wide ranging bipartisan support and was introduced in the House by current U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
That four justices voted against the decision speaks to the current ideological divide at the court and in the nation of a once non-controversial understanding of religious liberty.
Some significant lines from Alito’s majority decision are below:
As applied to closely held corporations, the HHS regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate RFRA.
Religious employers, such as churches, are exempt from this contraceptive mandate. HHS has also effectively exempted religious nonprofit organizations with religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services. Under this accommodation, the insurance issuer must exclude contraceptive coverage from the employer’s plan and provide plan participants with separate payments for contraceptive services without imposing any cost sharing requirements on the employer, its insurance plan, or its employee beneficiaries.
…the court held that HHS had not proved that the mandate was the “least restrictive means” of furthering a compelling governmental interest.
RFRA’s text shows that Congress designed the statute to provide very broad protection for religious liberty…
Protecting the free-exercise rights of closely held corporations thus protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control them.
HHS has also provided no evidence that the purported problem of determining the sincerity of an asserted religious belief moved Congress to exclude for-profit corporations from RFRA’s protection.
Government could, e.g., assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives to women unable to obtain coverage due to their employers’ religious objections. Or it could extend the accommodation that HHS has already established for religious nonprofit organizations to non-profit employers with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate.
There is an informative podcast on a new book titled The Rise and Decline of American Religious Freedom over at the Library of Law and Liberty. The author, Steven D. Smith, is the Warren Distinguished Professor of Law, University of San Diego and Co-Executive Director of the USD Institute for Law and Religion. Smith challenges the popular notion that American religious freedom was merely an enlightenment revolt from European Christendom and was meant to uplift a secular interpretation of the First Amendment.
Smith will be a guest writer over at their blog for the month of July. Below is an excerpt from the description of the podcast:
Our conversation begins with the history of the ratification of the First Amendment. What do we make of the fact that the religion clauses were scarcely debated in the Congress that approved them? Smith argues that this should dissolve any notion that a grand constitutional moment occurred and that gave us the religion clauses as “articles of faith” in secularism. We discuss Smith’s view that the lack of debate owed to an existing consensus that wanted to prevent the national government establishing a national church while the states would continue their established churches, in some cases, and other lesser forms of religious influence in their laws. Contrary, Smith argues, to a national standard of religious freedom or secularism, the constitutional course was “contestation” or an ongoing conflict between religious and secular claims. Thus the Court’s separationist jurisprudence of mid twentieth century, Smith discusses, was a departure from original understanding of religious liberty and its practice for most of our history.
Smith also discusses and disputes the view that American religious freedom is an outcome of the Enlightenment. His controversial claim is that it is a recovery of a key concept of Western civilization, freedom of the church, and, its later Protestant development, freedom of the “inner church” or conscience. Recovery is here stressed because it was modern political development, Smith notes, that had subordinated the church to the state and to be stripped of institutional freedom.
Listen to the podcast:
Last week was one of mixed blessings for those engaged in the U.S. political process. On the positive side, the U.S. Supreme Court – by a 5-4 margin – struck down overall limits on campaign contributions. Unfortunately, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction for Brendan Eich, co-founder and chief executive officer of Mozilla, who resigned after the Los Angeles Times disclosed his $1,000 contribution in support of California’s 2012 Proposition 8.
Eich’s unfortunate circumstances bring to mind the many proxy resolutions submitted to a plethora of companies each year by so-called religious shareholders such as As You Sow and the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility. These resolutions bleat endlessly of the need for transparency in corporate lobbying, political expenses and donations to the American Legislative Exchange Council and The Heartland Institute. The call for transparency, however, is a ruse – what’s most important is shaming the companies publicly so they’ll give up fighting for their First Amendment rights. (more…)
At the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal talks with Genevieve Wood about challenges he faces from the Obama administration on Second Amendment rights, energy development, economic freedom and religious liberty issues.
