Do our senators respect religious liberty?, The Progress-Index

On July 10, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., made this statement: “We wouldn’t tell the owners of Hobby Lobby to convert to a different religion or disobey their religion – but we don’t say that they have to open up a company and go sell toys or hobby kits.”

In other words, he believes people lose their religious liberty when they start a business. I contacted both of our senators from Virginia and asked if they concur with this statement. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., responded with a few platitudes about religious liberty, but he never answered my question. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., essentially stated that he does agree with Sen. Schumer. His exact words to me were, “Individuals clearly deserve to have constitutional protection for their religious beliefs, but for-profit, corporate employers should have no role in a woman’s decisions about her own healthcare.” I must also point out that both of these men recently voted to revise the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In the first place, Sen. Warner’s argument is disingenuous. If corporate employers “should have no role in a woman’s decisions about her own healthcare” then why should they be forced to pay for it? In the second place, are there any other constitutional rights that do not apply to for-profit businesses? Do businesses not have freedom of speech? Freedom of assembly? Freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances? Many newspapers and magazines are for-profit corporations. Does that mean they do not have freedom of the press? I asked these questions to both senators, and they have yet to reply.

I daresay that religious liberty is very precious to many of us in the Commonwealth, and we have a right to know whether our two U.S. senators will work to preserve this basic right. Their actions thus far make me wonder if they value the president’s agenda more than they value the First Amendment. The people of Virginia deserve better.

Rev. Kenneth A. Jones

Pastor, Worsham Baptist Church