Did you know that yesterday was Religious Freedom Day in America? It didn’t get a lot of attention, since President Obama was busy signing executive orders, but he also put out a proclamation on religious freedom.
“Because of the protections guaranteed by our Constitution, each of us has the right to practice our faith openly and as we choose,” the President wrote. “As we observe Religious Freedom Day, let us remember the legacy of faith and independence we have inherited, and let us honor it by forever upholding our right to exercise our beliefs free from prejudice or persecution.”
That’s one heck of a proclamation from an Administration whose actions have attacked religious liberty for Americans.
The best-known example is Obamacare’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that employers pay for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans. This has caused business owners to face excruciating decisions between complying—and violating their consciences—or facing massive fines.
The sad fact is, under President Obama, Americans have been forced to fight for their religious liberty in the courts. More than 110 plaintiffs are fighting the HHS mandate, and that’s hardly the only religious liberty battle being waged.
The Supreme Court has already rebuked the Administration for its attacks on religious liberty—and it did so unanimously:
The Administration argued in a recent Supreme Court case, Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC, that religious employers should not have the ability to maintain the integrity of their institutions through religious hiring practices. In an embarrassing incident for the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court dismissed the Department of Justice’s argument, unanimously ruling in favor of institutional religious liberty.
Americans are battling at the state level as well. In Illinois, a court battle finally came to an end, upholding pharmacists’ right to practice their profession in accordance with their beliefs.
And the drive toward redefining marriage—now under consideration in the Supreme Court—has already begun to affect people who disagree by interfering with their rights to practice their faith. Heritage’s Andrew Walker notes:
As Heritage has pointed out, the redefinition of marriage and expansive non-discrimination laws will be used to marginalize those with dissenting viewpoints. In Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and Illinois, Catholic Charities and other religious social service agencies have been forced to shut down adoption and foster care services for refusing to place children with same-sex couples.
These trends are disturbing, but they are hardly new in the scheme of history. As Jennifer Marshall, Heritage’s director of domestic policy studies, wrote in “Understanding American Liberty”:
Authoritarian governments—whether religious or secular—have long sought to curb or even to extinguish religious liberty. On the other hand, the limited American government established by our Constitution respects the institutions of our civil society—including, especially, religious institutions. The American Founders believed that strong religious congregations and vibrant faith communities were essential to ordered liberty. As a result, Americans have long enjoyed the fullest religious liberty in the world, and we have reaped the benefits of a flourishing civil society rooted in that religious freedom.
Religious Freedom Day commemorates the anniversary of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson and passed by the state assembly in 1786. Jefferson wrote that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion.”
Words that don’t match deeds from this President simply add insult to the many injuries his Administration has caused people of faith in the past four years.
Research assistant Sarah Torre contributed to this article.