On Oct. 6, the president issued a new rule replacing the coercive HHS (Health & Human Services) mandate that had required all employers, including religious charities like the Little Sisters of the Poor, to provide contraceptives, abortion inducing drugs and sterilization, which clearly denied their deeply held religious beliefs.
In 2012 when this mandate (not a law) was issued by the HHS secretary, over 100 leaders of many different religions were critical of the mandate. They understood that such an imposition by government was destructive of religious liberty for all. They stated that, “The HHS policy is coercive and puts the administration in the position of defining – or casting aside – religious doctrine. This should trouble every American.”
The new ruling states, “entities that have sincerely held religious beliefs against providing such services (contraception, abortion drugs, sterilization) would no longer be required to do so.” These same protections apply to “organizations and small businesses that have objections on the basis of moral conviction which is not based in any particular religious belief.” With this action, Americans no longer have to prove that they deserve their religious liberty. Now, any action by the federal government that would “substantially burden religious freedom” is held to an “exceptionally demanding standard.”
(hhs.gov, 10/6/17; Attorney General’s Memorandum on Religious Liberty)
Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 “does not permit the federal government to second-guess the reasonableness of a religious belief.”
“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.” Marcus Cicero, circa 100 BC
The Supreme Court will rule next year on whether government may coerce Christians, Jews, and Muslims to use their creative gifts to celebrate same-sex marriage. It will review the case of baker, Jack Phillips, of Masterpiece Bakeshop, CO, who cites his Christian faith in declining to create a custom cake for a same-sex wedding.
“I will serve anyone who comes in,” Phillips said. However, designing a same-sex wedding cake would cross a line for him. “I shouldn’t be forced to create a cake that goes against my faith.”
Alliance Defending Freedom are asking the justices to rule on whether Colorado’s public accommodations law, forcing Phillips to use his artistic skills in a way that violates his conscience and sincere Christian beliefs about marriage, violates the free speech or free exercise of religion clauses of the Constitution’s First Amendment.
“Tolerance should be a two-way street,” said an ADF attorney. “The First Amendment protects Jack’s right to create artistic expression that is consistent with his core convictions.”
In a totally opposite ruling than for the Phillip’s case, in 2015 the Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled that another CO baker did not discriminate against a Christian by refusing to make two cakes in the shape of a bible with scripture passages and imagery that the baker interpreted to be anti-gay.