By Kathryn Lopez, NEA Columnist
The Independence Day celebration started early this year, on the very last day of June, in front of the Supreme Court of the United States.
I got to the marble steps just a little before the ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, in which the company objected to covering some forms of birth control for its employees, citing religious reasons. Already there was a hopeful anticipation, as Kristan Hawkins from Students for Life led the students, interns, activists, wives and moms in a rally.
Also before the Court were the similar religious-liberty concerns of the Hahn family -- they are Mennonites -- who run a cabinet-making company in Pennsylvania. The Hahns are about the last people in the country who would have wanted to make a federal case of anything. But the federal government had forced them, along with many others whose cases are still pending, including the religious charity group Little Sisters of the Poor, into this position.
The 5-4 decision from the court vindicated the rights of such groups and dealt a blow to the Justice Department. Immediately, opponents of the ruling on the scene outside the Court -- and throughout those places where we gather to opine -- declared that although women were being "screwed" (the most family-friendly phrase of the online reaction), birth control is "here to stay." This was never a question. No one's taking away contraception access on account of the Hobby Lobby ruling, and the Greens were never advocating such a thing. The Obama administration, however, was actively denying the religious liberties of the Greens and Hahns.
In the end, the Court ruled that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protected these family-run businesses from the coercive power of the mandate. Bill Clinton signed the legislation, which Ted Kennedy helped pass, in 1993.
Outside the Court that morning, activists representing groups including NARAL Pro-Choice America, who helped craft the mandate in the first place, were on-site, too, led by a young man screaming about birth control, as a rainbow-colored sign greeted traffic, insisting that the religious-liberty claim at issue was "Bigotry Disguised as Religion." But what I saw were mostly young women who came out to voice their appreciation for Americans who would go to Court to defend what has been described as "our first, most cherished liberty."
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asserted that "The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would ... deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' beliefs access to contraceptive coverage." This portrait is an unnecessary distraction, as abortion-inducing drug and contraception coverage is not a right that people have fought and died for, while religious liberty is.
Ginsberg also writes: "Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community." As much fun as the media has with the old Mitt Romney line about people and corporations, the owners of Hobby Lobby didn't surrender their religious-liberty rights the day they decided to supply the scrapbookers of America.
Upon reflection, I wonder if Justice Ginsberg might be relieved that she did not win the day. Not so long ago, she voiced the opinion that the Court's Roe v. Wade ruling had actually done damage to the abortion-rights cause, having been an unnecessary momentum-killer. If the Obama administration, bolstered by the abortion industry, truly does believe that abortion and contraceptive coverage is basic health care, it should make that case out in the open. Instead, since the very beginning of the debate, it has argued using obfuscation and demonization, sowing confusion and even intentionally misleading, while accusing others of "bearing false witness."
We live in a time when there is a lot of confusion about fundamentals -- faith, family and freedom. When the women showed up that morning at the Court, they were encouraging all Americans to treasure the gifts we have as a free people. You don't have to shop at Hobby Lobby to celebrate the victory won for us all before the Court.