Wednesday May 1, 2013

I was taught that America was founded so the Pilgrims could freely practice their religion. That America never had a state church means individuals and families choose what faith they believe and practice.

The government is supposed to protect those choices. The First Amendment guarantees, among other freedoms, the freedom of religion. Some call it the freedom of conscience. In 2013 legal experts will decide this question: Should a business owner who is philosophically opposed to abortion and contraception be forced to pay for contraceptives and abortifacients (drugs that cause abortion) in employee health plans? Obamacare mandates that they pay.

The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requires employers of more than 50 workers to provide insurance fully covering contraceptives, abortifacients (and also sterilizations). The HHS mandate prioritizes abortifacients and contraceptives as the most important health care -- because, unlike meds for cancer or heart disease which require co-pays and deductibles -- Obamacare mandates that employee health plans have no co-pay or deductible for abortifacients or contraceptives. Curiously, unlike some treatments for cancer and heart disease, contraceptives and abortifacients are relatively inexpensive. I wonder why HHS is mandating full coverage of low cost items.

David Green owns Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which has 525 large arts and crafts department stores across the country. The Greens are evangelical Christians who have no objection to contraception but are morally opposed to abortion. Their consciences forbid them from paying for abortifacients. They would rather close the doors on their business than violate their religious consciences.

Because Hobby Lobby is violating the HHS mandate, the Obama administration is assessing a daily penalty of $1.3 million. Hobby Lobby has sued the federal government. So have 54 other business owners. It will be very interesting to see how the courts rule on these cases.

ROBIN GREENSPAN

Becket