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Bryan Fischer: Business owners have a right to religious freedom just like churches do
Monday, July 30, 2012 11:32 AM

By Bryan Fischer 

Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point” 

The Constitution guarantees individual rights, not collective rights or group rights or organizational rights.  

All the rights enshrined in the first ten amendments are individual rights. (The 10th Amendment deals with “powers” not “rights.”) The right to freedom of speech, to freedom of the press, to peaceable assembly, to keep and bear arms, to be free from unwarranted searches and seizures, to a trial by jury, to exemption from double jeopardy and cruel and unusual punishment, etc. all belong to us as individuals.  

The concept that a right could belong to a group, to some collective, is utterly foreign to the thinking of the Founders. Whatever rights a group or entity has it has only because the individuals within it possess those rights. 

A church has the right to the free exercise of religion because every single member of that church possesses that right, not because the church as an organization or an entity has it. 

The understanding that constitutional rights are individual, not collective, is absolutely fundamental. Sadly, too many judges and cultural elites falsely believe that the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion belongs only to churches or to religious institutions. On this line of reasoning, then, if you aren’t a church or a religious institution, you have no constitutional claim to religious liberty. 

This could not possibly be more wrong, and could not possibly be a more pernicious threat to liberty in all its forms. 

But if the Constitution, as it surely does, prohibits Congress from interfering with the free exercise of religion, then business owners possess this right just as surely as religious hospitals do. 

If a business owner has precisely the same objection to the ObamaCare abortifacient and sterilization mandate that Christian colleges and hospitals have, he has every bit as much of a constitutional right to refuse this tyrannical mandate as organizations do. 

He possesses this fundamental, unalienable right not because he is a business owner but because he is a citizen of the United States. This right is his because it is God’s gift to him. No man and no government has the moral authority to deprive him of this right, because it has been bestowed on him by his Creator. 

At least one judge seems to get this. On Friday, Judge John Kane, a district court judge in Colorado, and interestingly enough, a Carter appointee, granted an injunction on behalf of Hercules Industries, forbidding the government from taking action against it over the contraceptive mandate while its lawsuit is being adjudicated. 

Hercules is owned and operated by William Newland, Paul Newland, James Newland and Christine Ketterhagen, devout Roman Catholics who have the same objection to providing contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization to its employees that the Church itself does. 

President Obama’s Department of Justice bizarrely argued that running a business requires them to forfeit all their constitutional rights.Said the DOJ, “Plaintiff’s free exercise claim fails at the outset because...for-profit, secular employees generally, and Hercules Industries in particular, do not engage in any exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment.” (Emphasis mine.) 

The judge flatly disagreed, saying that the government’s case was countered and outweighed “by the public interest in the free exercise of religion...the threatened harm to Plaintiffs, impingement of their right to freely exercise their religious beliefs, and the concomitant public interest in that right strongly favor the entry of injunctive relief.” Good for him. 

Here’s hoping this temporary relief becomes permanent and that every conscience-driven business owner in American can find shelter in its shade. Perhaps America can once again become the “land of the free” as well as the “home of the brave.” 

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.) 

 

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