- - Thursday, September 5, 2013

May religious families — be they Jewish, Christian or otherwise — exercise their faith in a family business? The right to do so was recently repudiated by The New York Times. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), once claiming to support religious freedom, recently praised a Mennonite family’s loss in court, opining with regard to the family’s small woodworking business that “corporations don’t pray and have values.”

Really? What about churches? They are corporations, too. Don’t they pray? The New York Times and the ACLU themselves are both corporations. They have no values? Anyone reading their editorials or press releases can see that they do.

The newspaper is a for-profit corporation, yet it has won important U.S. Supreme Court cases preventing the government from violating its constitutionally protected rights and its journalistic “values.”

Too many left-leaning groups attack religious freedom, and lately, it has been especially apparent in the context of Obamacare. In doing so, they are undermining the First Amendment freedoms of all Americans, including their own.

The now notorious abortion-pill mandate in Obamacare requires health insurance plans to cover items that can kill early human embryos and to cover other birth control. This rule affects the religious freedom of millions of citizens, including the aforementioned Mennonite family, the Hahns, who make wood cabinetry in Lancaster County, Pa.

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled against the Hahns when they requested an exemption from the abortion-pill mandate owing to the value they place on innocent human life. This set up a potential U.S. Supreme Court showdown, because it contradicts another ruling in favor of the Green family, which owns the Hobby Lobby store chain.

Obamacare’s supporters insist that families are not capable of practicing religion when they do things like build cabinets in a company. Supposedly, they “don’t have values.”

Why not?

The Hahns strive to deal fairly with their customers and treat their employees with dignity. Why shouldn’t we believe them when they say this is part of their Christian faith, along with their pro-life beliefs? Most if not all religions apply their ideals Monday through Friday, not just during worship services on weekends.

The opponents of religious freedom seem to be willing to sacrifice anything to prop up abortion. Many companies promote values besides profit, including left-leaning organizations such as Ben and Jerry’s and Microsoft. The stand of The New York Times and the ACLU these days would create an America where no businesses “have values” and, therefore, can only pursue greed. Only Gordon Gekko would celebrate that society.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which covers New York, recognizes that Jewish families exercise religion when they operate kosher butcher companies. The infamous U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit recognizes that families exercise their faith when they run manufacturing or pharmacy companies. The Supreme Court has long held that corporations exercise religion. Obamacare’s supporters would sweep away all this precedent just so religious families can’t object to the health care law.

Under American law, modern corporations can pursue any lawful purpose, including religion. That’s been true for a century. Religion is lawful in America, and so are environmental stewardship and social advocacy. These are all “values” that families can and do exercise when they run a business corporation.

If the government forced companies like The New York Times, the ACLU or Starbucks to, let’s say, pay for health insurance that covers sexual-orientation change therapy for those who no longer wish to practice homosexual behavior, those corporations (including the for-profit ones) would likely scream about their First Amendment freedoms. That same amendment, though, also guarantees the free exercise of religion, and it is not a second-class freedom.

Confirming that, President Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993. It protects “any” exercise of religion, its definition includes “corporations,” and it applies to any future law, including Obamacare. The First Amendment’s authors would almost certainly proclaim a hearty “amen” to this affirmation of their hard-fought — and timeless — principles.

Matt Bowman is senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents several clients in lawsuits against the Obama administration’s abortion-pill mandate.

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