Shouldn’t college students know as much about American civics as they do about pop culture?
Media Research Center TV went to American University last month to find out, discovering few who could name a single U.S. senator or the number of senators from each state. But most knew the Oscar-winning song “Let It Go.”
Equally surprising are polls showing only one-quarter of Americans can identify Joe Biden as the vice president or name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (religion, speech, press, assembly, petition). Just under a quarter of Americans could name all five family members in "The Simpsons."
Before suggesting American ignorance is bliss, think again. “Fear always springs from ignorance,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, which is why fear mongering and placating assurances have enabled a ruling elite to wield enormous power over the people – our Founders’ worst nightmare.
False promises and controversial payoffs enabled the narrow passage of Obamacare, which grants unelected bureaucrats control over 18 percent of the economy, empowering them to impose costly and freedom-infringing regulations.
Perhaps the most liberty-assaulting decree (cunning, too, given its election-year timing) was the unprecedented mandate forcing employers to provide free contraception, including abortion-inducing methods, or face a $100 per day/per employee fine.
The fine could amount to $475 million annually for arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby, whose devoutly Christian owners, the Green family of Oklahoma City, oppose the mandate with pilgrim-like fervor.
Just because they started a business, the Greens argue, doesn’t mean they must leave their religion in the pews. The First Amendment guarantees their right to live and work by their faith, and they won’t give it up without a fight.
For 44 years, the Greens have operated Hobby Lobby as they do their individual lives, in accordance with Biblical principles.
They close on Sunday to honor the Sabbath, pay justly by starting full-time employees at nearly twice the minimum-wage, maintain a free health clinic at the company headquarters, and offer Cadillac-level health benefits for 13,000 employees, covering 16 out of the 20 Obamacare-mandated contraception drugs.
But they won’t pay for four abortion-inducing methods, all cheap and ubiquitous.
Their Supreme Court case will determine whether the federal government can force corporations owned by individuals to choose between moral beliefs and government dictates, or face crippling IRS-enforced penalties.
Hobby Lobby argues the HHS mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act — passed nearly unanimously and signed by President Bill Clinton – which says the government can’t “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” without “compelling” justification and using “the least restrictive means.”
With half the population already exempted from Obamacare and it’s contraception mandate, how could there be a compelling interest in forcing conscientious objectors to comply when their non-compliance is hardly burdensome?
While admitting the mandate forces the Greens to violate their Christian faith, the government argues religious liberty is forfeited when people go into business for profit, meaning companies could also be required to pay for abortions, and kosher butchers could be forced to break ritual laws — an outcome all media corporations should oppose, or risk losing their First Amendment freedoms.
If the government didn’t insist its interests trumped the First Amendment, it could make abortifacients available otherwise, which would be “a win for everybody,” according to Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz.
“I’m a liberal Democrat who supports Obamacare. But I think the constitutional right of the free exercise of religion trumps my own personal, political views,” he said. "It’s not “a complex case.”
Unfortunately, a win/win solution is not the preferred outcome for mandate supporters like Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., whose rhetorical bombs transform dissenters like Hobby Lobby into Republican "War on Women" combatants.
Misconstruing Hobby Lobby’s plea not to buy abortifacients for employees as “denying women birth control,” Boxer declared the company is “anti-woman” and hypocritical for having no "moral objection" to "men getting Viagra” — as if procreation-aiding drugs resemble pregnancy-ending ones.
Stoking more fear, she mused whether vaccinations and HIV drugs might be “their next moral objection.”
Throughout our liberty-loving history, Americans have endorsed Voltaire’s enlightened principle – “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” No more.
In abandoning this principle, we now assassinate the character of non-conformists, like Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich who was purged recently for contributing $1,000 to Proposition 8 in California, which was approved in 2008. Meanwhile, no political leader dares to face the gathering mob despite sharing Eich’s views on marriage until recently.
Once the mob forms, no dissenter is legitimate, no sunlight can disinfect, no society is free, and no constitutional right is secure.
Regardless of one’s views on contraception, abortion or marriage, this can’t be our destiny. After all, if Americans want to retain our right to prefer pop culture to politics, we must preserve our individual liberties.Melanie Sturm is an opinion columnist with the Aspen Times.