Almost everyone knows by now that the Supreme Court has decided to hear a religious freedom-based challenge to the ObamaCare contraception mandate. I’m not sure, though, that everyone understands the stakes.
Seth Mandel explains them, quoting the language that Sandra Fluke and others are using to frame the debate. Fluke warns of “an attack on allowing employers to be required to provide this insurance coverage. . .”
Plainly, as Mandel puts it, leftists perceive “no freedom without government coercion: they want you to be forced to provide the funding for even their most private activities; only then will you be truly free.”
Accordingly, Mandel concludes that this is much more than a fight over birth control, or even Obamacare:
It’s about two fundamentally different views on American constitutional freedoms. Conservatives want those freedoms to be expansive and protected, as the Founders did. Liberals want those freedoms to be curtailed lest the citizenry get greedy or the democratic process imperil the state’s coercive powers.
It should be no surprise that freedom of religion lies at the heart of this clash:
The Founders saw religious freedom as elemental to personal liberty in America. But they were not alone in thinking that unimpeded religious worship was a guard against an overly ambitious or arrogant national government. As Michael Burleigh writes about the role of religion in post-French Revolution European politics, with a supporting quote from Edmund Burke:
The political function of religion was not simply to keep the lower orders quiescent, as has been tiresomely argued by generations of Marxists, but also to impress upon those who had power that they were here today and gone tomorrow, and responsible to those below and Him above: ‘All persons possessing any portion of power ought to be strongly and awfully impressed with an idea that they act in trust, and that they are to account for their conduct in that trust to the one great Master, Author, and Founder of society.’
A battle over the constitutional protection of religious liberty is not an abstraction nor, as in cases like the birth-control mandate, a minor social-issue front in the culture war. Such battles go to the heart of how we seek to govern ourselves and how we understand the fundamental documents that serve as the explication of our national political identity.
My guess is that a majority of the Supreme Court, schooled by President Obama’s systematic overreach, understands this. I suspect that the challenge to the contraception mandate will succeed.