What days should Americans be able to live out their religious beliefs? Is religious liberty limited to church on Sunday or synagogue on Saturday? Or can deeply held beliefs influence the day-to-day lives of Americans?
Regular religious observance can have a positive impact on adolescent behavior, teen academic achievement, and maintaining an intact, married family. As research on Heritage’s FamilyFacts.org points out, teens who regularly practice their faith are at a decreased risk of using illicit drugs and engaging in sexual activity and tend to complete more years of schooling.
Families who frequent worship services are more likely to enjoy lower levels of conflict, increased marital stability, and greater parental involvement. Religious belief and practice can even have a positive impact on adults’ mental and physical health, decreasing major depression and lowering cancer mortality risks. In addition, those who regularly attend religious services are more likely to volunteer and make charitable donations.
Despite the positive effects of religious belief, recent government mandates and actions are increasingly antagonistic toward a broad role for faith in the public square.
One example of such antagonism is the Obamacare anti-conscience mandate, which forces employers to provide coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization regardless of moral or religious objection. The mandate’s narrow religious exemption applies only to formal houses of worship. Insinuating that faith should remain behind closed doors, not influencing or inspiring care for others, the government’s narrow view of religion is threatening the freedoms of countless Americans.
Thankfully, courts aren’t buying into the Administration’s offensively cramped view of religious liberty. Last week, a federal court granted Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a preliminary injunction against the coercive Obamacare mandate. This decision prevents Hobby Lobby from incurring possible fines of up to $1.3 million per day for not complying with the mandate while its case moves forward.
Like many families in America, the Greens, who own and operate Hobby Lobby, bring their religious beliefs into their day-to-day lives. They believe that “it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured.” So they seek to continue by “operating their company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.” However, the Obamacare mandate would force the Green family to facilitate coverage of abortion-inducing drugs despite the family’s religious objections.
Protecting the freedom of individuals and organizations to live out their faith in public ways—not trampling religious liberty through coercive government dictates—can ensure that more people enjoy the benefits of religious practice.