Democrats were in favor of religious freedom before they were against it

Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media are in a dither over the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision.  And driven by either agenda or ignorance, they don’t even remember that at one time they were all champions of the same religious freedom they are now against.

The SCOTUS ruling is not about contraception, but instead it affirms a law dating back to 1993.  The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is a law, “to protect the free exercise of religion,” according to the U.S. Senate.  Specifically, the purpose of the law is “to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious exercise is burdened by government.”  That is the crux of the Hobby Lobby claim.  Congress passed this law almost unanimously.

The RFRA was introduced following an unpopular SCOTUS decision curbing the religious freedom of Native Americans to use peyote.  Congressman Charles Schumer introduced the bill in March 1993, a time when liberals were strongly in favor of religious freedom.  The bill was cosponsored by many of the same Democrats braying the loudest about the SCOTUS decision, including Rosa DeLorio, Luis Gutierrez, Nancy Pelosi, and Maxine Waters.  The Senate passed this bill by a vote of 97-3.  Voting in favor were Senators Biden, Boxer, Feinstein, Reid, and Mikulski among many others.

What a difference a couple of decades makes.  Harry Reid was in favor of religious freedom before he was against it.  Voting for the RFRA in 1993, he is now indignant that the SCOTUS upheld the same law he voted for.  Ditto Nancy Pelosi, who is fussing about “a gross violation of workers’ religious rights.”  What religious rights are being violated?  Are the Hobby Lobby workers members of a religion with a commandment, “Thou shall be provided abortifacients paid for by someone else”?  Or is it the employer whose religious rights are being violated – “Thou shalt not kill” – by making him or her purchase these drugs for employees?

Hillary Clinton also found the Hobby Lobby decision “deeply disturbing.”  How ironic that her husband, in November 1993, signed the RFRA into law, and when upheld 20 years later, she finds it disturbing.  At the signing, then-President Bill Clinton remarked, “We all have a shared desire here to protect perhaps the most precious of all American liberties, religious freedom.”  He also noted that “our laws and institutions should not impede or hinder but rather should protect and preserve fundamental religious liberties.”  Commenting on the Founders, he observed that they “knew that there needed to be a space of freedom between Government and people of faith that otherwise Government might usurp.”  Perhaps if Mrs. Clinton had been at home baking cookies and having tea, she might have heard her husband’s thoughtful comments at the time.  Instead, she was making a killing on cattle futures, missing out on the passage of an important religious freedom law, and is now “deeply disturbed” about it.

Aside from liberal politicians who are frequently for something before they are against it, even the NY Times changed its tune, as pointed out by James Taranto.  In 1993 they were trumpeting the RFRA, but this week they are against it.  “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act reasserts a broadly accepted American concept of giving wide latitude to religious practices that many might regard as odd or unconventional,” the Times crowed in 1993.  Fast forward 20 years, and the NY Times lost the religion they got in 1993, clearly upset over the “deeply dismaying decision on Monday in the Hobby Lobby case.”

“Religious freedom” served political purposes 20 years ago, but today’s meme is “war on women” attached to speechmaking and fundraising.  So now religious freedom is in the eye of the beholder, based on the political winds of the day.  If Democrats were so concerned that contraceptive coverage be part of the ObamaCare mandates, they could have inserted that into the original law.  ObamaCare passed on a party-line vote, and regardless of what was in the law, Republicans had no means to stop it.  But their “situational outrage” against a Supreme Court decision provides a nice distraction from the real problems with ObamaCare, such as this week’s revelation: “Federal officials can’t resolve 85 percent of 2.9 million 'inconsistencies' on applications for Obamacare even after nine months of trying.”

Don’t expect the mainstream press to notice politicians reversing their opinions.  The media’s parallel opinions change as fast as those of the politicians they cover.

Dr. Joondeph is a retina surgeon at Colorado Retina Associates and serves on the faculty of Rocky Vista University School of Medicine. The views expressed here are purely his own, and not those of Rocky Vista University. Twitter @retinaldoctor.

If you experience technical problems, please write to