The Supreme Court is hearing argument about the Zubik v. Burwell case, which affects, among other plaintiffs, the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Most readers are aware that the case seeks relief for the plaintiffs from the Health and Human Services mandate that their Obamacare insurance policies invoke some mechanism which guarantees that the policies will be an instrument for distributing contraceptives. (I put it in those terms because the Obama administration has tried to argue that groups like the Little Sisters aren’t being asked, themselves, to fund contraceptives, if their policies trigger a mandate for the insurer to fund contraceptives. We had quite a discussion of that sleight-of-hand proposal when it was originally floated; see here and here.)
Now Terence P. Jeffrey has a post at CNSNews quoting Justice Sonia Sotomayor from the oral arguments heard on Wednesday. The tone of her query comes across as a bit plaintive:
In oral arguments in the Supreme Court yesterday, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked an attorney representing East Texas Baptist University, Southern Nazarene University, Geneva College and the Little Sisters of the Poor whether the United States government would ever be able to function if it could not demand that people do things that those people believe will cause their souls to “be damned in some way.”
“Because every believer that’s ever come before us, including the people in the military, are saying that my soul will be damned in some way,” said Sotomayor. “I’m not naysaying that that is a very substantial perceived personal burden by them. But if that’s always going to be substantial, how will we ever have a government that functions? How will we ever have anything that the government can demand people do in objecting…that won’t be a problem?”
Jeffrey has an elegant piece recounting the points made by the plaintiffs’ lawyers and the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I urge you to read it.
But the real answer is so much simpler than that. How have we had a functioning government for all those decades upon decades of our national life, while refraining from encroaching on people’s consciences and fear of their souls being damned?
That’s right: government did less.
It’s so simple, it’s ridiculous. The way you have a functioning government that doesn’t demand the people do things against their consciences is to limit what government does.