STRANGE: Defending faith from federal bullies

The contraception mandate mustn’t profane Americans’ sacred beliefs

Thirty-three years ago, a nun by the name of Mother Angelica started a small television-broadcasting network out of her monastery’s garage in my home state of Alabama.

Ten years before she went live on the air, David Green started a small arts-and-crafts business from his garage, about 700 miles west in Oklahoma City.

Both of these garage startups now boast tremendous success. Mother Angelica’s network, EWTN, is the largest Catholic media company in the world. David Green’s family-owned company, Hobby Lobby, has 589 stores employing more than 27,000 people nationwide.

A nun and an artisan — two people propelled by their faith to serve their God. Two entirely different faces of the American dream.

Now, Mother Angelica and David Green have become two very different faces of the same legal battle: the fight against the government’s so-called “contraception mandate.”

Both EWTN and Hobby Lobby have been forced by the government, in the wake of Obamacare, to comply with a mandate that forces them to violate their most deeply held religious beliefs. Both face massive fines for refusing to comply — up to $100 per employee per day.

This is despite the fact that both EWTN and Hobby Lobby have already gone to great lengths to ensure access to good health care for their employees. Each managed to do so without covering drugs or procedures to which they object on religious grounds.

For the Greens, this meant honoring their widely shared belief that life begins at conception by excluding four forms of contraception whose U.S. Food and Drug Administration labels warn can destroy an embryo.

It also meant offering a free walk-in health clinic for employees at its headquarters, among other excellent benefits. For EWTN, it meant creating its own insurance plan and pushing back for years against pressure from the insurance industry to cover abortions.

No doubt Mother Angelica and David Green could never have fathomed that the journey begun in their garages would lead them to face a liberty-crushing government regulation forced on them by Washington bureaucrats. To make sure that liberty isn’t crushed, the lawyers at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty stepped in.

As Attorney General of Alabama, I am proud to see our state, along with 20 other states, stand shoulder to shoulder with the Becket Fund in opposing the Department of Health and Human Services mandate.

In standing for the religious rights of business owners, Alabama carries on its proud history of protecting our First Freedom. Sixteen years ago, Alabama became the first and only state to amend its constitution through popular referendum to forbid state officials from burdening the free exercise of religion unless there was no other way to accomplish a compelling state interest.

Alabama maintains that if the federal government really believes free contraception is that important, it can easily find a way of providing it without conscripting nuns, religious broadcasters and family businesses in violation of their religious beliefs. We will proudly stand in the way of federal bullies, and we are especially proud to be standing in solidarity with a plaintiff from Alabama.

No American should be compelled by Washington bureaucrats to violate his religious beliefs in order to start a ministry or run a business. That’s the argument of the Becket Fund, and it reflects our Constitution’s First Amendment and the bipartisan Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

It’s the argument that the nine justices on the United States Supreme Court will hear on March 25 when Hobby Lobby’s case is argued. I am proud to say it’s Alabama’s argument, too.

Here in the cradle of the civil rights movement, we must be ever vigilant for our citizens’ liberty, and so we stand with EWTN and Hobby Lobby.

Luther Strange is the attorney general of Alabama.

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