Why sue over the mandate?

With three days to go until the Supreme Court announces its decision in the Hobby Lobby & Conestoga Wood Products cases, time for a review: why even bother to sue the federal government over Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate at all? Why not just go along?

CAM00569Because religious liberty matters. It’s not simply a matter of worship, taking place in a building once a week. The mandate forces the question of how Americans may exercise their beliefs in everyday life. If an American holds the religiously-based belief that contraception and abortion are immoral, can that American be forced to pay for them? How about a business owner who wants to provide employees with health insurance, but on religious grounds wants no part of helping fund contraception and abortion as “preventive care”?

Two years ago, the Catholic bishops of the United States filed twelve lawsuits challenging the mandate. Mary Ann Glendon in 2012 wrote Why the Bishops are Suing the Government, published in the Wall Street Journal. The issues she described then are still unsettled today.

The main goal of the mandate is not, as HHS claimed, to protect women’s health. It is rather a move to conscript religious organizations into a political agenda, forcing them to facilitate and fund services that violate their beliefs, within their own institutions. The media have implied all along that the dispute is mainly of concern to a Catholic minority with peculiar views about human sexuality. But religious leaders of all faiths have been quick to see that what is involved is a flagrant violation of religious freedom. That’s why former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister, declared, ‘We’re all Catholics now.'”

How about people with religious beliefs who don’t work for a religious organization? That’s where Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Products come in. Those are two companies that don’t qualify in any way for the Obama Administration’s “accommodations” on the mandate. They’re secular businesses. The owners reluctantly filed suit against the mandate, because there seems to be no room under Obamacare for them to provide health insurance for their employees while having their own religious beliefs respected.

Religious liberty, or mere freedom to worship? The First Amendment’s free speech guarantee got a very qualified endorsement by the Supreme Court in the recent buffer zone case. Let’s see how narrowly another aspect of the Amendment is viewed by the Court on Monday.