I make it a practice to go out of my way to meet interesting people. And on Friday I had lunch with one such person: William J. Olson, a lawyer and expert on the U.S. Constitution.
Today, I’d like to share with you some of the nuggets I learned from him.
Olson’s firm has filed more than 80 briefs before the Supreme Court. Currently, the firm is focused on the case known as Conestoga Wood vs. Kathleen Sebelius, which has to do with Obamacare. A few weeks ago, Olson authored a brief in the case.
Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. is owned by the Hahns, a Mennonite family living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Like all firms with over 50 employees, Conestoga Wood is required to buy a health insurance policy to cover its employees. According to the regulations promulgated by the Obama administration, the health insurance policy must include coverage for “contraceptive services”, including “the full-range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods, and patient education and counseling for women with reproductive capacity.”
And this is where the conversation gets really interesting. According to Olson, “While Obamacare uses the term contraceptive, that term has undergone a dramatic shift in meaning over the past 50 years. Within the array of what are called ‘contraceptives’ are true abortifacients — drugs and devices that induce a miscarriage or an abortion, thus leading to the death of an embryo.”
In essence, Obamacare is forcing the deeply religious Hahn family to fund abortions for their employees. The Hahn family, whose Mennonite faith rejects all violence, is being forced to provide payments to those that commit what they believe is violence against the most innocent of persons – an unborn child.
The brief endorses the Hahn family’s belief that the mandate violates their rights under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
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A Surprising History
From this launch pad, Olson took me on a trip through the history of the U.S. Constitution and the writings of James Madison, the Constitution’s chief author.
According to Olson, the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of religion, also says that a person’s conscience can’t be violated no matter how “compelling” the government’s interest may be.
Olson said, “The original understanding of ‘religion,’ as it appears in the First Amendment, appeared earlier in the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights… the Virginia Declaration expressly defines religion as a duty owed to the Creator which is enforceable only by reason, not by force. In a statute passed in 1785 by the Virginia General Assembly, the preamble declared that it would be a violation of the free exercise of religion if a law compelled a person to promote an opinion with which he disagreed.”
Olson then told me something that left me dumbfounded: Until the 1900s, the U.S. Supreme Court routinely referenced Holy Scriptures in court decisions. Wow, how times have changed! Olson’s brief admonishes the Court to remember that forbearance is a Christian virtue and that the contraceptive services mandate prevents the Hahn family from practicing this virtue by forcing them to do what they believe to be a sin.
No amount of countervailing “wisdom” from Barack Obama or Kathleen Sebelius is going to convince this devoted family that abortion is in fact not a sin, and they’d rather violate the laws of men than the laws of God – for to violate the laws of God is to put their very souls at risk.
I wonder if the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, Supreme Court will agree…
Your eyes on the Hill,