A federal judge in Eastern Missouri has upheld the government mandate that insurance policies cover birth control. Judge Carol E. Jackson ruled that the mandate is not a violation of religious liberty. Religious freedom is “a shield, not a sword,” she said, and religious liberty claims cannot be used as a “means to force one’s religious practices upon others.” Her argument closely aligns with points that the Century made some months ago in an editorial and that I tried to make in a blog post.
I've so far declined to comment on Wheaton College's decision to join the election-year culture war skirmish du jour by suing the feds for stomping all over its religious freedom requiring insurers to cover basic women's health needs while allowing faith-based employers to themselves stay out of it. I was sad but not surprised to learn of this move. Wheaton takes it as not only one legitimate view but an article of evangelical conviction that the morning after pill is unacceptable? Sure, okay. I disagree with my alma mater, but it's hardly the first time.
When freedoms clash—when we're not sure where my rights end and yours begin—we customarily turn to the courts to resolve the matter. And the courts are likely to get an interesting set of cases connected with the Religious Liberty Protection Act, which passed the House of Representatives in mid-July and will be considered by the Senate this summer (see the report on page 736).
Despite public school controversies that generate sparks every December, church-state columnist Charles Haynes of the Freedom Forum recently wrote, “The First Amendment solution is stunningly simple: Schools should plan holiday programs that are educational in purpose and balanced in content [but] to pretend Christmas doesn’t exist . . . is just plain silly.”
Recent advances for same-sex marriage have raised important issues concerning religious liberty. The four New England states (Con necticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont) that recently recognized same-sex marriage have all had to consider how broadly to protect churches, organizations and individuals that object to participating in or facilitating such marriages. A national TV ad against gay marriage sounded alarms about religious liberty and triggered parodies from gay rights groups (and Stephen Colbert).