Do some implied “rights” outweigh explicit constitutional rights?
Kamala Harris’s Threat to Religious Believers is a real thing, and the author of this piece admirably avoids superficially dwelling on her one line of implicitly anti-Catholic questions to one judicial nominee.
Harris clearly favors some dignity interests (elevated to “constitutional” status by judicial alchemy) more highly than the dignity interest of holding one’s faith with integrity, protected by the free exercise clause.
- For Biden, one can profess one’s faith publicly, but should not allow that faith to inform one’s policy positions. For Harris, to do so disqualifies one from public life.
- Harris sponsored the Do No Harm Act for the express purpose of emasculating RFRA laws. As she explained on the website introducing the act, it would prevent RFRA laws from “being used to deny” such things as “Healthcare access, . . . coverage or services to which persons are otherwise legally entitled,” or “Services that the government has contracted to be beneficiaries through a government . . . grant.” … In a statement on her website explaining the purpose of the act, Harris uses a very narrow definition of religious freedom. “The freedom to worship is one of our nation’s most fundamental rights,” she writes. “That First Amendment guarantee should never be used to undermine other Americans’ civil rights.” The problem, of course, is that “the freedom to worship” is not a “First Amendment guarantee.” The First Amendment guarantees the “free exercise” of religion, which has a much more expansive scope than mere “worship.”
- If your religious belief requires you to exercise certain moral obligations, or observe certain moral scruples, but you are not prohibited from entering the church, then those obligations can be prohibited, and those scruples compelled—all while protecting “the First Amendment guarantee.” Free exercise of religion equals private prayer or conviction, and nothing else.
- Though Biden has not articulated it as Harris has, his public life demonstrates that he agrees with this truncated understanding of the exercise of religion. By all accounts, his “devout faith” has nothing to do with his moral convictions and opinions. Informed by secular left politics, Biden’s moral life is separate from, and seemingly innocent of, any trace of Catholic moral formation. And he would force this view on others through law and policy. For example, Biden has promised to force the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns who care for low-income elderly people, to facilitate procurement of contraceptives for their lay employees, reversing a recent victory for the nuns in the U.S. Supreme Court.
This does not change my bottom line, which is that I will vote for Biden-Harris, if my state polls really close near election day, in preference to the ambulating trainwreck Donald Trump. But it’s another lousy choice, and I don’t expect ever to see a good major-party choice again in my lifetime.