The freedom to act on your most deeply held convictions—or conversely—the freedom not to be forced to violate those convictions, is an American value. As a nation, we've prioritized the need to protect freedom of conscience, not just because it's constitutional, but because as Americans, we appreciate and accept each other's differences and sincerely held beliefs.
At least we used to.
Some unfortunate examples coming out of the state of California show that freedom of conscience isn't valued much these days. In fact, differences in opinion and beliefs are rarely accepted, and instead are more likely to be condemned and labeled as discrimination.
1. A California state agency adopted a rule that forces churches to pay for abortions.
It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the majority of churches are against abortion. So why on earth would the California government think it was a good thing to pass a bill that forces churches to pay for abortion?
“The government has no right to demand that church health insurance plans include coverage for elective abortions – something that violates the most sincerely held religious beliefs of this church and nearly all churches throughout the state. California is violating its own laws and constitution, as well as the U.S. Constitution, by strong-arming churches into having this coverage in their plans," said ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley, who represents Skyline Wesleyan Church in the San Diego area. The church could be faced with the decision to pay for abortions or forego health insurance for its employees, subjecting it to crippling penalties and fines under Obamacare.
With details that absurd, you can't help but question the motives of these lawmakers.
2. California is trying to pass a bill that eliminates the right for faith-based schools to make enrollment and hiring decisions consistent with their religious identity.
For years activists have attempted to remove any appearance of religion from the public square, but California has entered more disturbing territory. Lawmakers in the state are trying to pass a bill that eliminates the right of private, faith-based schools to operate according to the beliefs they stand for in favor of more government-promoted policies.
In other words, if the bill becomes law, Catholic schools would not be allowed to only hire those who share their faith, Christian universities would not be allowed to maintain living arrangements for its students that are separated by biological sex, and if that's not enough, students who are offended by their school's policies and practices could file a lawsuit. Because, you know, discrimination.
What the lawmakers behind this bill have clearly forgotten is that it's only natural that faith-based schools would have policies that differ from a secular government. It's to be expected. What is not expected in a country that is supposed to uphold religious freedom is a bill like California's. It appears the bill's supporters have simply determined that the sincere beliefs that govern these schools aren't as important as their own political agenda.
3. California passed a bill requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion.
Just this past Tuesday, Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Matt Bowman argued at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in favor of halting a California law that forces pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion.
The state law, AB 775, requires licensed medical centers that offer free, pro-life help to pregnant women to post a disclosure saying that California provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services.
Forcing organizations that exist to offer women hope and support so that they can bring life into the world to hand out information about where they can have an abortion is absolutely ludicrous. But this law is even more inexplicable because similar laws have already been deemed unconstitutional in other states. So why would California spend so many taxpayer dollars trying get away with such a blatantly unconstitutional law that clearly forces these centers to violate their conscience?
The bottom line is no one should ever be forced by the government to act in a way that they consider to be morally wrong.
Just like Buzzfeed can exercise its freedom of conscience by refusing to promote messages that support Donald Trump's presidential campaign on their website, every American should have the freedom to live and operate their businesses according to their conscience.
(By the way, Buzzfeed has multiple offices in California. Here's hoping the government is a little more friendly to their freedom of conscience than it has been to religious and pro-life organizations in the state lately.)
Read More about ADF's Conscience Cases
Check out these stories of the brave men and women who, regardless of the consequences, chose to follow their conscience.