“99-cent Condoms or Freedom of Religion, Take your pick”
California Democratic congressman Xavier Becerra is a Hispanic political commentator’s dream Hispanic politician what with his education at Stanford University in economics and law, with 25 years of political, governmental and elective experience and parents who immigrated to America from Mexico.
So why did I cringe, why was I embarrassed during his appearance on Fox News Sunday last Sunday (the 29th)?
Context: The United States Supreme Court was releasing its Hobby Lobby case decision on the birth control mandate within the Affordable Care Act the next day. The legal question for the Court was – Can a family owned business – a closely-held corporation — reject supplying/paying for certain birth control methods or pills that it considers to be abortion which owners object to for religious reasons?
Does the Constitution’s 1st Amendment guaranteeing freedom of religious practice nullify a government mandate to violate one’s religious belief and practice? Can that belief be of the business itself?
Chris Wallace, the show’s host, asked Congressman Becerra if business owners must violate their religious beliefs if the government mandates it.
Lawyer/congressman Becerra chose not to answer the question with a simple yes or no, he deflected it with Democratic talking points about a totally different issue; to wit (from the transcript of the interview):
Becerra: “The government will not violate anyone’s religious beliefs (which of course the United States Supreme Court ruled it did in the Hobby Lobby case the following day). But no one has the right to discriminate against a woman because of her own beliefs. I believe the Supreme Court will find that no business–“
Wallace: “She doesn’t have to work with the company.”
Becerra: “—no business should be allowed to discriminate against women. And we’ve gone beyond that. We should also try to pay them equally for the work they do.”
Wallace: “We’re not talking about that. We’re talking about the birth control mandate.”
Becerra: “Let’s protect the woman’s rights to be able to earn the same pay and live their lives –“
Wallace: “What about the owner’s right to his religious freedom, his religious beliefs?”
Becerra: “The owner has a right to his or her religious beliefs, but that doesn’t mean you get to discriminate against women if a woman has different beliefs than what the owner has and the woman wants to exercise her rights under the Constitution.”
The Court ruled otherwise; as a Stanford-educated lawyer Becerra astounded this writer with his grade school responses to the question: Can the government sweep aside the Constitution’s specific protection of the free exercise of religion and religious practices by mandate of unelected government rule-making employees?
Lawyer Becerra should have forcefully declared NO! He didn’t.
Can the government tell the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Roman Catholic order of nuns, that they must tangentially approve of mandated contraception/abortion pills and procedures by signing a government form to exempt themselves from the government’s demand they violate their religious beliefs?
Becerra would say yes, based on his answers to Wallace and based on his obvious moral equivalency of a woman’s right to free condoms and the constitutionally-protected right to practice religion.
Is there any such equivalency in the Constitution? If there is I can’t find it.
Certainly women have rights and men have rights but in the final analysis, some rights take precedence over others in our society. Some rights can also be regulated but religion regulation stops animal and human sacrifice not opposition to abortion and pills that destroy fertilized eggs.
Women were not denied birth control pills by Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor and any other religious group that believes their freedom of religion has been violated by the government. There are myriad ways and means of getting such pills and devices; as Wallace pointed out, no woman is forced to work for Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Moreover, the pills and devices in question are available on the open market outside of work place insurance in many cases for free. Thus, there is absolutely no denial of a woman’s right to contraception pills and/or devices. Thus no rights were violated.
But even if they were, was the United States of America founded on a woman’s right to the “morning after pill” or on the freedom of individuals to practice religion without government influence, interference or dictation?
We are not talking about a denial of “due process,” or vote suppression, or of natural born citizenship; no we are talking about the ability of a woman to buy over-the-counter condoms (99 cents for 12 at the 99-Cents Store) or which are available for free in many places vis a vis protecting the right to worship and religious practice.
Congressman Becerra and his Democratic colleagues don’t seem to have learned that at their respective universities like the-five-justice-majority of the Supreme Court obviously did.
Contreras formally wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times