Friday, December 2, 2016

How the Birth Control Mandate Undermines the Inalienability of Rights

The path to socialism in America is paved with subverted principles of liberty, sprung on us bit by bit without us even knowing it.

For example, earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court heard another challenge to ObamaCare’s birth control mandate. That mandate had already been challenged under what is called the Hobby Lobby case, in which plaintiffs argued that the mandate violated religious liberty (many Christians oppose birth control, and the plaintiffs argued that Christian employers shouldn’t have to provide birth control to their employees because that would violate the employer’s religious beliefs). The case resulted in a partial exemption from the mandate for some employers on religious grounds.

The latest challenge, Zubik v. Burwell, was brought by a group of nuns called Little Sisters of the Poor, who were also a party to the Hobby Lobby case. This time, Little Sisters is arguing that the original exemptions don’t go far enough, and now want to expand the exemptions to cover essentially all conscientious objectors to the birth control mandate.

This is one of many court challenges to ObamaCare. The thing that is most disturbing about this case is the reaction to it. For example, University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock, who fought on the side of the plaintiffs in Hobby Lobby, this time sided with the government. He wrote in the Washington Post:

The second, and even more dangerous argument: These organizations say that because the government exempted the insurers of churches and their integrated auxiliaries, it is required to exempt the insurers of all other conscientious objectors as well. Otherwise, it discriminates between two groups of religious organizations.

This argument is a mortal threat to an essential and widespread source of protection for religious liberty. There are thousands of specific religious exemptions in U.S. law. If legislators and administrative agencies cannot enact a narrow religious exemption without it being expanded to become all-inclusive, many of them will not enact any religious exemptions at all. And they will start repealing the exemptions they have already enacted.

The question is, why are there so many religious exemptions in U.S. law to begin with? Why do we need specific, narrow exemptions to protect religious liberty? Is it because the laws from which the exemptions are carved are themselves rights-violating? The New Jersey Star-Ledger, citing Laycock, picked up on this case in an editorial. In Why the nuns fighting Obamacare may hurt religious liberty, the Star-Ledger wrote:

These nuns do good work, but their lawsuit is so absurd that they are hurting their own cause by pursuing it.
Remember: The Little Sisters already sought an exemption under Obamacare that would protect them from covering birth control for their employees, and they got one, just as Hobby Lobby did. Now they are fighting the very provision that gives them that exemption, because they believe the law must exempt all conscientious objectors.

But if religious exemptions must be so broad as not even to distinguish between religious and other objectors, the government may no longer grant them at all, Laycock fears. Legislators will think they can't enact a narrow religious exemption without it being expanded to become all-inclusive. They'll start repealing the exemptions they've already enacted.
Which is why churches should hope the Supreme Court rules against the Little Sisters, too: Not to protect Obamacare. To protect religious liberty.

I left these comments under the Star-Ledger editorial, edited for clarity:

There should be no religious exemption for the birth control mandate because there should be no birth control mandate to begin with. The government has no right to dictate insurance mandates of any kind. It’s only proper role in regard to health insurance is to prosecute fraud, remedy breach of contract, and mediate contractual disputes in courts of law.

What the Star-Ledger is really saying is that we the people are rightless subjects of the state, and we are only “free” to the extent the government allows it. This is the basic premise of the totalitarian state, and totally contrary to the principles of inalienable individual rights and limited rights-protecting government upon which this country was founded. It is the ultimate inversion of America—The state acts by right, and the individual acts by permission. In this case, the state dictates insurance coverage, and then grants limited permission to select people to skirt the mandate.

This is what the Star-Ledger brazenly advocates; a society of, for, and by the state. To add insult to injustice, the Star-Ledger threatens to take back even the limited “grant” of liberty—the limited religious exemptions—if the subjects don’t stop clamoring for a bit more liberty. This is the action of a mob boss, not an intellectual guardian of a free society. The idea that liberty is a mere grant of the state is the mentality of a King.

Individual rights are moral principles guaranteeing the freedom to act upon our own judgement, so long as our actions don’t violate the same rights of others. The Declaration of Independence is correct: Rights—the individual kind, the only kind there are—come first. Then, “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.” All insurance mandates should be abolished. The government should protect the rights of insurers and consumers, employers and employees, to contract voluntarily with each other to mutual advantage—or not contract at all. We should not have to seek “conscientious objector” status to practice our rights.

The only proper decision for the Supreme Court to render in Zubek, if it is to hold on to what little is left of its legitimacy as a guardian of the Constitutional protection for the rights of man, is to invalidate the birth control mandate itself. To do otherwise would not “protect religious liberty.” It would further entrench the principle that religious liberty—and by extension all liberty—is a privilege, not a right. It would be a victory for state supremacy.

The Supreme Court subsequently returned the case to the lower courts for “reconsideration.” Stay tuned. The question is, have we reached the tipping point in America where we have inverted from inalienable rights to state-granted privileges? Not yet. But we’re on our way.

Related Reading:

SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision Skirts the Fundamental Issue

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