On March 25, the U.S. Supreme Court heard cases involving for-profit business owners opposed to the HHS Mandate requiring them to provide objectionable forms of birth control drugs in their health care packages.
The Greens, owners of Hobby Lobby, and the Hahns, owners of Conestoga Woods, represent two cases brought forward against the HHS Mandate that do not object to all forms of contraception. They are religiously opposed to providing drugs that may cause an early abortion.
The cases before the Court sought to answer if business owners are able to exercise their religious beliefs while running their companies. They are not, as groups such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood would like the public to believe, so much about birth control access.
The pro-life leaders who braved the weather to speak had many telling points at the rally outside the Supreme Court.
First to speak was Charmaine Yoest, President and CEO of Americans United for Life (AUL). Yoest mentioned “standing in the great American tradition of freedom of conscience.” To say these cases are about contraception “puts the ‘con’ in contraception.” AUL has filed many amicus briefs with scientific evidence that the cases heard before the Supreme Court have to do with life-ending drugs and devices. One of her closing lines provided a reminder about the motivation for standing for religious liberty. “This not an America we recognize, and we will do what it takes to stand for freedom of conscience.”
Next to speak was Sarah Torre of The Heritage Foundation. She mentioned that the government is saying that our faith has to be private, that we have to get in line with the HHS Mandate or get out of the way. This is the subject of bureaucracy, and a narrow view of who can practice faith.
Women Speak for Themselves‘ communications director Meg McDonnell was there to speak. McDonnell pointed out that the health care packages that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods provide are already more generous than required. They “run their businesses with the demands of family life at the heart of their practice.” Having to provide abortifacients interferes with the Green and Hahn families’ wishes to run their businesses according to their consciences. McDonnell also mentioned that while some women of their group agree with the Greens’ and Hahns’ objections and some do not, all agree “that businesses with consciences are good for women, good for families, and good for America.”
The next speaker was Penny Nance, President and CEO of Concerned Women for America (CWA). She declared that women of faith cannot struggle against the heavy hand of government and that we don’t check our faith at the door. Nance quoted James Madison: “conscience is the most sacred of all property[.]” She also pointed out that one third of businesses are owned by women.
Jeanne Monahan, the president of the March for Life, emphasized that these cases are about religious liberty. President Obama is changing the meaning of Church and State with the HHS Mandate. She declared that it is “un-American” to be forced to provide abortifacients, regardless of what the president believes.
Ashley Maguire, of the Catholic Association and of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is arguing on behalf of Hobby Lobby, spoke. She reminded the crowd that “all issues are women’s issues.” Maguire mentioned that this case is being hijacked by an alarming sense of paternalism and sexism to say these cases are trying to put bosses between women and their doctors. Women are bosses as well, and also entitled to religious liberty.
Jenny Beth Martin’s Tea Party Patriots was one of the first groups present at the Supreme Court. Martin spoke of these cases from the perspective of supporting the First Amendment, which is important to her and her group.
Speaking on behalf of Students for Life of America, as the Executive Vice-President, was Tina Whittington. If Whittington wanted birth control, she could get it herself, because she is a “big girl.” She is a “secular employer of conscience.” Making this case about birth control to mean equality ignores other issues in our nation. The right to conscience belongs to everyone, even those who own a business. The HHS Mandate directly threatens conscience, as well as life. Whittington quoted Benjamin Franklin: “They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” She reminded the crowd that through the HHS Mandate is not how to provide quality health care. Our nation was founded on freedom, but this is bullying into submission.
Marilyn Musgrave, vice president of government affairs for the Susan B. Anthony List, mentioned that many Americans dream of owning a business but don’t want to sacrifice their beliefs. Religious liberty is for all, even the other side. Musgrave pointed out that over 45 for-profit businesses that are plantiffs against the HHS Mandate are owned by women. Musgrave responded to points from the other side by saying that abortion is not health care and that abortion is not contraception. Having to provide abortion-inducing drugs and devices is wrong. It is offensive for the Obama administration to say that this mandate is pro-woman.
One of the few male speakers was Eric Scheidler, the executive director of Pro-Life Action League. He provided the interesting perspective: as a husband, son, brother, and father of six daughters, “women’s well-being matters very much” to him. He spent a considerable amount of time discussing the “troubling” nature of what the HHS Mandate says about those women and girls in his life. “That their feminine nature is somehow flawed. That their healthy fertility is some kind of medical condition. That motherhood is a disease that must be avoided with government-mandated services.” Scheidler has reason for saying that the mandate cannot stand, not only because of threats to religious freedom, but for the women in our lives.
Melinda Williams reminded the crowd that we are all called to protect vulnerable life, with whatever we do. It is profane to exploit others, to take lives, and to violate consciences. Hobby Lobby’s owners wish to provide generous health care package in a way so that they may still practice their faith. Surely the high court can find a solution for these brave religious business owners.
Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life likened these groups fighting for religious freedom to the apostles saying they will obey God, rather than the Romans and Caesar. The group loves God and country and would like to be able to do both.
Lila Rose, president and founder of Live Action, also spoke. Lila mentioned to the crowd that we are at an important crossroads and moment for fundamental human rights of life and religious liberty. She pointed out that billion-dollar interest groups have used confusion and fear to make this case all about contraception and women’s rights. They have misled the public. Pregnancy is not a disease, and abortion is not health care. This case involves drugs that cause death. It is bad enough what is already going on with abortion-inducing drugs, and we will not be forced to pay for them. Lila proclaimed that this case is about children in the womb, and also about religious liberty for business owners and taxpayers.
In a surprise appearance, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke to the crowd. Sen. Cruz echoed earlier points about our nation being founded by those fleeing from religious oppression. There is a reason why the first freedom in the Bill of Rights is the protection of religious liberty. He also reminded the crowd that this is about whether the government can force people to violate their faith. In response to the administration’s litigation against the Little Sisters of the Poor, Cruz said that this “runs utterly contrary of centuries of tradition to the protection of our Constitution.” He thanked the crowd for being there, for standing up for principles, for liberty, for faith, and for the Constitution. The senator closed by saying, “Religious liberty should resonate with every American… we should all respect the constitutional right of every American to seek out God with all of our heart, mind and soul.”
Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) also addressed the crowd. Rep. Gohmert recalled his thoughts on Roger Williams and noted that so many of our country’s founders had a stake in religious freedom. Gohmert remarked that is it “outrageous how far away we have come from the founding, of the rights of this country.” In thanking the crowd, Gohmert proclaimed that “if rights guaranteed under the Constitution are still going to be allowed to trump some agency’s whims, this Supreme Court ruling has to come out correctly. Otherwise, we are in a new country.”
We will indeed be “in a new country” if the Supreme Court fails to uphold religious liberty. We can continue to hope that the Supreme Court justices make the right decision, while also reminding the public what is truly at stake. These cases are about protecting our constitutional freedoms of religious freedom. All Americans should stand by us as we do so to protect human life.