Acton Institute President Rev. Robert A. Sirico made an appearance on The Price of Business with host Kevin Price on Business 1110 KTEK in Houston, Texas. The conversation focused on the importance of liberty and the vital need to understand the foundations of our freedoms. You can listen to the interview via the audio player below.
Perhaps it’s because we Americans are still getting over Christmas, or talking about the Super Bowl, but National Religious Freedom Day doesn’t get a lot of press. But indeed: January 16 is National Religious Freedom Day, adopted originally by the state of Virginia and now remembered annually by the White House. Penned by Thomas Jefferson, the Statute for Religious Freedom reads, in part:
Be it enacted by General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities. And though we well know that this Assembly elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of Legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies constituted with powers equal to our own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare that the rights hereby asserted, are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was fond of saying that the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” This was no thin, pragmatic account of rights-based egalitarian liberalism, says Derek Rishmawy, but rather a philosophically and theologically thick appeal to a divinely ordered and sustained cosmos.
As Rishmawy notes, it is simply impossible to separate King’s denunciation of racism and segregation from his Christian confession and theological convictions about the nature of the universe:
The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., like most mortals, evokes a certain ambivalence regarding what should be celebrated and what should be rightly critiqued. There are certainly parts of his life and thinking that warrant correction, rebuke, and challenge, but this will be true of all us if we live long enough. On this MLK holiday, however, I am thinking about my parents. My parents spent the first third of their lives being denied the equal application of the rule of law because of Jim Crow laws.
During Jim Crow, my parents could not trust the justice system. State and local courts of justice were unreliable. My parents were not free to take roads trips wherever they pleased, especially at night. They were not allowed to attend certain elementary and high schools. They were not allowed to even apply to several colleges. They were not allowed to equally compete in the marketplace against whites in the South. What made Jim Crow additionally immoral is that they were laws that protected a particular class of people so that they could not suffer the consequences of racial discrimination. Jim Crow protected whites in the South from learning the hard lesson that racial discrimination is bad for business and undermines social flourishing.
It’s easy to read that headline and think, “Wha…?” What in the world do Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, Catholic Sisters and our present day health laws have to do with each other? I’m glad you asked.
More than 200 years ago, the Ursuline Sisters of France were fleeing the French Revolution and seeking a new home in New Orleans. They planned to open schools, hospitals and orphanages, but wanted to make sure that the U.S. government, now in control of New Orleans, would not meddle in their plans – separation of church and state, you see. They wrote to President Thomas Jefferson with their concerns; Jefferson’s response? (more…)
Today, Professor Helen Alvaré of George Mason University, testified before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice regarding taxpayer-funded abortions under Obamacare. Alvaré, who teaches family law, law and religion, and property law, states that Americans have never understood abortion as a “good,” and that abortion cannot be labeled health care. The video below is her testimony.
While the University of Notre Dame has decided to comply with the HHS mandate requiring employers to cover contraception, abortifacients and abortions in employee health insurance, the University of Dallas continues to fight the mandate.
The University of Dallas, a Catholic institution founded in 1910 by the Vincentian Fathers, received a preliminary injunction on January 2, 2014, that would relieve the university of the necessity to comply with the mandate. (more…)
Notre Dame University announced yesterday that it will comply with the HHS mandate requiring employers to include contraception, abortifacients and abortion coverage in health care packages for employees. The university made the announcement after a federal judge last week denied the university’s request for exemption of the Obama administration’s law. An emergency stay was also denied by the Seventh District Court of Appeals. Failure to comply with the law means the university would now have to pay fines of $100 per day for each employee.
The university decided to comply with the “accommodation” offered by the Obama administration:
Having been denied a stay, Notre Dame is advising employees that pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, our third party administrator is required to notify plan participants of coverage provided under its contraceptives payment program,” said Paul Browne, Notre Dame’s vice president for public affairs and communications, according to WNDU. “As part of an ongoing legal action, however, the program may be terminated once the university’s lawsuit on religious liberty grounds against the HHS mandate has worked its way through the courts.”
As 2013 was coming to a close, federal courts issued rulings on three injunctions sought by religious non-profits challenging the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate rules:
• Preliminary injunctions had been awarded in 18 of the 20 similar cases, but the 10th Circuit denied relief to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns from Colorado. However, late in the evening on December 31, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction blocking enforcement, and ordered a response by the federal government by 10:00 am on Friday. Justice Sotomayor’s order applies to the nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and other Catholic nonprofit groups that use the same health plan, known as the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust.
• Earlier in December an Indiana federal district court rejected Notre Dame’s claim in University of Notre Dame v. Sebelius that its rights under Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the 1st Amendment are infringed by applying the accommodation in the final rules to its self-insured employee plan and its health insurance policies offered to students. On December 31, the 7th Circuit denied Notre Dame’s emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal, but ordered expedited briefing and oral argument.
• In Priests for Life v. U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services, the D.C. federal district ruled on December 19th that no substantial burden was placed on a pro-life group’s free exercise by requiring it to complete the self-certification form to opt into the accommodation for religious non-profits. But on December 31 the D.C. Circuit granted emergency motions for injunctions pending appeal filed by Priests for Life and by the various plaintiffs in the Catholic Archbishop of Washington case. The court also ordered the two cases consolidated for appeal.