“Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we should soon want bread.”
– Thomas Jefferson
The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that employers provide access to contraceptives through health insurance is receiving backlash across the country, primarily from religious groups. A quick Internet search for news related to the mandate returns thousands of results, the majority of them related to the negative response – often in the form of lawsuits – from religious organizations. And that is to be expected. The mandating of the Federal Government for an employer to do something that goes against that employer’s fundamental religious beliefs is goes against the First Amendment, and therefore stands as a breach of the Constitution which the Government claims to uphold and defend.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is something that gets a significant amount of press in today’s society. People seem to have a knack for finding ways that Government (at all levels from Federal to Local) infringe on this landmark piece of legislation which declares that the citizens of this country are free to practice any religion without the interference in any way from the Government. However, most of the time that this Amendment is addressed it is because some City Council building has put up a Nativity set around Christmas, or a six year old kid is saying “…under God…” while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. That is, when people stand up to fight for their rights under the First Amendment, they are fighting for their freedom from religion, not of religion.
The HHS mandate is not the first instance where religion is taking a stand against the Government, but it is the most recent and probably one of the most necessary. Over time, as politics in Washington and down to the local level have shifted with new individuals elected, the line between Church and State has also shifted. That is, what a religion (or lack of religion) is allowed to do or not do has changed. Yet now, with the HHS mandate and other similar rulings, it is not so much a separation of Church and State with the State telling the Church (generally speaking) what is and is not permissible from a Constitutional standpoint, but rather a situation where the State is telling the Church what to do – in the case of the HHS mandate, provide contraception through health insurance.
But, as Jefferson alluded to, if Washington begins mandating how the people of the United States will live their lives, mandating what is right and what is wrong, mandating what groups can and cannot do, and what they must do, the people will not be satisfied. It is obvious from the aforementioned Internet search that religious groups across the country are fighting back against this mandate. In a country that was founded by people seeking religious freedom, where the first addition to the Constitution allows for people to practice (or not practice) religion in the way that they want, it is obvious that religion is a vital part of what makes this country great. And therefore, religion is what will be key to fighting against mandates against religion.
As one of the driving forces that built this country which was such a radical change from anything else in the world, it should stand to reason that religion can once again be a driving force for change – not a change to force religion on any one man or woman, but change to keep Church and State separate. Change to allow religious groups to make their own mandates for what they will and will not provide their employees.