Give Up Your Religion or Give Up Your Business

Now that the Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare and its mandate that employers buy health insurance that include coverage of contraception, abortifacients and sterilization many Catholics, who recognize birth control as morally reprehensible, have been put in a position where they must choose between practicing their faith or running their business. Such is the case for the Newland family.

( – The Justice Department last week presented the Newland family of Colorado–who own Hercules Industries, a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning business–with what amounted to an ultimatum: Give up your religion or your business.

“Hercules Industries has ‘made no showing of a religious belief which requires that [it] engage in the [HVAC] business,” the Justice Department said in a formal filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

In response to the Justice Department’s argument that the Newlands can either give up practicing their religion or give up owning their business, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the family, said in a reply brief: “[T]o the extent the government is arguing that its mandate does not really burden the Newlands because they are free to abandon their jobs, their livelihoods, and their property so that others can take over Hercules and comply, this expulsion from business would be an extreme form of government burden.”

The Newland family’s refusal to comply with the birth control mandate means that they will be forced to pay $26,500 per day and $9,672,500 a year simply for practicing their faith and refusing to buy products they find morally wrong and that aren’t even related to healthcare. The CNS article continues:

The Justice Department further argued that people owning for-profit secular businesses do not have a First Amendment right to the free exercise religion in the way they conduct their businesses—particularly if their business is incorporated.

In its brief responding to the Justice Department on behalf of the Newland family, the Alliance Defending Freedom forcefully rebutted the claim that the First Amendment does not apply to corporations let alone to family-owned businesses.

“The government argues that the Newlands forfeited their right to religious liberty as soon as they endeavored to earn their living by running a corporation,” said the Newlands’ brief.

“Nothing in the Constitution, the Supreme Court’s decisions, or federal law requires—or even suggests—that families forfeit their religious liberty protection when they try to earn a living, such as by operating a corporate business,” they argued.

I’ve had several people try to kindly explain to me that this in no way violates the Newland’s rights because their religion does not compel them to run a business and that the birth control mandate does not “force” them to violate their religion because they can simply give up their business. So, as Americans we’re entitled to either a right to freedom of religion or a right to property but not both, now? I guess imprisoning the Newland family for practicing their faith wouldn’t violate their religious rights either. If they can simply pay ten million dollars a year or give up their livelihoods entirely then they can just as simply walk into a prison cell. If the Department of Justice does not view an ultimatum forcing someone to choose between their faith and their business (read: how people make a living and put food on the table and a roof over their heads) as a “burden” then I doubt that they would view being incarcerated in a comfy cell with three meals a day as particularly burdensome either.

I believe that the birth control mandate and Obamacare do violate our rights but even if you think that this mandate is perfectly consistent with our constitution and laws the fact is that Obama’s healthcare scheme requiring individuals to purchase a product that they don’t want and penalizing them out of existence if they do not comply is classic corporate fascism. Obamacare is nothing more than big government and big business working hand-in-hand against the citizenry, where government forces the people to purchase things from businesses whether they want it or not. If Obamacare is constitutional then our constitution embraces a corporate fascist regime. Of course, anyone who’s ever actually read our founders knows that this is not what they intended. In fact, this is the very kind of totalitarian state that they meant to protect us from.

If you’re not convinced that we live in a progressively fascist state then consider the following: Our president has given himself the power to indefinitely detain any American citizen via the NDAA bill and, while that power has been deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge, a bill has been proposed, the Enemy Expatriation Act, which would render such a ruling irrelevant by granting the authority to strip any American of his citizenship on the same subjective and shaky grounds that the NDAA operates by; we also now have Predator drones flying over North Dakota; and our police force has been systematically militarized across the nation.


The HHS Mandate and the Compromise that Wasn’t

In response to the incredible groundswell of opposition to the recent HHS birth control mandate President Obama has offered a compromise meant to appease Catholics. A statement released by the White House announced the compromise and stated the following:

Under the new policy to be announced today, women will have free preventive care that includes contraceptive services no matter where she works.  The policy also ensures that if a woman works for a religious employer with objections to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, the religious employer will not be required to provide, pay for or refer for contraception coverage, but her insurance company will be required to directly offer her contraceptive care free of charge.

Catholics cannot under any circumstance cooperate with an inherent evil which, according to Catholic moral teaching, includes methods of artificial birth control including, but not limited to, contraceptives, abortions and sterilizations. Unfortunately, President Obama’s compromise merely makes this cooperation one step removed. That is, while no Catholic under the mandate would be required to directly hand out contraceptives to his or her employees, Catholic employers will still be required to indirectly pay for birth control through their insurance plans.

