Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hobby Lobby Letter exposes Ignorance of Basic Principles of Liberty and Government

The Hobby Lobby case has exposed a dangerous moral inversion in the minds of too many Americans; the idea that government coercion is liberty and that private voluntary acts are tyranny.

For example, consider a letter from the 7/22/14 New Jersey Star-Ledger. After accusing the Catholic SCOTUS justices of bigotry, Catherine Broer wrote:

[On June 30, 2014], five Catholic men on the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in the Hobby Lobby case, that "sincere religious belief" trumps science when concerning a woman's right to certain forms of birth control.

As long as religious leaders of any stripe have control over the lives of those who must unwillingly submit, there will be suspicion, prejudice and hatred.

The Founding Fathers had it right: Separation of church and state is the only way to peace.

I left these comments:

This issue is not about science. It is about inalienable individual rights. Rights are guarantees to freedom of action in pursuit of values, not an automatic entitlement to values that others must provide. There is no “right to certain forms of birth control,” or any other good or service. There is only the right to pursue them, as in “the pursuit of happiness.”

Separation of Church and State means the government may not impose religion on anyone. It does not forbid individuals from living by their own religious beliefs. So long as one’s actions don’t violate the same rights of others, that is an inalienable right. The whole point of separation of church and state is to protect that right.

Hobby Lobby’s owners acted only in regard to the sphere of their own lives and business. They did not seek to impose their religious beliefs on anyone, and the SCOTUS ruling did not give them that right. Hobby Lobby’s employees are still free to seek abortifacients, just not at Hobby Lobby’s expense. If Hobby Lobby advocates laws banning abortifacients for everyone—which many Catholics do—that would be “religious leaders . . . control over the lives of those who must unwillingly submit” and a violation of church and state. The 5 Supreme Court justices did no such thing, and don’t deserve to be accused of bigotry.

SCOTUS defended individual rights, but didn’t go far enough. We should recognize everyone’s right to act on his judgement in regard to health insurance. We need to expand the separation of church and state to its full, logical, moral extension—separation of conscience and state. Rather than carve out special exemptions to the contraception mandate only for evangelical Christians with “sincere religious beliefs,” we should eliminate all benefit mandates so everyone can act on his sincere beliefs, religious or non-religious. We should be concerned with political leaders’ control over our lives. What right do government officials have to dictate the content of our health insurance? The law should protect the right to freedom of conscience (judgment), and apply equally to people of faith and people of reason.

Note what’s in play here; the idea of economic rights, which are incompatible with, undermine, and destroy political rights. An “economic right” is a “right” to goods or services that others must be forced to provide. A “political right” is a right to freedom of action in pursuit of one’s values.

This letter is a good example. The alleged economic “right”—“a woman's right to certain forms of birth control”—necessitates the violation of the political right of Hobby Lobby’s owners to their religious freedom.

Ayn Rand once observed, “While people are clamoring about “economic rights,” the concept of political rights is vanishing.” Until and unless Americans understand that rights are strictly political, liberty will continue to erode and government tyranny to grow, the Hobby Lobby ruling notwithstanding.

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