Christian friends group reading and study bible together in home or Sunday school at church with window light
Christian friends group reading and study bible together in home or Sunday school at church with window light

Religious Freedom: Biden Policy Not Where Administration’s Mouth Is

Crossposted at Humanize

It is International Religious Freedom Day, and our secretary of state is all over it on Twitter:

Freedom of religion or belief is a founding principle of our nation and is enshrined in our Constitution. On International Religious Freedom Day, we recommit to making this freedom we enjoy a reality for everyone, everywhere.

But here’s the thing: The Biden administration is antithetical to religious freedom here at home. For example, the administration enthusiastically supports the Equality Act (H.R. 5), which already has passed the House. The legislation would, among other impositions, punish refusals to provide abortions and transgender transition services as “discrimination” against civil rights.

Moreover, it explicitly guts the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — the last existing substantial federal protection for the free exercise of religion. (The RFRA was the basis of Hobby Lobby’s winning its Supreme Court case against being forced to pay for insurance coverage of the morning-after pill in violation of the owners’ religious beliefs on the matter.)

From H.R. 5:

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.

Without the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a defense — the Supreme Court having ruled that laws of general application do not violate the First Amendment when forcing people to act in violation of their faith — this would mean that medical professionals whose religion precludes participation in legal but controversial acts such as abortion would have no free-exercise-of-religion defense.

Among other subversions of religious freedom, this policy could force Catholic hospitals to permit sterilization, contraception, abortion, and transgender surgeries on their premises despite their being prohibited by Catholic moral teaching.

The Equality Act would also require allowing boys who identify as females to use girls’ dressing rooms and shower facilities:

(With respect to gender identity) an individual shall not be denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.

Without the RFRA, religious schools would legally have no defense against refusing transgender girls such use — even though such acts could violate orthodox religious schools’ faith precepts about the theological importance of — and distinctions between — male and female.

Supreme Court justice Frank Murphy once wrote that freedom of religion has “a double aspect — freedom of thought and action.” In other words, to be truly religiously free, one must not only be free to believe, but to act in the public square consistently with those beliefs.

Until President Biden protects the right to act in the public square here at home consistently with one’s religious beliefs, his administration’s support for International Religious Freedom Day has to be judged so much hot air.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.