As we celebrate national Religious Freedom Day today, it’s worth reflecting on the freedoms we are daily letting slip away. That old adage, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” is being replaced with, “You are entitled to your own opinion as long as it does not contradict the politically correct views of the cultural elite.” Across the country the freedoms of speech and conscience are being sacrificed.
Violating one’s deeply held moral beliefs should not be a condition of owning a business, holding a job or purchasing a product, like health insurance, in our country. Freedom to practice one’s religion, or speak according to one’s conscience, is protected not only in one’s home or place of worship, but also in the public square. It extends to one’s healthcare plan, job and business operations.
Numerous instances demonstrate a trend of those who believe something other than what is considered politically correct being discriminated against, fined, punished, or silenced into compliance.
Just ask Jonathan and Elaine Huguenin, who were sued for refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding, due to their moral beliefs, and told by the New Mexico Supreme Court that photographing a same-sex wedding is the “price of citizenship.” Their case, Elaine Photography v. Willock, is pending Supreme Court review with numerous amici briefs filed from those who support re-defining marriage, but who believe, as 85 percent of Americans do, that Christian wedding photographers should be allowed to recuse themselves from photographing a same-sex wedding, if they are morally opposed.
Or Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cake Shop, who risks being sent to jail for refusing to obey a court order forcing him to bake a wedding cake for same-sex weddings. Colorado, however, is one of 33 states that do not recognize same-sex marriage. Phillips is being forced by the state to participate in a marriage celebration that his own state does not recognize. This is little more than repression.
And what about pro-life Americans who are being denied basic transparency when it comes to abortion coverage in the Obamacare healthcare exchanges? The “abortion secrecy” clause prohibits those who participate in Obamacare from knowing whether or not their chosen plans contain abortion coverage until after they’ve selected them.
As if it is not bad enough that tax dollars are being used to pay for healthcare subsidies for plans that could include abortion coverage, now pro-life Americans must make a blind decision regarding their healthcare, which could result in them inadvertently picking a pro-abortion plan.
Then there are businesses like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, and non-profits and religious institutions across this country that morally object to providing coverage for drugs which can destroy a human embryo, along with sterilizations and contraception. They could also face crippling fines of $100 per day, per employee, if they do not comply with the HHS mandate. A recent Family Research Council and Alliance Defending Freedom poll found that 59 percent of likely voters oppose the HHS mandate, including 54 percent of women ages 18-45 and 61 percent of independents.
Finally, consider the case of Bill Diss, an Oregon high school math teacher who was fired for refusing to allow Planned Parenthood to come into his classroom and recruit students in their Teen Outreach Program.
While you may not agree with the views held by the Huguenins, or the owner of Masterpiece Cake, or with Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, our country was founded on the premise that we do not all have to agree, but we all have the constitutionally guaranteed right to speak and live out our faith.
It is a long held American tradition that we protect freedom of conscience in this country. Between now and the next Religious Freedom Day, let’s work to restore our nation’s respect for the conscience rights of others. If we don’t, one day we may not have a religious freedom to celebrate.
Emily Minick is a senior legislative assistant at the Family Research Council.