[Rant] The president created a firestorm when he said that insurance should cover birth control for all employees and the Catholic Church went ballistic saying that violated the First Amendment rights. However, religious institution were exempt, but businesses run by religious institution are not exempt. That distinction seems to be overlook. Religious institutions are limited to those who share their beliefs, religious businesses are open to serve the public, not just those who share their beliefs and that is a major difference.
When you serve the public, you have to obey the law, you cannot discriminate who you want employ or serve. A hospital cannot say I will only treat whites, you cannot say you will not treat Muslins, they have to treat all those who walk through their doors. There was a case a number of years ago where a lesbian couple wanted to get married in a pavilion on a boardwalk, the pavilion was owned by a church and they refused to rent it to the couple. The case was heard by New Jersey's Division of Civil Rights and they found that the church was guilty of discrimination.
"Our law against discrimination does not allow [the group] to use those personal preferences, no matter how deeply held, and no matter — even if they're religiously based — as a grounds to discriminate," Lustberg says. "Religion shouldn't be about violating the law."The same reasoning applies to requiring religious owned businesses to cover the cost of birth control. In 1990 the Supreme Court heard a case where a person was fired because of their Native American Church’s religious beliefs of peyote being sacrament. He was fired because he failed the drug test and he claimed that it violated the First Amendment right. The case went to the Supreme Court,
The Methodist organization responded that it was their property, and the First Amendment protects their right to practice their faith without government intrusion. But Lustberg countered that the pavilion is open to everyone — and therefore the group could no more refuse to accommodate the lesbians than a restaurant owner could refuse to serve a black man. That argument carried the day. The state revoked the organization's tax exemption for the pavilion area. Hoffman figures they will lose $20,000.
Justice Scalia solves the contraception debateThe court also ruled against plaintiffs when they claimed that they shouldn’t have to pay Social Security taxes because they were Amish. The court said,
February 10, 2012
But to Justice Scalia and the five justice majority decision in Employment Division v. Smith, the issue of when a person could exempt himself from a generally-applicable law wasn't a tough one at all.
Justice Scalia explained:We have never held that an individual's religious beliefs excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition. As described succinctly by Justice Frankfurter in Minersville School Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586, 594-595 (1940):Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs. The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities.(Footnote omitted.) We first had occasion to assert that principle in Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879), where we rejected the claim that criminal laws against polygamy could not be constitutionally applied to those whose religion commanded the practice. "Laws," we said,are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.Id. at 166-167.
Subsequent decisions have consistently held that the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with avalid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).United States v. Lee, 455 U.S. 252, 263, n. 3 (1982) (STEVENS, J., concurring in judgment); see Minersville School Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Gobitis, supra, 310 U.S. at 595 (collecting cases).
The obligation to pay the social security tax initially is not fundamentally different from the obligation to pay income taxes; the difference — in theory at least — is that the social security tax revenues are segregated for use only in furtherance of the statutory program. There is no principled way, however, for purposes of this case, to distinguish between general taxes and those imposed under the Social Security Act. If, for example, a religious adherent believes war is a sin, and if a certain percentage of the federal budget can be identified as devoted to war-related activities, such individuals would have a similarly valid claim to be exempt from paying that percentage of the income tax. The tax system could not function if denominations were allowed to challenge the tax system because tax payments were spent in a manner that violates their religious belief.The religious right know these court ruling, but they still try to force their religious beliefs on all of us. Consider their argument about not have to give “morning after” pill to rape victims, here in Connecticut all hospitals must offer the morning after pill to rape victims and a Catholic hospital lobbied to be exempt on religious grounds. They said that they should have to give out the pill, it will go against their religious beliefs. If you were a rape victim beating until unconscious and you are taken to the nearest hospital, and you wake up in intensive care fighting for your life. You say you want the morning after pill and they say sorry it is against our religious belief. Or you are pregnant and you pass out and wake up in intensive care, and they tell you that it is either save your baby or your own life… but it against their beliefs to abort the baby. You had no choice, they took you to the nearest emergency room and they made their medical judgments not on the best medical treatment for you, but on their religious beliefs. Or because of a medical condition you have to take birth control pills and your employer says sorry it is against our beliefs to give you the pills because the side effect is that they prevent pregnancy.
When you serve the public or employ the public, you cannot discriminate because of your religious beliefs. You cannot refuse to hire people because their race, their religion, you cannot refuse to hire people because of their gender, gender identity or expression, or their sexual orientation, their disability. When the President said all employers must provide coverage for birth control pills he didn’t single out religious organizations, he applied it to every employer and to exempt religious organizations, I believe is a violation of the First Amendment in giving special rights to certain religious organizations.[/Rant]