Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit widows and orphans in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. - James 1:27
One of the best teachers of constitutional law never donned a judge’s robe or earned a lawyer’s license to practice law. Joe Sobran studied English literature at a Midwestern college. His specialty was Shakespeare. And he kept his eye on the post-modern ball: liberalism’s relentless purging of Christianity from American law and life. C.S. Lewis said the State is forever telling the Christian to keep his religion to himself as It makes sure he’s never alone. Sobran catalogued the many ways the State keeps us company.
One of those ways, Sobran said, is by expanding liberalism’s pet rights to absurd and grotesque lengths, all the while contracting traditional liberties to the vanishing point. Two recent cases are on point.
In the first case, a federal judge declared a prisoner has a constitutional right to mutilate himself through a sex reassignment surgery. If you wonder how a prisoner who’s been incarcerated for over twenty years would get the money to pay for it, don’t worry. Massachusetts taxpayers are obligated under the United States Constitution to foot the bill. The prisoner, so says the judge, sincerely believes he is a woman “cruelly trapped” in a man’s body. So Massachusetts’s refusal to pay for a sex change is cruel and unusual punishment. This, we're told, violates the Eighth Amendment. To secure the blessings of liberty, the federal judge says Massachusetts may be on the hook for $800,000 in attorneys fees. (The aggrieved prisoner was convicted in 1990 of strangling his wife, by the way.)
Someone once said taxes are the price of maintaining civilization.
Take the second case. Christians who own and operate Hobby Lobby fear God and don’t want to pay for their employees’ abortifacient drugs under a nationalized healthcare mandate. They employ over 13,500 people and out of Christian charity provide them health insurance. (Hobby Lobby also closes its doors on the Lord’s Day.) Do they have a First Amendment right to refuse to pay for their employees’ chemical abortions? Well, not exactly. Nationalized health care is a neutral and generally applicable law. And Hobby Lobby is a “secular, for-profit corporation.” Secular, for-profit corporations can’t worship, can they? Because the owners are only “indirectly” affected by Hobby Lobby’s being forced to pay for murder, the owners’ free exercise rights aren’t “substantially burdened.”
To continue operating their business and avoid becoming an accessory to homicide, the owners of Hobby Lobby do have options. They can (1) terminate 99.6% of the company’s 13,500-employee workforce, or (2) incur a $1.3 million dollar fine every day.
Today’s rulers are very imaginative and adept at finding rights to do revolting things that would have made prior generations revolt. Where there’s a perverse will, there’s a devious way. But when it comes to upholding the rights those prior generations actually secured in the organic law, our rulers’ powers of verbal ingenuity and finesse suddenly fail them. The light dims. They must tiptoe ever so cautiously. Quietly. Shhhh.
Yes, let’s pray that Hobby Lobby will prevail on appeal. But what’s the next oppression we’ll acquiesce to? Is there anything left to horrify us? That is, horrify us into action?