At noon today, the Fortnight for Freedom will formally end with churches across the country ringing bells in celebration of religious freedom.
Americans across the country have found ways large and small to express gratitude for our heritage of religious freedom and demand the greater protection of this cherished right. From blogging to rallies to ringing bells in celebration of religious liberty, communities and churches are standing in solidarity for the defense of our first freedom.
Americans understand the unique and important role of religious liberty as the cornerstone of our constitutional freedoms. The ability to freely worship and act in accordance with a particular faith without fear of government reprisal is essential to civil society.
As Heritage research fellow Ryan Messmore wrote at the beginning of the Fortnight: “Religious freedom protects our ability to live according to our deepest beliefs. It means we don’t have to hide who we are and what we stand for.”
It’s a freedom recognized as essential by the Founding Fathers and defended by policymakers, citizens, and religious leaders alike.
However, overreaching government dictates and a growing disregard for the role of faith in public life has led to increasing erosions of religious liberty. Perhaps none is as pressing as the Obamacare mandate’s assault on the right of individuals and organizations to work in accordance with their deeply held beliefs.
During the Fortnight, Heritage profiled a few of the many victims of Obamacare’s coercive disregard for religious freedom. From charities faced with hefty fines for practicing what they preach to business owners told their religious freedom stops at the door to colleges forced to end student health plans because of Obamacare’s costly provisions and threat to conscience, the health care law jeopardizes the work of countless institutions.
As Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, explained last week, the mandate is not the only onerous provision of Obamacare that threatens civil society. Weak or non-existent protections for conscience rights, new funding streams for elective abortion, and numerous provisions that could weaken parental rights could place many more Americans in the path of Obamacare’s liberty-crushing dictates.
Despite Obamacare’s clear threat to freedom, the Supreme Court last week ruled to uphold the health care law. That means the 23 federal lawsuits against the mandate—which goes into effect on August 1—now take on added urgency. And while the mandate is litigated in court, the broader fight for freedom now moves to Congress, where full repeal of the law is needed to ensure the protection of both religious freedom and individual liberty in general.
As Heritage’s Jennifer Marshall writes in an op-ed last week:
Religious freedom requires that the government not interfere with religious faith, nor with the works it inspires. When a policy threatens religious liberty, it often threatens freedom more generally. It shows that the government has swelled beyond its limits and is placing the foundations of American society at risk.
While the Fortnight concludes today, the fight to defend religious freedom will not end with the last bell chime or firework blast. Much work is still needed to ensure that a properly limited government respects and protects the rights of its citizens to not only believe but live out their faith.