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A Religious Freedom Election

A court case in Colorado shows what’s at stake this fall.

Aug 13, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 44 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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By attempting to strip the owners of Hercules of their statutory protections because they incorporated their business, the Obama administration showed once again its determination to shrivel the First Amendment’s freedom to exercise one’s religion into mere “freedom of worship.” As Hercules’s attorney Matthew S. Bowman told me, “Apparently the only things a family business may legally pursue—according to the government—are profit and whatever else Washington bureaucrats decide to mandate, which in our case includes contraception, sterilization, and what many believe to be abortion-inducing drugs.” 

The Newland case makes clear that the elections this fall could not be more important for religious liberty. The contrasting viewpoints of the likely judicial nominees of each potential president are obvious. But in addition, a first-term Romney Justice Department would almost surely take a view of religious liberty diametrically opposite that of a second-term Obama DOJ. Romney—who has praised the Newland injunction—would surely scrap the Obama administration’s pinched “freedom of worship” in favor of the Constitution’s “free exercise” of religion.

But it isn’t just the presidency. The makeup of Congress is also crucial. If a court ever rules that juridical entities are not covered by RFRA, Congress will have to amend the law to ensure that religious employers retain the freedom to conduct their businesses in conformity with their religious convictions. Under a Majority Leader Reid and a House speaker Pelosi, good luck with that!

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. He also consults for the Patients Rights Council and the Center on Bioethics and Culture.

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