March 31, 2014 | Commentary on Religious Liberty
If the government imposes silly or invasive regulations, well, you can’t fight City Hall. It may seem prudent to simply comply, whatever the cost, and pass the expense along to your customers via higher prices.
Not everyone is willing to surrender without a fight.
From the Declaration of Independence through the Revolution, the Civil War through the civil rights movement, Americans have frequently been willing to fight back and assert their rights when overzealous governments tried to take them away. That’s still happening today.
The owners of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties took their turn recently, when their lawyers argued before the Supreme Court. They object to a provision of Obamacare that violates their religious freedom because it mandates employers provide drugs and devices that can work not by preventing pregnancy, but by eliminating it by causing an early abortion.
These companies are headed by two great American families. The Greens of Oklahoma City own Hobby Lobby; the Hahns of Lancaster, Pa., run Conestoga Wood. Both families credit their success in life to their religious faith, which undergirds their business decisions.
Hobby Lobby, for example, owns more than 500 stores in 41 states. Don’t go there on Sunday, though, because they’re always closed. In fact, in today’s 24-hour-a-day culture, Hobby Lobby is open only 66 hours a week, to give employees plenty of time with friends and family. The company’s minimum wage for full-time employees is 90 percent higher than the federal minimum.
Likewise Conestoga. “My father founded the company on Christian principles,” Anthony Hahn told National Review last year. “Our faith is expressed in the way we run our business. Our goal in everything we do is to serve our customers and employees in a way that honors God.”
Obamacare directly challenges that right.
The mandate (which, like most laws these days, was written in large part by bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services, rather than by elected lawmakers), comes with crippling penalties for noncompliance. Businesses could face a fine of $36,500 per employee per year if it doesn’t provide all 20 contraceptive drugs mandated under the coercive rule. That totals to $95,000 per day for Conestoga, and a staggering $1.3 million per day for Hobby Lobby.
Both families oppose forms of contraception that result in an abortion. Compelling them to provide such drugs violates their freedom of religion.
Keep in mind that the Greens already provide 16 of the 20 contraceptives that the Obamacare mandate requires. As Anthony Hahn puts it, “Before the mandate, women already had access to all the drugs the mandate would force us to provide. They still have that access. We simply believe that those who have moral convictions against providing certain potentially life-ending drugs shouldn’t be forced to do so.”
However, the Obama administration wasn’t willing to compromise. That’s odd, as it’s been handing out waivers to just about anyone else. The Becket Fund (representing the Green family) notes that tens of millions have been excluded from this mandate for other reasons. On this ground, apparently, the federal government is prepared to make its stand.
We’ll see what the Supreme Court says. A ruling is expected in late June.
Regardless, just by standing up and speaking out, the Green and Hahn families have scored a victory for religious freedom in America. In doing so, they rightfully earned this year’s Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship, presented by the Heritage Foundation in New Orleans last week. Hopefully, this is just the first of many accolades they’ll share.
No American should be forced to choose between living faithfully and submitting to unacceptable federal mandates. Thank God there are still so many Americans ready and willing to fight back.
- Ed Feulner is the founder of the Heritage Foundation.
Originally appeared in the Washington Times