In an earlier post, I had said that I did not think the requirement that health insurance including contraceptives being available to the employees of church-related institutions violated the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion. This afternoon I came across a passage from the SCOTUS Opinion on Employment Division v. Smith (1990) and think it supports my view, though the circumstances of the case were very different. The Opinion was penned by Justice Scalia.
Here is a portion I think relevant to the contraception discussion (read the full document if you wish.) :
We have never held that an individual's religious beliefs [p879] excuse him from compliance with an otherwise valid law prohibiting conduct that the State is free to regulate. On the contrary, the record of more than a century of our free exercise jurisprudence contradicts that proposition. As described succinctly by Justice Frankfurter in Minersville School Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586, 594-595 (1940):I would argue that this seems that the general health care insurance requirement, which is valid and neutral, and not explicitly religious, would not be held as a prohibition of the free exercise of religion. I'm also pleased to see that Justice Scalia makes the argument I did concerning withholding ones taxes out of a religious objection to the fact that some of those taxes are used for warfare.
Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs. The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities.(Footnote omitted.) We first had occasion to assert that principle in Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879), where we rejected the claim that criminal laws against polygamy could not be constitutionally applied to those whose religion commanded the practice. "Laws," we said,are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. . . . Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself.Id. at 166-167.Subsequent decisions have consistently held that the right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with aUnited States v. Lee, 455 U.S. 252, 263, n. 3 (1982) (STEVENS, J., concurring in judgment); see Minersville School Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Gobitis, supra, 310 U.S. at 595 (collecting cases).valid and neutral law of general applicability on the ground that the law proscribes (or prescribes) conduct that his religion prescribes (or proscribes).
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG