Obamacare Religious Exemptions Avoid the Actual Problem

It has been less than a year since Chief Justice Roberts erred in upholding the vast majority of Obamacare, including the individual mandate, as constitutional. With President Obama’s reelection campaign complete, the president is no longer bound by the Democratic Party’s tradition of paying lip service to the raucous interest groups and single-issue activists at the outermost Leftist fringe of contemporary politics. Such appeals are pure collectivism of the lowest sort, and withdrawing them does not in any way diminish President Obama’s hostility towards the rights and rational self-interests of all individuals – male or female – as demonstrated through the policies he implements. But as he will not be subject to another election cycle, he is far more concerned with gaining the favor of the public at large than of proclaiming such nihilistic policies openly – a public, by the way, which is still disgruntled enough with his policy decisions to deny his party control of the House of Representatives.

As is to be expected, Obama has already begun to employ the almost archaic political tactic of feigning centrism only to draw his political opponents further in his direction. After leading the policy goals of the Democratic Party as far to the left as they have been in many decades, he then demands compromise in Washington, offering up trifling concessions and soliciting exorbitant ones from the right. In effect, the president is willing to forgo almost insignificant portions of his agenda which matter little to America’s political landscape, expecting in return nothing less than gratitude and immense, game-changing sacrifices from his opponents. Such is no different than the actions of a medieval priest who, holding the imagined and illegitimate authority over the fate of his parishioners’ souls, promises to grant forgiveness to a sinner for his minor transgressions — which means nothing to the priest — but only in exchange for enormous indulgences.  When the president does not receive either (as he almost assuredly will not), he intends to paint the right as “dogmatic,” “extreme,” and “unreasonable” for refusing to give him the policies he requests, consequently blaming congressional gridlock for hindering legislation which, by his claims, would effect recovery and prove the supposed necessary role of the government in the economy — legislation which, according to the broad consensus of economists and policy experts , are ill-advised and destructive. If American voters are sufficiently convinced of this (I do not believe that they will be), then the 2016 midterms will give President Obama full control of Congress, and his last two years as President of the United States will be nearly unrestricted. This is the goal he seeks when preaching the mystic virtue of compromise, and he is using the Affordable Care Act – the very flagship of his presidency – to achieve it.

Early in February, the Obama Administration announced plans to alter federal regulations requiring religious institutions to provide health insurance plans covering personal contraceptives. Many religious organizations have challenged such orders in court, separate and apart from the individual mandate. Declaring (correctly) that the forced participation in plans that cover contraceptives is a violation of their First Amendment rights, religious organizations that object to the use of contraceptives have demanded the regulations be overturned. In order to prevent an protracted battle in court and undesirable new coverage, it appears that the Obama Administration will abandon the issue – in the name of “compromise.”

Meanwhile, the rest of the population remains yoked with the same provision. Whether religious or not, Americans are bound – under penalty of the law – to Obamacare in all its statist depravity. No matter their objection to this provision, or any other, the force of the government has overstepped its proper limits, violating man’s rights rather than protecting them.

Are the self-interested objections of these Americans to this force any less valid than the objections of religious institutions? Does an atheist lack any of the rights possessed by religious individuals?

No — man’s rights are universal, inherent within his nature regardless of his religious creed. Regarding the provision on contraceptive coverage, by the very fact that the law is unequally applied, it is unjust and ought to be abolished. That select religious institutions are privileged with avoiding the law’s effects while others are bound to it violates the Establishment Clause, which forbids the government giving preference based on religion, and the Equal Protection Clause, which forbids the government from the giving preference period. The law, to be just, must apply to all individuals equally.

Unfortunately, such a defense would be woefully insufficient in court given the state of contemporary American jurisprudence, as “equal application of the law” has morphed into “equal oppression beneath the law.” Though proper republican principles do require the law to be applied equally, equal application is not the only standard of justice to which a law must adhere. If the provision on contraceptives were challenged in court purely on these grounds, the judiciary is far more likely to strike down the exemption rather than the law itself. For decades, the court has followed a precedent that allows the government to “override,” so to speak, many First Amendment (and other) liberties if there is a “compelling public interest” — meaning, so long as the government declares that a policy is for the “common good,” then the individual rights of American citizens are irrelevant. In this particular instance — though the law is unequally applied and thus unjust — the Obama Administration need only argue past such objections, claiming that the law in itself still serves a “compelling public interest.” If the courts adhere to precedent (as Chief Roberts did in upholding Obamacare), then the contraceptive provision will be upheld and the exemption struck down, binding all equally to an illegitimate law.

The solution, as is always the case, is to look beyond superficialities to essentials — to recognize that the rights of religious freedom, as protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, are fundamentally not about religion.

To be clear, the issue at hand is not about the morality of contraception, nor is it about the rationality (or the lack thereof) in these organizations’ justifications for avoiding the purchase of contraceptives. More appropriately, they are fighting for their right to simply avoid such a purchase. Far from repeating Rick Santorum’s ignominious claim that the states have the “right” to ban contraceptives if they desire, these religious institutions are only requesting that they not be compelled to purchase or provide a good or service if they object to doing so.

This is a right all men possess – the right to dispose of their property without coercion. In actuality, the religious provisions of the First Amendment are merely property rights – the property every man has in his own person, and his rightful ability to use his life (and all that it entails) to worship or not as his judgment dictates. These religious rights are, however, only derivatives of that primary right, which is not negated because man lacks a religion and, thus, lacks a reason to practice that primary right in its secondary, religious context. It is on this basis, not the presence or nature of one’s personal religious convictions, that the healthcare provision on contraceptives – indeed, the entire law and a slew of others – is invalid.

As the result of over a century of philosophic default, and errors even at the time of the Constitution’s drafting, flagrant violations of man’s right to his own life and property are now sanctioned by the judiciary. The individual mandate, which requires all Americans to purchase health insurance at the point of a gun, is but one in a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing the dissolution of individual rights in the name of collectivism. It is impossible at the present state to make such arguments from primary individual rights and win in court, even if those rights are at the root of those expressly protected by the Constitution, and even if they are enumerated through the Ninth Amendment.

Better be it that a portion of those rights are respected through the religious provisions of the First Amendment than none at all. If religious organizations are capable of circumventing even a portion of Obamacare’s plethora of unjust regulations, then they should pursue those avenues to the fullest extent that they are able — all the while arguing that the law itself should not even exist. Their silent complacence is all President Obama desires from this move, and they ought not give it to him. For the present, most Americans will be unable to escape the clutches of this new law, and even those religious institutions fortunate enough to avoid part of the law will still be subjected to the vast majority of Obamacare’s abuses. Individuals of all religions and no religion are forced, regardless of personal conviction or self-interest, to take part in the destructive design of a nihilist’s dream.

To combat it, advocates of individual liberty must wage an intellectual war on the subjectivist moral doctrines that have so long plagued America’s philosophic culture. They must unite the rights still revered by most Americans – like the religious freedoms outlined in the First Amendment – with their proper origin: man’s life as his own ultimate value. Moreover, they must repudiate, in no uncertain terms, Obama’s mockery and insult of a concession which leaves the majority of American individuals constrained by an unjust and illegitimate law.

If the president truly wants compromise, he may have it. The question of how much or how little the scope of the state will be rolled back while he remains in office is open for debate – how much or how little the state should be expanded should, however, be out of the question.

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