Roberts Defends Religious Freedom … Just Not Regular Freedom

“If children do not understand the Constitution, they cannot understand how our government functions, or what their rights and responsibilities are as citizens of the United States” – Chief Justice John Roberts

When I was a kid I wondered what stopped a man, any man, from starting his own “religion” – and then demanding that he could do anything he wanted under the pretense of religious freedom. It sounds silly, I know, but I actually did think about these things when I was a kid.

It seems like a legitimate question though. If we have religious freedom, how does one go about deciding what does and doesn’t qualify as an actual religion? (I think I’ll start a cult of monetary freedom tomorrow and see how it goes.)

Earlier today the Supreme Court struck down the “contraception mandate” of Obamacare. The ruling stated that corporations (which are fundamentally aggregations of individuals, presumably with rights of their own) can hold religious objections to providing contraception in their insurance benefits package. The logic seems to be (i) people have religious freedom, (ii) a religious expression of conscience can lead one to be morally opposed to contraception and (iii) corporations are people too.

I don’t disagree with the ruling. In fact, I don’t think it goes far enough.

How is it that the Supreme Court can distinguish between religious freedom and plain, old, run-of-the-mill freedom? Is it that we only have freedom, no-kidding freedom, if we are scared that God will “get us” if we do something the law mandates? (One suspects this puts those poor atheists at a significant disadvantage. Having no fear of eternal retribution they can hardly claim “religious freedom” when protesting a government mandate like the one in Obamacare.)

I contend that the reasons are actually unimportant from the standpoint of the law. What business is it of our neighbors what our reasons are for behaving in this way or that?  Why should it matter that Hobby Lobby protests contraception on religious grounds? Why can they just not be free … like all the other “free” people here in the land of the free?

I will admit though, it is comforting to see the Supreme Court, and Justice Roberts in particular, struggle with the gray areas they have constructed over the years.

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