The Death of Liberty: Denny Burk, Hobby Lobby, and Religious Tyranny

In America, religious liberty is disappearing, or at least that is what Denny Burk would have you believe. In a recent article, Burk lambasted the United States government - as well as the American people for their apparent disinterest - for committing “the most egregious violation of religious liberty that [he] has ever seen.” What was this “most egregious act”? That Hobby Lobby - a for-profit business that is owned by a Christian family - will be fined $1.3 million dollars per day for breaking the law. The story truly is that simple, but not nearly that short.

"This is the most egregious violation of religious liberty that I have ever seen. The United States Government is forcing these Christian business owners to pay for abortion inducing drugs in their employees’ insurance plans. It doesn’t matter that the law violates their religious liberty to conduct business in a way that is consistent with their conscience." - Denny Burk

On March 23 of 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. On June 28 of 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling upholding the constitutionality of the ACA. This means that the ACA is the law, period. Part of the ACA was a requirement that insurance plans fully cover contraception, and this is the issue.

The owners of Hobby Lobby, who are among the Faithful, filed a lawsuit on September 12 of 2012 opposing the ACA because they would be required to provide the “morning after pill” and “week after pill” in their insurance plan. To be clear, the morning-after pill is not, as claimed by Burk and countless other Christians, an “abortion inducing drug”. The morning-after pills do not - I repeat, do not - terminate an established pregnancy. To say that again, morning-after pills do not end an implanted pregnancy. Instead, morning-after pills prevent pregnancy by: 1) delaying or preventing ovulation, 2) blocking fertilization, and  3) Preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus (and no, if the egg has not implanted in the uterus then the woman is not pregnant).

There are only three morning-after pills that have been approved by the FDA: Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, and Ella. Please note that the “week after pill” referred to by the owners of Hobby Lobby is actually Ella, which can be taken up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. The “abortion-inducing” drug that Burk referred to is RU-486 (mifepristone), also known as the “abortion pill", which does terminate an established pregnancy. Of course, the Affordable Care Act does not cover RU-486 or other drugs that are actual abortifacients, meaning drugs that actually terminate an implanted pregnancy. Facts like this, however, are disregarded by Burk and the owners of Hobby Lobby because facts are irrelevant.

Consider the following statement released by the owners of Hobby Lobby - the Green family - through The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty:

"The Green family has no moral objection to the use of preventive contraceptives and will continue its longstanding practice of covering these preventive contraceptives for its employees. However, the Green family cannot provide or pay for two specific abortion-inducing drugs. These drugs are Plan B and Ella, the so-called morning-after pill and the week-after pill.  Covering these drugs, as the government is forcing them to do under the threat of $1.3 million penalty per day, would violate their most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception, when an egg is fertilized. The FDA-approved government birth control guide clearly states that these two drugs, the morning-after pill and the week-after pill, may prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the womb, thus aborting the fertilized egg."

The issue here is belief, not facts. If it were only about the facts, it would be simple because the facts are quite clear regarding the Affordable Care Act:

  1. Churches and other houses of worship are exempt
  2. No individual health care provider will be forced or coerced to prescribe contraception
  3. No individual will be forced to buy or use contraception
  4. Abortifacients, like RU-486, that terminate an implanted pregnancy are not covered, period.

Hobby Lobby is a for-profit business and, while the owners are self-proclaimed Christians, this does not give them the right to operate outside the bounds of the law. No one is forcing the Green family to recant their belief that “life begins at conception, when an egg is fertilized”, which means that their religious liberty is still fully intact.

What the Green family and Denny Burk are concerned with is not the loss of religious liberty, it is the loss of religious tyranny.

At some point after abandoning their cognitive abilities, the Faithful mistakenly equivocated religious liberty with religious tyranny. They adopted the attitude that, simply because they believed something to be true, the whole of American society must accept and abide by it. In the minds of the faithful, their religious liberty trumps individual freedom. Therefore, when it comes to the issue of same-sex marriage, it is wrong because they believe that it is wrong and, because they believe it is wrong, individuals should be stripped of their freedom to marry their partner of choice, lest a man be allowed to marry a goat. Homosexuality? Wrong, and because it is wrong, individuals should be forced into reparative therapy and “homosexual acts”, such as sodomy (an act which many, many heterosexuals enjoy), should be outlawed, lest a man be allowed to fuck a goat. Contraception? Wrong, and because it is wrong, women should and must be denied the ability to make decisions about their own health, lest women taste freedom and demand equality.

"The first line of the Bill of Rights says this: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' Obamacare prohibits the free exercise of the owners of Hobby Lobby. Who’s next?" - Denny Burk

Burk attempts, in his twisting of the first line of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, to end his article with a powerful statement of support. (Note that this is not the first line of the Bill of Rights as Burk claims, which should cause you pause when considering his interpretation.) His effort, while impassioned, is a failure 

of epic proportions. The Affordable Care Act does not prohibit the Green family or their right to exercise their religious beliefs in any way. They are still free to hold whatever religious beliefs that they want, and to exercise those beliefs in any way that they so choose. They can participate in a Pro-Life rally, they can still sell Bibles in their store, they can still attend church services whenever they are able, they can pray whenever they like, they can evangelize to their hearts content, and they can praise the name of Jesus until they lose their voice. The religious liberty of the Green family, as well as all of America, is wholly intact.

What people like Denny Burk attempt to do with their fabricated outrage is distract you from the real issue: individual freedom. You see, their religious liberty requires that you sacrifice your individual freedom on their alter of belief. Simply because the Green family believes that “life begins at conception, when the egg is fertilized”, well, you have to embrace that belief as well. Never mind the fact that the Green family has no clue whether or not an egg has actually been fertilized and is being blocked from implantation, they want the right to deny you the right of contraception coverage. The Faithful want their religious liberty even if it means denying you your individual freedom, your personal liberty.

The Faithful are not interested in religious liberty, they are interested in religious tyranny.

They want America to be a theocracy.

They are America’s Taliban.

Other articles by Jeremy Barger