A Democratically-led effort to subvert the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood case was voted down 56-43 in the Senate yesterday. Sponsored by Senator Murray, the Protect Women’s Health from Corporation Interference Act aimed to “ensure that employers that provide health benefits to their employees cannot deny any specific health benefits, including contraception coverage, to any of their employees or the covered dependents of such employees or the covered dependents of such employees entitled by Federal law to receive such coverage.”
The bill’s failure in the Senate is both encouraging and discouraging. It is encouraging because another attack on religious liberty has been thwarted, however narrowly. Despite these efforts, another branch of our government has now affirmed the right of the Green family and other business owners to conduct their business in a way that corresponds with their deeply held moral convictions. Christians can find hope in that.
It is discouraging because the bill was narrowly voted down and illustrated huge party divides. In need of 60 votes to be passed, the bill was only four votes away from overturning the Supreme Court’s ruling. Shouldn’t religious freedom, as it has been advanced in our country for over 400 years, be an easy “yes?” Or, in this case, it should have been an easy “no.”
Further, religious liberty ought to be a bipartisan issue. It is, perhaps, the one thing all should be able to come together and agree on. It is not the hope here that only the Green family would be granted religious freedom (and that it not be taken away after the fact). It is the hope that all would have the opportunity to live out what they believe to be true within the guidelines laid out in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the bill the Hobby Lobby case ruling was based upon.
Rather than see this as an advance for religious freedom, enemies of religious freedom have framed it as a “War on Women”—a shallow trope bandied about by spokesmen on the Left to paint religious liberty as an enemy of women’s rights. Affirming Hobby Lobby’s right not to provide only four of the 20 federally-approved contraceptive mechanisms does not deny women contraceptive coverage. Hobby Lobby gladly provides health care including 16 of the 20 federally-approved contraceptives. Some may also be forgetting that Hobby Lobby not paying for a contraceptive does not prevent a woman (or the government) from devising alternate pathways of access, as the Supreme Court intimated.
No, bipartisan approval of religious liberty is not what happened here. Only one Democrat voted against the bill, Senator Reid from Nevada—and this was for procedural reasons, not because he’s on the side of Hobby Lobby. Conversely, only two Republicans voted in favor of the bill, Senators Kirk and Murkowski from Illinois and Arkansas respectively. Such a narrow victory for religious liberty will not end the dispute as long as the Left sees sexual liberty as its reigning ideology. Unfortunately, this was a small battle won in the midst of a much larger war. In the shadow of another loss, it is likely it will not be long before opponents of America’s First Freedom make their next move.