The University chapter of The Federalist Society presented a lecture on religious freedom that centered on the recent healthcare mandate requiring all employers to provide free birth control products to their employees.
On April 9, Law professor Michael Stokes Paulsen argued that the mandate handed down from President Obama and the Health and Human Services, was illegal and immoral. Paulsen, an expert on religious law, spent the evening giving previous examples of government’s interfering with religious freedom.
The Federalist Society is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the political system.
Dean McGee, third year law student and president of the Federalist Society, said he wanted the people present at the lecture to learn about the background of the mandate.
“I hope that they [the audience] got to think about the topic better and that they get a better understanding of the legal standing,” he said.
Professor Paulsen tied the contraception mandate to an ancient law that forced Jews to eat pork. In the presentation titled “Freedom of Religion v. Contraception Cram-down: Lessons from The Pork Precedent,” Paulsen took his audience back in time to second century BCE, where Emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes issued the law.
Although a more extreme example, Professor Paulsen felt the case provided a good view on what happens when the government has its way. “This itself is a definitive story on government pressure,” he said.
As the presentation continued, the audience was introduced to the basic rundown of the legal analysis of the overall mandate and where it finds itself presently. Professor Paulsen argued how the mandate goes against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which states that if a law burdens religious exercise then it cannot be implemented.
If passed, the religious institutions would be left with only three choices: follow the mandate and go against your beliefs, stop providing your members insurance and be fined by the government or just shut down, he said.
With the majority of the University community still on Easter break, the audience consisted of mainly Law School students and tenured professors who said they felt intrigued by the subject at hand.
Nick Verante, first year law student, said he was very interested in the subject of the lecture and enjoyed Paulsen’s presentation.
“The subject of contraception is very prevalent and the presentation seemed very logical,” he said.
Alyssa Molina, also a first year law student, said she wanted to learn more about the mandate because it affected her not only politically, but personally as well. “I am a Democrat and Catholic, which makes such a mandate difficult to agree on,” she said “Especially if it goes against what I’ve grown up believing and it becomes more of an internal conflict.”
To conclude his presentation, Paulsen said he saw this mandate as a way for religious institutions to go to “a middle route.” He said that rather than depend on laws that conflict with their personal conscience, these religious institutions are being given a push to seek separate and individual insurance.