In the nineties, the Clinton Administration formed a bipartisan coalition to pass the federal “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” or “RFRA.” Nineteen states followed suit. The legislation came in response to a Supreme Court decision that had seen an American Indian suffer legally for having used a drug during a well established American Indian religious ceremony.
RFRA’s framework was common sense. “Under RFRA the government may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion unless it can demonstrate that the burden is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest, and it is the least restrictive means of advancing a compelling interest.” See Perez v. Paragon Contractors (2014, Dist. Ct. Utah).
The standard was hailed as fair and appropriate by Democrats and by Republicans. Nineteen states followed the federal government. From Connecticut to Florida to Arizona, states found a bipartisan consensus that the sincerely held faith based beliefs of individuals deserved encroachment from the federal government.
This bipartisan consensus has rapidly collapsed in the United States. It began with Hobby Lobby. The company is a closely held corporation run by a family. The family intended to run its business based on its Christian values. The employees are paid more than employees at competitors. The store hours are not as long so employees can go home to their families. The store closes on Sundays to honor the Sabbath and give employees a day off.
But Hobby Lobby also designs its healthcare plans to reflect its values. It covers birth control for female employees, but its health care plan would not cover the costs of drugs classified as abortifacients, or drugs that induce an abortion. It would not cover the cost of abortions.
The Obama Administration ordered the company to do so and then, as a compromise, ordered the company to give money to other organizations that would then provide the abortifacients. Hobby Lobby sued and won in the United States Supreme Court. The Court held that under RFRA, the Obama Administration had already shown through various exemptions and alternatives that it had not used the least restrictive means to accomplish its goals.
Where RFRA once had bipartisan support, it is now opposed by the left. Compounding the problem is the march for gay marriage. In multiple states around the country, gay activists have tried to force Christian bakers, florists, photographers, wedding planners, and others to provide goods and services against their religious convictions to gay weddings. In states without RFRA, the Christians who have refused have been dragged before courts and punished. Some will be driven from business.
Liberals were happy with religious conviction when it allowed drug use. Now that it is being used by Christians to not pay for abortions or provide goods and services to gay marriages, the law is an abomination. Michigan’s legislature is considering enacting RFRA. A local CBS affiliate ran an actual, legitimate news story that doctors “and emergency medical technicians legally refuse to give life saving assistance to a gay person.” That is absolutely not true.
In Georgia, also considering enacting RFRA, Christian lawmakers are being accused by gay rights activists of being on the side of child and spousal abusers. Their argument is that child and spousal abusers could hide behind RFRA claiming it was their sincere religious conviction to abuse their children and spouses.
In the more than twenty years that RFRA has been law, no one has ever successfully argued that, but the left is repeating it over and over hoping some will find it is true. The left seems intent on letting others live their lives as they see fit, so long as their lives are led in ways the left sees fit.
Religious freedom is enshrined in the first amendment to the American constitution. The American left, increasingly hostile to any values, has made a decision to impose their lack of values on America. Dissent was patriotic when George Bush was President. Now that the left feels completely in control all dissent must be stamped out ruthlessly.