Not New, Not Broad, Not a Compromise
HHS serves up a profound disappointment.

HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius with President Obama


LOPEZ: From the point of view of religious leaders and religious plaintiffs, is there any winning here? Is there any point in continuing to fight?

RIENZI: Of course there is winning. As the Declaration of Independence explains, governments are created by the people to protect the people’s inherent rights. Our religious freedom is not some government benefit to be doled out selectively by political leaders. Nor is it some bargaining chip to be used or traded in at some point before moving on to the next issue up for debate. Religious freedom is a fundamental right that pre-exists government, a right of all human beings to seek and live out higher truths as they understand them, subject only to truly necessary limitations by government. Continuing to fight to preserve religious freedom for themselves and for others is a noble and necessary contribution religious leaders of all faiths can and should make.

LOPEZ: What about the small-business man who has a problem with this mandate? Does he just need to get with the program?

RIENZI: No. If the religious business owner cannot comply with an unnecessary mandate like this, he should fight it. Just “getting with the program” is what my grandfather had to do when the authorities in his house made him eat last night’s dinner for breakfast. In public life, just “getting with the program” is what subjects do. But in a free country there are no subjects, just citizens. Citizens do not and should not quietly acquiesce when the government deprives them of their fundamental freedoms.

One way businesspeople can fight back is by suing in court. Another is by publicly talking about the ways in which the mandate jeopardizes their business and their employees’ health insurance. The administration is threatening businesses that create jobs and provide health insurance, and suggesting that it can put them out of business for their sin of taking the wrong view about abortion. The public should hear more about how the administration is willing to pursue abortion orthodoxy even if it means destroying thousands of jobs.

: Why is there not more outrage about all of this?

RIENZI: The proposal was 80 pages long, announced on a Friday, and full of regulatory legalese. That means it necessarily takes a while before people can fully understand what the proposal contains, and what it does and does not do. I suspect that as the details sink in, we will see the same levels of opposition to the accommodation we saw last June, when even the president’s prior allies were publicly saying he was wrong about religious liberty.

LOPEZ: Is this really and truly about religious freedom? Or is that just a convenient way to spin it?

RIENZI: This fight is only about religious freedom and always has been. Before the mandate took effect last August, every woman in America already had easy access to these abortion-inducing drugs, both by prescription and over the counter. Yet how many of these plaintiffs had filed religious-liberty lawsuits about it? Exactly zero.

The claims have always been all about the fact that the government is suddenly trying to force these employers to do something their religion forbids: to make themselves the conduit for their employees (and their employees’ minor children) to receive drugs that destroy human life. In a free and pluralistic country, our government should be able to respect that some people have religious objections to participating in the use of these drugs, just like we respect people who have religious objections to participating in capital punishment, assisted suicide, or war.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.