God v. Sebelius: How the Shield of Liberty Became a Sword

Event Details

God v. Sebelius: How the Shield of Liberty Became a Sword

Time: April 20, 2013 from 9am to 5pm
Location: National Constitution Center
Street: 525 Arch Street, Independence Mall
City/Town: Philadelphia, PA 19106
Website or Map: http://www.dvau.org
Event Type: presentation
Organized By: Delaware Valley Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Latest Activity: Jul 8, 2013

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Event Description

     The New Freedom Movement is a post-Religious-Right political campaign that believes that the constitutional rights of religiously affiliated institutions are infringed upon when the federal government enacts general neutral laws.

     Using a constitutional analysis, I survey the court cases brought forward by those who claim that the contraception mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act violates their “religious freedom.” I begin by outlining the characteristics of the New Freedom Movement in the United States and its misunderstanding of the legal meaning of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause. Federal Judge Carol Jackson clarifies that religious freedom “is a shield, not a sword. It protects individuals from substantial burdens on religious exercise that occur when the government coerces action one’s religion forbids, or forbids action one’s religion requires; it is not a means to force one’s religious practices upon others.”

     I address the legal question of whether the Free Exercise rights of religiously governed hospitals and universities are violated when the employees and students at these federally funded institutions opt into government-funded health care coverage. I argue that these institutions should not receive accommodations on religious grounds because their First Amendment rights are not substantially burdened. If anything the constitution shields religious actors from legally infringing on the rights of others.

     I recommend that rather than seek exemptions on religious grounds, these employers should file for a divorce between the church and state and become purely private institutions by refusing federal funding and revoking their nonprofit tax status, as the U.S. Supreme Court recommended in Bob Jones University v. United States.

     I conclude by asking whether actors in the New Freedom Movement are perceived as effective facilitators of public deliberation or “theolegal” actors driven by creedal coercion.

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