Days after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in two religious liberty cases challenging an Obamacare mandate, Jindal said he found the government’s actions troubling. “America didn’t create religious liberty. Religious liberty created America,” he said. “It’s very dangerous for the federal government to presume they know better.”
Read more and download a web graphic built around Jindal’s quote on religious liberty.
Today at Ethika Politika, I review The Ox-Herder and the Good Shepherd: Finding Christ on the Buddha’s Path by Addison Hodges Hart:
Addison Hodges Hart, a retired pastor and university chaplain, offers in The Ox-Herder and the Good Shepherd a wonderful exercise in comparative religion, examining the common ground that can be found in spiritual practice between Christianity and Buddhism. Hart focuses on the ten ox-herding icons of Zen, originating in China by the master Kakuan and accompanied by his verse and prose commentary. Hart, then, adds his own Christian perspective on the spiritual journey depicted and described by Kakuan, highlighting in the end his emphasis that outer acts of compassion require a prior, inner transformation.
One such person who was inspired by an inner, spiritual conversion not only to “outer acts of compassion” but also to build a freer and more virtuous society was the Indian Emperor Ashoka.
Lord Acton writes in his address “The History of Freedom in Antiquity,”
But in all that I have been able to cite from classical literature, three things are wanting: Representative Government, the emancipation of the slaves, and liberty of conscience. There were, it is true, deliberative assemblies, chosen by the people; and confederate cities, of which, both in Asia and in Europe there were so many Leagues, sent their delegates, to sit in federal councils. But government by an elected parliament was, even in theory, a thing unknown. It is congruous with the nature of Polytheism to admit some measure of toleration. And Socrates, when he avowed that he must obey God rather than the Athenians, and the Stoics, when they set the wise man above the [civil] law, were very near giving utterance to the principle. But it was first proclaimed, and established by enactment, not in polytheistic and philosophical Greece, but in India, by Asoka, the earliest of the Buddhist kings, 250 years before the Birth of Christ.
Tantalizingly, this is all that Acton says about Ashoka (=”Asoka”). Who was he? Why does Acton single him out? (more…)
Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, and Barack Obama, the first black American president, finally met today in an historic tête-à-tête inside the Vatican Apostolic Palace – and for nearly double the originally scheduled time.
Romans could peer inside the fortified Vatican walls via a special streaming set up on Vatican TV’s web site, where they saw a U.S. delegation (which included Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney) checking watches while waiting in earnest for the two world leaders to conclude their meeting.
It is no small secret that there is considerably high tension between the Catholic bishops of America and the Obama Administration, as the Catholic episcopacy has opposed Obamacare’s controversial mandates concerning the provision of contraceptive products, sterilizations and abortafacients.
The Bishop of Rome is, no doubt, on his American bishops’ side.
With the computer speakers on full blast, it was the closest thing to eavesdropping on the two men, or at least an honest attempt to do so. Though no shouting matches could be overheard, my own fantasy led me to envision the Holy Father “schooling” the President.
The CVS chain made an announcement a few weeks ago: they would no longer sell tobacco products at their stores. CVS President and CEO Larry Merlo said:
As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role through our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners. By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company. Cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered. This is the right thing to do.
Merlo’s own father died of lung cancer, and Merlo felt that this was not only a business decision, but an ethical one. (more…)
Acton Institute Director of Research Samuel Gregg joins hosts John Hall and Kathy Emmons on It’s The Ride Home on Pittsburgh’s 101.5 FM WORD to discuss President Obama’s scheduled visit this week in Rome with Pope Francis. Gregg notes the differences in worldview between Francis and Obama, and contrasts the likely relationship between the current pope and president with the more well-known relationship between an earlier pope and president, John Paul II and Reagan. You can listen to the interview using the audio player below.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has released a helpful infographic highlighting some key facts regarding Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which will be argued before the Supreme Court tomorrow.
Upon digesting all of this, it’s worth emphasizing how meek and mild the Greens’ basic complaint actually is. The demands of the State are awfully high for a feature of the faith as small and tolerable as this. (more…)