“Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured [in America] than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.”
In his 1981 Inaugural Address, President Ronald Reagan eloquently conveyed America’s rich history of protecting freedom, and the unwavering determination of American women and men to sacrifice even their lives to preserve freedom for the next generation. Fundamental to this American ideal of individual freedom and dignity is a profound respect for and protection of the conscience of every American. Since our country’s inception, Americans—regardless of political background, religion, race, or party—have striven to safeguard “the rights of conscience against the enterprises of civil authority.” Thomas Jefferson noted, “No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man.”
Indeed, “freedom and the dignity of the individual” have flourished in America because Americans recognize that following one’s conscience is paramount to a free and healthy society. Freedom of conscience is an American principle because we cherish freedom from government coercion. Our country was founded on the principle that every person should be protected to live according to his or her own religious beliefs or moral convictions without the Government imposing its views or coercing us to act contrary to our deeply held beliefs.
As Americans, we do not seek to impose unity of thought on any one—indeed, nothing in the law protecting rights of conscience prevents others from providing or obtaining a service to which an objection has been made. Rather, Americans unite to ensure that each person is able to live according to his or her conscience.
The Obama Administration, however, has launched an unprecedented assault on this American ideal. President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), which he signed into law two years ago this month, marks the first time in American history that the Federal Government has determined to impose specific coverage and care requirements on those who provide or purchase healthcare insurance. The coercive policies in the healthcare law impose both an abortion-coverage mandate and a life-ending drug mandate on all Americans. Importantly, because the ACA self-appropriated its funding, it bypassed longstanding federal and state conscience protection laws, exposing millions of Americans to attack.
The Obama Administration’s implementation of the healthcare law’s “Preventive Services for Women Mandate” is a significant example. The Obama Administration’s assault on freedom here is two-pronged—not only is President Obama coercing Americans to provide or buy services contrary to their deeply held religious beliefs of moral convictions, but also he has appointed himself and his allies as the sole arbiters of what is normative care for American women.
Although the Obama Administration is posing as a generous benefactor giving Americans something “free,” what it is actually doing is robbing Americans of their constitutionally protected freedom to act according to their moral convictions or religious beliefs—freedom that is not “free,” but that has been acquired at a great price.
Stalin understood well the implications of attacking these freedoms. He once stated: “America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality, and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within.”
In a different country, the current Administration would likely continue to wage its war against freedom undeterred and coerce Americans to “adapt” their consciences to the will of the Obama Administration and its allies.
But what Reagan and countless other American leaders have recognized about America is precisely the reason we will defeat this attack on the freedom of conscience.
Reagan continued in his Inaugural Address, “We’re not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope.”
We are standing at a crossroads—freedom indeed lies in the balance. What kind of America do we want to leave to our children? Let’s pay the price and ensure victory in the fight for freedom of conscience.