A Frightful Halloween for Religious Liberty

There’s something frightful brewing in courtrooms across the country this week.

In federal courts today and tomorrow, the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) will be arguing against the right of two business owners and one Christian college to operate and serve in accordance with their deeply held beliefs.

As dusk falls in Pittsburgh this evening, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) will be asking the court to rule against the Obama Administration’s weak-kneed defense of the coercive Obamacare mandate that forces employers to pay for coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization regardless of moral or religious objections.

ADF is representing Geneva College, a small Presbyterian liberal arts college outside of Pittsburgh, along with Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company and members of the Hepler family, who own and operate the store in western Pennsylvania. Both plaintiffs hold deep religious objections to paying for at least some of the mandated drugs and services, and neither qualifies for the mandate’s offensively narrow religious exemption.

Both organizations—like the more than 100 other plaintiffs suing the government—face frightening consequences if they ultimately refuse to get in line with the coercive mandate. Offering a non-compliant health plan under the mandate comes with the threat of fines of up to $100 per employee per day. Even forfeiting the provision of health insurance altogether will still mean a roughly $2,000 fine per employee after 2014.

As Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for ADF who will be arguing at the hearing tonight, explained:

Americans have the God-given freedom to live and do business according to their faith. The government shouldn’t punish people of faith for making decisions in accordance with it, and yet that’s what the Obama administration is trying to do here in Pennsylvania and throughout the country.

Tomorrow, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty will be arguing before a federal court in Oklahoma on behalf of Hobby Lobby Stores. One of the largest retailers of arts and crafts supplies in the country, Hobby Lobby faces the threat of fines in excess of $1 million per day unless the court places an emergency hold on the mandate for the for-profit business.

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Despite the mandate’s real and serious assault on employers’ religious freedom, the Obama Administration has relied on press conference theatrics and bureaucratic sleight of hand in an attempt to deceive the courts and the American people. Even Vice President Joe Biden’s repeated incantations of “fact” that the mandate won’t harm religious employers’ rights have done nothing to change the coercive mandate currently in effect or alleviate the rule’s burden on religious freedom.

But it’s going to take more than legal argument hocus pocus to help the Obama Administration dissolve Americans’ First Amendment freedoms. One federal court this past summer already ruled against the mandate, putting the rule on hold for a family that runs a for-profit HVAC company in Denver.

Thankfully, the plaintiffs in court this week and the American people stand on authority far more powerful than the faulty charms of the DOJ—the Constitution’s clarion protection of religious freedom.

Listen to a business owner currently suing the Obama Administration over the Obamacare mandate discuss what this latest assault on religious liberty can mean for other business owners during an Acton Institute lecture this Friday, November 2, at 9:00 a.m. ET.

Source material can be found at this site.

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