Free Exercise of Religion in Matters of Conscience

In an opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, the authors make the case for the illegality of the new birth-control mandate upon religious employers. They summarize the problem this way:

The Department of Health and Human Services would still require employers with religious objections to select an insurance company to provide contraceptives and drugs that induce abortions to its employees. The employers would pay for the drugs through higher premiums.

This mandate would require people who oppose abortion as a matter of religious conscience to be indirect participants in providing for the very act that violates their conscience. The authors demonstrate how this mandate violates both the First Amendment to the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

The free exercise of religion is not limited to what happens in a church building or religious service. Americans have the right to follow matters of religious conscience in their everyday life. The authors state:

The refusal, for religious reasons, to provide birth-control coverage is clearly an exercise of religious freedom under the Constitution. The “exercise of religion” extends to performing, or refusing to perform, actions on religious grounds—and it is definitely not confined to religious institutions or acts of worship.

Freedom of religion is an American right that we, as Christian citizens, should cherish and defend. It is a freedom that even precedes the First Amendment. When Roger Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island, he laid the foundation for complete religious freedom. In 1663, he obtained a charter from the king of England which became an important document in American history. This document read:

No person… shall be in any wise molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any difference in opinion in matters of religion… but that all, may freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences in matters of religious concernments.” (quoted by Paul Johnson in A History of the American People, p. 50)

Practicing our beliefs regarding abortion in areas of life like health care coverage is part of our free exercise of religion. The Bible shows us that abortion violates God’s moral standard against taking another person’s life, including the lives of unborn children who are made in the image of God from conception. (For a biblical understanding of abortion, see Dr. Robert McCabe’s excellent work here.) On biblical grounds, we do not want to participate or associate with abortion in any way.

Let us pray that the holocaust of abortion will end in our land. And let us be steadfast in following the dictates of Scripture upon our conscience so that we will have no association, whether direct or indirect, with the darkness of the murder of unborn children.

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.”
(Ephesians 5:11 ESV)

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