In 1993, the Democratic majority controlled Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SFRA). With great fanfare, the Democrats' recently-elected President, Bill Clinton, signed the bill into law. The law has had some controversy with several decisions over the last 20 years by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). In one case, the SCOTUS did rule the law could not be imposed upon the states, but generally it has been upheld.
Now, after 20 years as law of the land, many Democrats are expressing alarm at what the law requires. Namely, as the SCOTUS recently ruled, the law requires that any government mandates not exempted from the law that impinge upon a person’s religious liberty must be the “least restrictive alternative” to achieve the government’s compelling interest. In the ruling, the court noted that the HHS had offered accommodation to some religious groups. As such, the imposition upon Hobby Lobby was not the “least restrictive alternative” to achieve the government’s interest and the HHS mandate was in violation of the RFRA.
Now we hear from national and local Democrats that they are shocked at what was in the bill that became the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Apparently, the RFRA protects religious beliefs from wanton impositions by government officials and requires that any requirement imposed to fulfill a compelling governmental interest be the least restrictive alternative. What that “least restrictive alternative” is remains to be determined in future SCOTUS decisions, but we know it isn’t as the bureaucrats imposed in the law.
Now this all comes about because of another bill passed by a Democratic majority controlled Congress and signed into law by a recently elected Democrat president. That bill was the Patient Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as, Obamacare. Of that bill, House Speaker Pelosi said that they had to pass the bill to see what was in it. Given their surprise at what was in the RFRA, perhaps we should be nervous about what will be found in the much longer and complex Obamacare law.
However, one thing we now know is not in the Obamacare law, and could have been added so very easily, with just a single sentence, is an exemption from the RFRA. Surprise for the Democrats who passed the bill? Or did they leave the exemption out to keep support for passing the legislation? Perhaps it was just an oversight. If we remember, the bill was thrown together late at night then rushed to a vote with no time for it to be read, i.e., they had to pass it to find out what was in it. Some Congressional aide could have dozed off and lost their place when they wrote the bill up leaving out the sentence?
What we do know is, back in 1993, a Democratic majority controlled Congress and a Democrat president enacted a law that now, 20 years later, many Democrats, a good many of them in that Congress or involved in that White House are shocked, shocked they say, at what was in the bill.
Of course, they don’t frame their response that way. Instead they say it is a war on women. When in reality it is simply a group of bureaucrats in Washington who couldn’t be bothered in complying with the law of the land as they decided that employers must provide “free” birth control, including those that act after conception. The bureaucrats with their Democrat administration political leaders decided that the religious beliefs of those now required to provide this “free” benefit were to be run roughshod over.
Imagine their surprise to discover that the law of the land applies even to government bureaucrats and agencies. At least in this instance.
Jeff K. Brown