US Independence Day weekend 2013

What’s the state of the union built on the freedoms we celebrate this weekend? In a word, threatened.

Especially religious freedom, our first, most cherished liberty. Aside from threats to our privacy and freedom of speech, exposed in a new way by ongoing government scandals involving the IRS and Justice Department, the violation of conscience required by the HHS mandate is still unchanged by this administration and still challenged in courts across the country by private employers and institutions most threatened by it.

About the unchanged final ruling:

Still using words like “houses of worship” and pretending to carve out religious-liberty accommodations for some religiously affiliated non-profits, the Department of Health and Human Services issued its final abortion-drug, contraception, (female) sterilization employer insurance mandate today.

It appears that the Obama administration’s disregard for Americans’ conscience rights has been formalized by the rule.

Which is why a huge coalition of religious leaders issued an open letter calling on the administration and Congress to respect conscience rights and religious freedom, a battle those leaders engaged over a year and a half ago when the HHS mandate was first issued.

“We are pleased to stand with so many partners from other faith traditions in raising continued awareness over the religious liberty concerns and the HHS Mandate,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore said at a press conference announcing the open letter. “Those present today and the statement we have signed underscores that this is about the religious freedom enjoyed by people of all faiths and even no faith at all, something we hold dear as Americans, and something most worthy of defending and preserving.”

“The government has given us word games and accounting tricks that amount to the same mandate, over and over again,” added Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. “We are not so easily hypnotized by bureaucratic parlor tricks. Our government has treated free exercise of religion as though it were a tattered house standing in the way of a government construction of a railroad, there to be bought off or plowed out of the way, in the name of progress. We dissent.”

The letter was also signed by several Catholic college presidents, as well as by Mormon, Scientology, and Krishna Consciousness officials.

And they join the larger coalition that has included atheists in the past year, resisting not only the government’s unconstitutional intrusion on free exercise of religion, but the human right to conscience itself. Which predates the State.

We used to take these things for granted. The upshot of such imposing threats is that we no longer can. Guaranteed rights are no longer guaranteed. And complacency is not an option. Freedom has always required vigilance.