The Obama administration attempted to justify the accommodation by stating that Catholics will not be paying for birth control because it will be free and the cost of birth control would be negated by the money saved by reducing pregnancies. The net result is that we would actually save money, the administration claimed. However, practicing Catholics have been categorically opposed to the mandate not because covering birth control represents a financial loss, but because it requires Catholic employers and insurance providers to offer contraception, abortion, and sterilization without any conscience-protection exemptions. Thus, the mandate, even in light of the new compromise, directly violates religious freedom by forcing Catholics to choose between following the law and following their faith.

This has nothing to do with the money. The economics can be debated and the Obama administration can do accounting backflips if they so desire but the problem remains that all those who oppose birth control – Catholic and otherwise – are required by law to cooperate with something that they believe to be evil. If Catholics are to be afforded conscience-protection then they must have access to insurance plans that does not cover birth control.

Unfortunately, this represents nothing more than a political ploy meant to offer a facade of compromise without really providing Catholics with any accommodations whatsoever. In order to live in accordance with their religion, Catholics will be compelled to civil disobedience in relation to the HHS mandate and accept any consequences under the law until such a time that the mandate is rescinded.

A Call to Conservatives: Abandon the Tribal Loyalties and Stand with the Church

I’m what you might call a conservative – although politics are funny and there are some who might call me a liberal – yet, I believe some things are more important than tribal loyalties (read: virtually everything). That’s why I find it disgusting when I see fellow conservatives willing to throw such sacrosanct matters like freedom of religion or human beings’ right to life under the bus for the sake of maintaining tribal purity. Like Diana West urging pro-lifers to stay away from Muslims in the fight against abortion because they’ll taint our “respectability” or Fr. Z when he openly mocks Ambassador Doug Kmiec when Kmiec comes in from the cold and sides with the Church regarding the HHS mandate and freedom of religion.

Yes, Muslims and liberals both disagree with the right on many things – some of them issues of such gravity that we must be uncompromising in our own resolve when faced with such opposition. Yet, one of the central pillars of Catholic social teaching remains solidarity and we must find common ground and foster friendship with all our brothers and sisters in Christ – even those who may remain our bitter enemies. Is this naive? No, because as Christians we realize that sometimes turning the other cheek means martyrdom; after all, Jesus died on the cross – not in the midst of battle hacking down his enemies, but willingly on the cross praying for those who persecuted him. Are we not called to be like Jesus Christ in every way? A true conservative Christian will recognize and embrace Catholic solidarity and ally himself with any person of any creed willing to join in the fight for human life and dignity.

I think Mark Shea of Catholic and Enjoying It! does a good job of pointing out the absurdity of this blind partisanship when talking about the public mocking of Kmiec:

Kmiec is ritually impure. It is more important to punish and ridicule him for past sins than to let him do the right thing in the present. What matters is pure tribal identity, not the success of the struggle to defeat this atrocious attack on religious liberty. We don’t want to win converts or form alliances. We want to settle scores and gloat over heretics. We want to hate Obama more than we want to defeat him.


Division does not lead to justice but only serves to further fracture humanity. The Catholic church recognizes this and thus we have the Catholic principle of solidarity, precisely so that we may forgo our human pride and instead be equipped to fight evil with a puissant arm.

Free Contraceptives More Important than Freedom of Religion?

Whether or not you believe that contraceptives are a legitimate part of reproductive health the HHS’s recent birth control mandate’s lack of a conscience clause should come as a shock to you. The mandate demands that all insurance plans include complete coverage of contraceptives without co-pay, without exception. Since contraceptives are contrary to the Catholic faith this poses a huge obstacle to Catholic employers who, in good conscience, cannot cooperate with this mandate. According to Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik the mandate “undermines the democratic process itself.” He continues, “Could Catholics be insulted any more, suggesting that we have no concern for women’s health issues? The Catholic Church and the Catholic people have erected health care facilities that are recognized worldwide for their compassionate care for everyone regardless of their creed, their economic circumstances and, most certainly, their gender. In so many parts of the globe – the United States included – the Church is health care.”

In defense of religious freedom I ask that you sign a petition demanding a conscience clause be added to the birth control mandate so that Americans won’t have to make the odious decision of choosing between their faith and their job.