Today, via Twitter:
Rep. Vicky Hartzler @RepHartzler
The First Amendment isn’t something to be “balanced.” It must be revered in all areas of government! #religiousliberty #consciencerights 11:38 AM – 15 Feb 12
Rep. Vicky Hartzler @RepHartzler
I support conscience protections for all people and organizations. No one should be forced by the gov’t to violate their faith! #HR1179 11:40 AM – 15 Feb 12
Justice Antonin Scalia, delivering the opinion of the court in 1990, in Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith (494 U.S. 872):
….The “compelling government interest” requirement seems benign, because it is familiar from other fields. But using it as the standard that must be met before the government may accord different treatment on the basis of race, see, e.g., [p886] Palmore v. Sidoti, 466 U.S. 429, 432 (1984), or before the government may regulate the content of speech, see, e.g., Sable Communications of California v. FCC, 492 U.S. 115 (1989), is not remotely comparable to using it for the purpose asserted here. What it produces in those other fields — equality of treatment, and an unrestricted flow of contending speech — are constitutional norms; what it would produce here — a private right to ignore generally applicable laws — is a constitutional anomaly….
….If the “compelling interest” test is to be applied at all, then, it must be applied across the board, to all actions thought to be religiously commanded. Moreover, if “compelling interest” really means what it says (and watering it down here would subvert its rigor in the other fields where it is applied), many laws will not meet the test. Any society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy, but that danger increases in direct proportion to the society’s diversity of religious beliefs, and its determination to coerce or suppress none of them. Precisely because “we are a cosmopolitan nation made up of people of almost every conceivable religious preference,” Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. at 606, and precisely because we value and protect that religious divergence, we cannot afford the luxury of deeming presumptively invalid, as applied to the religious objector, every regulation of conduct that does not protect an interest of the highest order. The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind — ranging from [p889] compulsory military service, see, e.g., Gillette v. United States, 401 U.S. 437 (1971), to the payment of taxes, see, e.g., United States v. Lee, supra; to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, see, e.g., Funkhouser v. State, 763 P.2d 695 (Okla.Crim.App.1988), compulsory vaccination laws, see, e.g., Cude v. State, 237 Ark. 927, 377 S.W.2d 816 (1964), drug laws, see, e.g., Olsen v. Drug Enforcement Administration, 279 U.S.App.D.C. 1, 878 F.2d 1458 (1989), and traffic laws, see Cox v. New Hampshire, 312 U.S. 569 (1941); to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, see Susan and Tony Alamo Foundation v. Secretary of Labor, 471 U.S. 290 (1985), child labor laws, see Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944), animal cruelty laws, see, e.g., Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 723 F.Supp. 1467 (S.D.Fla.1989), cf. State v. Massey, 229 N.C. 734, 51 S.E.2d 179, appeal dism’d, 336 U.S. 942 (1949), environmental protection laws, see United States v. Little, 638 F.Supp. 337 (Mont.1986), and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races, see, e.g., Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574, 603-604 (1983). The First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty does not require this….
….It may fairly be said that leaving accommodation to the political process will place at a relative disadvantage those religious practices that are not widely engaged in; but that unavoidable consequence of democratic government must be preferred to a system in which each conscience is a law unto itself or in which judges weigh the social importance of all laws against the centrality of all religious beliefs….
A disadvantage for religious practices that are not widely engaged in? How ironic, via Public Policy Polling:
February 10, 2012
Our polling on the birth control issue
– 56% of voters generally support the birth control benefit, while 37% are opposed. Independents strongly favor it, 55/36, and a lot more Republicans (36%) support it than Democrats (20%) oppose it. Women are for it by a 63/29 margin.
– Only 39% of voters support an exemption for Catholic hospitals and universities from providing the benefit, while 57% are opposed to one.
– There is a major disconnect between the leadership of the Catholic Church and rank and file Catholic voters on this issue. We did an over sample of almost 400 Catholics and found that they support the benefit overall, 53-44, and oppose an exception for Catholic hospitals and universities, 53-45. The Bishops really are not speaking for Catholics as a whole on this issue.
Effectively, Representative Hartzler (r) wants to use a law (HR 1179) to enforce the rules of a religious hierarchy over its members (and everyone else).