The late Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy wrote, “Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion all have a double aspect — freedom of thought and freedom of action.” To which one should be able to add, freedom of inaction — meaning that absent a compelling state interest, people should not be forced to violate their own religious beliefs through compelled behavior.
Don’t tell that to the secular left. Giving a fig about the constitutional guarantee of the free expression of religion, leftwing attorneys general have sued to thwart a Trump administration rule that seeks to protect medical professionals, who refuse to participate in what they consider to be immoral procedures, from being punished by employers that receive federal funding. This includes protecting doctors and nurses from forced participation in abortion or the surgical mutilation of minors (from a certain perspective) deemed medical “treatments” for gender dysphoria.
Yesterday, a federal judge prohibited the conscience rule from taking effect. From the NBC News story:
A federal judge in New York on Wednesday struck down a new Trump administration rule that would have allowed health care clinicians to refuse to provide abortions for moral or religious reasons.
U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer of the Southern District of New York rejected the federal rule after women’s groups, health organizations and multiple states sued the Department of Health and Human Services, arguing the exemptions were unconstitutional.
Engelmayer ruled that the so-called conscience rule was too coercive, allowing HHS to withhold billions in federal funding unless health care providers complied.
Alexandra is right that this ruling and others like it could eventually drive orthodox religious believers out of health care. Actually, I think that is the plan. For example, Dignity Health, a Catholic hospital, is being sued in California with the blessing of the state Court of Appeals for refusing to perform a hysterectomy on a biological woman/transgender man — despite its clear violation of Catholic moral doctrine that prevents sterilization in the absence of a medical pathology.
And let’s not forget that the Little Sisters of the Poor are still in court fighting an Obama era rule that requires they — an order of Catholic nuns — provide free contraception health insurance coverage. We also have the baker case and the florist cases, to further illustrate the point.
Back to Trump. Orthodox (small-o) Christians and other faithful people know that Trump seeks to protect their right to act or refrain from acting in the public square based on their faith. And, they know that many of his political opponents seek to coerce action and thereby shrivel their right to the free expression of religion into a mere freedom of worship that evaporates once outside of the home and church/synagogue/temple/mosque.
And that is one major reason why many voters of faith will vote for Trump next year despite his past peccadillos and obnoxious personality.
One last point: Voting Trump for this reason is not to shrink in fear instead of standing boldly in faith, as some have charged. Rather, it is acting in the public square — e.g., rendering onto Caesar what is Caesar’s — to protect a fundamental constitutional right that is under direct assault.
One can agree or disagree with that decision, but that is an honorable choice that has no bearing on the fortitude of one’s religious beliefs.