Government Overreach is Killing our Freedom of Religion

For Freedom of Religion to Flourish, Governmental Restraint Is Necessary

“The Smallest Minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.”  —Ayn Rand


Religious Freedom: It Is a Natural Right

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Every free person gets to make choices, and no one gets to force their choices onto others.  You have a Natural Right to your views.  Your family has a Natural Right to worship and to live how it chooses.  Indeed, all of us have these selfsame rights, but none may force their customs on others.

Conscience in Religious Life

Under the First Amendment of the Constitution, religious freedom is allowed in daily life.  This means that a rabbi or priest has the right to refuse to marry a gay couple.  Rabbis and priests are individuals who are free to act according to their religious beliefs.

A gay couple has the right to get married under the laws of any state that offers same-sex unions.  But a gay couple does not have the right to force anyone to act against one’s conscience.  Finding another person to do the ceremony is permitted.  And what kind of person wants to force an unwilling party to participate, anyway?

Conscience in Commerce

church_state1There are many reasons businesses turn down jobs.  Sometimes, they are too busy to take on more work.  At other times, they just do not have anyone available with the skills required for carrying out the job in question.  But, from time to time, it is also possible that the business owner holds a conscientious objection to the job at hand.  A freedom-loving American who is turned down by a vendor, for any reason at all, normally just goes to another vendor.

The problem is with statist liberals who are turned down by business owners for religious reasons.  These statists tend to do whatever they can to bring the full force of the state down on business owners who refuse business on religious grounds.

Elaine Photography v. Willock

In 2006, Elaine Photography received an email from Vanessa Willock about photographing a same-sex “commitment ceremony.”  Elaine Huguenin, the business co-owner, politely declined the job, since she did not want to use her artistry to create a message counter to her religious beliefs.  Willock found another photographer—for less money.  But then Willock filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission.

The case eventually made it to the New Mexico Supreme Court, where the justices wrote that the Huguenins “are compelled by law to compromise the very religious beliefs that inspire their lives.”  In essence, the court ruled against the First Amendment, claiming, in the penultimate sentence of its ruling that disregard for religious freedom is the “price of citizenship.”  It would be interesting to know whether this court would compel a gay photographer to work for the Westboro Baptist Church.  (Read the court ruling at,687.pdf.)

Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers

In Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers, a customer of florist Baronelle Stutzman sued her because she could not, in good conscience, utilize her creative talents to decorate his same-sex ceremony.  There were many other florists willing to take the job, but the man sued anyway.  Ms. Stutzman is known never to have discriminated against gays in employment, and has always served her gay customers in non-religious venues.

The ACLU should have refused the case, since their mission is to defend the Bill of Rights.  And any competent magistrate should have thrown the case out of court.  It is a sad day, when the Constitution is no longer being upheld by the Judiciary.  (Read more about it at

Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop

religious freedomThen there is Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, where two men filed a legal complaint against Colorado cake artist Jack Phillips, because he declined to use his God-given talents to bake and decorate a cake for a same-sex ceremony.  Many other cake artists wanted the job, and Phillips told the gay couple he would make any baked good they wanted, other than one celebrating a gay union.  The men enlisted the ACLU to sue him.  (Read more about it at

Baker v. Hands On Originals

Baker v. Hands On Originals is a case where the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization filed a complaint against a Kentucky T-shirt printer for harboring religious objections to producing T-shirts promoting its gay pride festival.  Blaine Adamson recommended another shop for the same price.  And GLSO found a vendor who was eager to make the shirts for free.  Thus, GLSO actually benefited from going elsewhere.  However, they sued Hands On Originals anyway.  (Find out more at

Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby

The Obama Administration has argued repeatedly for the state’s ability to regulate every right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, with the ability to modify and change their meanings.  In Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, Justice Stephen Breyer seemed concerned with a question brought up by Justice Samuel Alito and decided to push for a response to it.  Here is what Justice Breyer said:

religious freedom“Take five Jewish or Muslim butchers, and what you’re saying to them is if they choose to work under the corporate form . . . you have to give up on . . . the Freedom of Exercise Clause . . . .  Now, looked at that way, I don’t think it matters whether they call themselves a corporation or . . . individuals. . . .  I think that’s the question you’re being asked, and I need to know what your response is to it.”

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli’s response to Breyer was to repeat the Obama Administration’s opinion that the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion does not apply when people are doing business.  A Jewish kosher butcher and a Muslim halal butcher can both be forced, against their religious consciences, to sell meat that is ritually impure.  Obama’s position is that these butchers are not allowed to direct a person to a different grocery store or meat market.  They must violate their religious principles to make a living in America.  According to Verrilli, once you leave your private sphere, America no longer allows you to live religiously: “[Y]ou are making a choice to live by the rules that govern you and your competitors in the commercial sphere.”

The Religious Contradictions of Obama

It is interesting that the anti-Constitutional view described above is coming from an administration that has required a bailed-out AIG not to invest in financial products that earn interest, since this would conflict with Islamic Law.  The Obama Administration has also, through Operation Chokepoint, ordered the financial targeting of porn vendors, gun shops, and payday-loan providers by US banks for the same reasons.  (Read all about this at

In Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, Obama tried to force the Green family, owners of the Hobby Lobby, to comply with an Obamacare regulation that stipulates healthcare plans must cover, without co-pay, all Food and Drug Administration-approved methods of contraception, without any sensitivity to the fact that religious people running an affected business may hold conscientious objections to paying for those.  No business owner has tried to limit the freedom of workers to practice birth control or have abortions; they have only objected to paying for it.  (Read more at

Honoring the First Amendment

The truth is that restoring the First Amendment would go a long way to renewing freedom in our land.  Besides saving Americans from much in the way of government tyranny, it would also, ironically perhaps, go a long way towards helping to save the Obama Administration from itself.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

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