Battling the False Definition of "Religious Freedom"

The Secular Coalition does not take a stance on whether the government should mandate health care coverage. However, it is our position that if it does, there should be no religious exemptions provided. While every American is entitled to their personal religious beliefs and practices, they do not have the right to impose it on others, including employees, or expect privledging from the government.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and opponents of the Health of Human Services rule on contraceptive care are pushing a false definition of religious freedom. This is part of a larger attack on the separation of religion and government, being waged at the state and federal levels via several avenues. The USCCB is asking the government to privilege its particular brand of religion over others--and over non-religion--and the worst part is that they are doing it under a smoke screen of religious persecution. True religious freedom allows for individuals to make their own decisions, not have the religious beliefs of their employer forced upon them.

The Supreme Court has ruled on this issue several times:

  • In its 1878 decision on Reynolds vs. the United States, the Supreme Court took up the question of whether the government's laws overruled religious belief and found that they did.  The decision read, in part, "Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances."
  • In the 1986 case, Bowen v. Roy, the Court ruled that “Free exercise clause does not require Government to conduct its internal affairs in ways that comport with the religious beliefs of particular citizens.” 
  • In 1990, in the case of Employment Div., Dept. of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, the Court’s decision read, “…the right of free exercise does not relieve individual of obligation to comply with valid or neutral law of general applicability on ground that law proscribes, or requires, conduct that is contrary to his religious practice, as long as law does not violate other constitutional protections.” 

The Secular Coalition for America has been working in conjunction with other groups--both religious and secular-- that allign with us on these principles.

Here, some of the actions the SCA has taken to protect the secular character of our government, as it relates to this timely and important issue, as well as several closely-related issues:





  • Religious Health Care Exemptions for Children Reward Neglect
    By Lauren Johnson, "In March 2009, 17-year-old Zachery Swezey complained to his parents that he didn’t feel well. His parents believed he had the flu. Zachery suffered fevers and vomiting for days as his condition worsened. Finally, when he could no longer walk to the bathroom, Greg and JaLea Swezey called church elders to come over and anoint their son with olive oil."
  • Victory for Secularism in North Dakota on Measure 3
    By Nathan Cox, "It was a welcome victory for secularism on Tuesday, as voters in North Dakota soundly rejected a proposal that would hand broad privileges to the deeply religious."
  • Ruling That Stops Taxpayer Funding of Catholic Beliefs to be Appealed
    By Kelly Damerow, "The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) are appealing a recent federal court ruling that found unconstitutional the government authorization and funding of their religious-based restriction on services to help sex trafficking victims. Congress appropriated up to $10 million for the U.S."
  • Catholic Bishops Wage War on True Religious Freedom
    By Lauren Anderson Youngblood, "Last week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a proclamation that called for every priest, parish and layperson to participate in a 'great national campaign' to 'defend religious liberty', which they said is 'under attack, both at home and abroad.'"
  • The Secular Movement Can Save Your Birth Control
    By David Niose, "It's almost surreal that in today's America, birth control can be seen as a 'controversial' issue. A serious presidential contender strongly advocates against it, and Congress recently was just a few votes away from allowing employers to deny contraceptive coverage based on vague 'moral or religious' objections."
  • Romney Comes out Against Blunt Amendment (UPDATED)
    By Lauren Anderson Youngblood, "Note: This posting has been updated to reflect a statement released by the Romney campaign."
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia? Rather … Who Isn’t?
    By Lauren Anderson Youngblood, "The Virginia state legislature is ruffling a lot of feathers recently—and heavily blurring the line between religion and government."
  • Attacking Religious Liberty? Churches Aren’t People.
    By Lauren Anderson Youngblood, "In the last few weeks the issue of religious liberty has exploded nationally. The spark that lit the flame was the implementation of the Department of Health and Human Services’ rule requiring that all employers include contraceptive services coverage in the health insurance they provide to employees."
  • Contraception choices belong to employees, not employers
    By Nick Fish, "We must draw a distinction between an individual's right to practice his or her religion without interference from the government and an organization's "right" to impose its religious views on its employees."
  • For Sex Slaves, Catholic Bishops' ‘Help’ is No Help at All
    By Lauren Anderson Youngblood, "In the United States, every year an estimated 50,000-75,000 women and children are trafficked into the country and forced into sexual servitude. As startling as that number is, it doesn’t even include the hundreds of thousands already residing within our borders forced into the commercial sex industry."

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