Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) recently argued against a controversial Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring employers to pay for contraceptive supplies and abortifacient pharmaceuticals because it tramples on religious liberties guaranteed by the US Constitution’s 1st Amendment.
In the video below, the congressman grills a noticably perturbed HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius over her claim that the mandate struck “the right balance” between a compelling government interest and religious liberties. The rule forces employers to provide “free” contraception, sterilization and abortifacients to employees, and is widely opposed by Christian businesses.
Congressman Gowdy’s argument regarding the HHS mandate’s hostility toward religious liberties was also posted as a guest editorial on Politico.com entitled, “Government cannot regulate religious beliefs.” In the piece, the congressman described several Supreme Court cases where religious groups prevailed over compelling government interests in the High Court.
When a state required — in the interest of an educated citizenry — all students to stay in school until a certain age, a religious group objected because it violated their religious beliefs. And the Supreme Court agreed with the religious group.
When a state attempted to ensure a loyal citizenry by requiring students to pledge allegiance to the American flag, a religious group objected because it violated their beliefs. And the Supreme Court agreed with the religious group.
When a state decided to outlaw animal sacrifice, a religious group objected because it prevented them from performing a specific ritual. And the Supreme Court agreed with the religious group.
When a state decided to require uniform license tags for motor vehicles, a religious group objected because it didn’t agree with the language used on the license tag. And the Supreme Court agreed with the religious group.
When a religious group fired a minister, the Obama administration objected and claimed it was a violation of employment law. The Supreme Court, in a rare 9-0 opinion, agreed with the religious group that the government does not get to pick ministers for churches.
In the instances above, it is nearly inarguable that goals such as an educated citizenry, loyalty to state, the prevention of animal sacrifice and the avoidance of employment discrimination are laudable — perhaps even compelling — government interests.
Gowdy concludes it is “not the role of an administration to merely accommodate the religious beliefs of the citizenry.” He adds, “[Do] not require those with different religious beliefs to surrender those beliefs.”
Gowdy (R-S.C.) is a member of the House Judiciary Committee, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a former state and federal prosecutor.