James Madison, a beloved Founding Father of this country and the author of our Constitution once stated in an essay titled “Property,” that a man “has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them.” He also went on to say that a man has a right to his property, and a property in his rights.
Freedom of religious conscious is our right—a right clearly stated in the First Amendment of our Constitution. The first line of it reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Congress prohibited my free exercise of religion when they passed the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court secured this violation today with a 5-4 vote that upheld the individual mandate in the form of taxation.
I am a Christian Scientist. I do not take medicine, get regular check-ups, or go to the emergency room. When it comes to medical concerns, I rely solely on prayer for treatment.
When a particular case is challenging and requires advanced help, Christian Scientist’s utilize Christian Science practitioners. Practitioners are employed in the full time practice of Christian Science prayer and are available for Christian Scientist’s by phone or appointment for prayerful work.
When I seek out practitioner work, I pay out-of-pocket. The government mandating that I pay a tax for something I don’t use and is direct violation of my religious creed is an over-extension in their “limited” power.
There are a few concerns in this ruling and the future of my religion.
Suppose practitioner work is covered under the ACA. Although practitioners would be guaranteed pay for their prayerful work there are many implications that stem from this.
The church manual emphasizes the importance and need of patient-practitioner confidentiality. Allocating health care funds to practitioners for prayerful work opens the door for government to breach this confidentiality. The government will be able to regulate the prayerful work and healing efforts, completely violating the personal relationship between the practitioner and patient.
The government may even assume authority of the church and regulate who can and cannot be practitioners. This would completely sever the separation of church and state and shatter the First Amendment.
Mandating that Christian Scientist’s pay a health insurance tax also inhibits our personal healing practice. Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, wrote in the church’s textbook Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures that, “Only through radical reliance on [God] can scientific healing power be realized.”
This tax would force me and other Christian Scientists to acknowledge and participate in the medical system we aren’t apart of. In fact, we work in opposition of it in our personal healing practice.
Even Just Elena Kagan agreed that Christian Scientists don’t have a place in the legislation during the oral arguments:
“But, of course, the theory behind, not just the government's case, but the theory behind this law is that people are in this market right now, and they are in this market because people do get sick, and because when people get sick, we provide them with care without making them pay. And it that would be different, you know, if you were up here saying, I represent a class of Christian Scientists. Then you might be able to say, look, you know, why are they bothering me? But absent that, you're in this market. You're an economic actor.”
Some groups do have a religious conscience exemption, but Christian Scientists aren’t among them. The Amish are exempt because they rely on a community ethic that prohibits government intervention. Their communities pay for the costs of their health care.
I don’t pay for OR use health insurance. If the Amish are exempt from this, why can’t I be?
This may seem like a small case against the First Amendment because it only affects a small group of people, but my concern is that it will open the door for many more violations. James Madison knew this when he said, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
Our government has slowly but surely encroached upon our freedoms in our country’s most sacred and precious document. The Supreme Court failed us and now we must step in and take action. If we don’t, we don’t deserve the freedom we chose to lose.
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