Even in the Face of the Supreme Court’s Rebuke, the Biden Administration Continues Its Assault on Faith
Religious liberty is rightly regarded by many as our “first freedom,” because it is truly the foundation upon which our country was built. In its earliest days, America was founded and populated by religious people seeking religious freedom. Our Founders were deeply connected to our Judeo-Christian heritage: In his farewell address, George Washington remarked that, “Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” And in his Memorial and Remonstrance, James Madison asserted that “Religion . . . can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.”
While the U.S. Supreme Court has more recently protected religious freedom and free speech, the current Administration and the woke Left continue to try and chip away at our fundamental rights, particularly our right to observe our beliefs without government interference – or worse, the worry that government seeks to erase our ability to hold our beliefs at all if they are inconvenient to the popular dogma.
The vital importance of religious freedom to the American way of life is why we should celebrate the Court’s recent affirmation of religious liberty as a fundamental freedom that must not be encroached upon, whether by an employer or our government. In Groff v. DeJoy, the Court was asked to decide whether Gerald Groff – an evangelical Christian – had the right to be provided a religious accommodation for refusing to work on Sundays – a day Christians consider the Sabbath, a day to be protected by many people of faith. The U.S. Postal Service refused to accommodate his religious beliefs, arguing that even the slightest hardship to their business practices negated his religious freedom. Of course, this standard was absurd: American institutions and businesses should do more than just the minimum in seeking to accommodate religious employees.
The ACLJ made precisely this argument in our amicus brief to the Supreme Court in this case in defense of religious accommodations.
Thankfully, a unanimous Supreme Court took the opportunity to clarify its standard, saying that religious accommodations should be provided so long as they did not constitute a “substantial burden” for businesses, rather than just more than a minimal cost. This may seem like a small distinction, but it makes a massive difference for faithful believers like Groff. It means businesses need to do more than just the bare minimum when accommodating religious believers. It accords with common sense, too – if ours is a nation that respects and celebrates religious faith, we should expect our businesses to make reasonable efforts to do the same.
Unfortunately, the Biden Administration is taking steps to roll back protections for religious freedom. It recently signaled its intention to rescind a Trump-era regulation protecting the rights of conscience for medical professionals – meaning nurses and doctors will no longer have protections if they decline to carry out procedures that violate their beliefs, such as abortions or end-of-life decisions. And the Administration has also targeted religious adoption agencies, threatening to cut off federal funding if these agencies refuse to place children in homes that are in violation of their core beliefs. And we all remember how the Obama Administration weaponized the IRS to attack churches and religious institutions and organizations. Our nation must never become a place where the government’s view of morality holds more power than an individual’s belief in God. That’s why we must continue to push back against these assaults on religious liberty.
Our commitment to religious freedom at home should absolutely be reflected in our foreign policy abroad, too. This was my understanding as Secretary of State, which is why on two occasions we held a massive Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom and made religious freedom a core issue of our foreign policy. Whether it was punishing nations like Nigeria for allowing the persecution of Christians within their own borders or declaring that China was engaging in genocide and crimes against humanity with its treatment of Uyghur Muslims, advancing religious freedom was of central importance to our foreign policy. We argued that the status of freedom in any nation should be measured by its commitment to religious freedom.
It is to America’s detriment, and that of believers around the world, that this commitment to advancing religious freedom abroad has disappeared under the Biden Administration. Team Biden backtracked on our efforts to hold nations like Nigeria accountable, and it has prioritized climate change negotiations with China over all else, including protecting minority religious sects in their country. And the current Administration has also ended the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.
We should use the momentum of recent Supreme Court victories to hold the Biden Administration accountable for its failures to respect religious freedom at home and abroad. America was never meant to be a place where religion is absent from the public square or a nation where faith is treated as a secondary or private concern – that is a misreading of the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of our Constitution. America is a nation defined by religious faith, freedom, and values. These are the foundations of America, and they are worth defending.