White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Thursday that freedom of religion is getting “pushed out in the name of political correctness,” and cited Christian organizations as examples of groups which have been silenced.
“Some Americans see religious liberty as code for discrimination,” a reporter asked Spicer at a daily briefing. “Can you comment, give us a sense of how the President views this tension?”
“I think there is a line,” Spicer said.”I think people should be able to practice their religion, express their religion, express areas of their faith without reprisal. And I think that pendulum sometimes swings the other way in the name of political correctness.”
He said that “too often” small business owners and employees are not allowed to express their faiths.
“Too often those voices get pushed out in the name of political correctness,” Spicer said. “So he is going to continue to make sure that we not only speak up for it but find ways in which we can keep that line a little less blurred and make sure that the pendulum doesn’t swing against people.”
“If you could give us an example, if you could, of a pendulum swinging in the direction of political correctness?” a reporter asked.
“I think if you look back to the Little Sisters case, if you look back to other businesses that were under Obamacare—” Spicer began.
“Would you put Hobby Lobby in that category?” the reporter pressed.
“I would, yeah, absolutely,” Spicer said. “I think there is several businesses and several institutions, Catholic institutions and others, that have been mandated or apparently attempted to mandate certain things that they may or may not do or how they have to treat their employees.”
He said those are “instances where clearly the pendulum is swinging a different way” as an effect of federal “regulations and policies that have frankly denied people the ability to live according to their faith.”
The two cases he cited both involved institutions which brought lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate on the basis that it ran counter to Christian beliefs.
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that “closely held” for-profit corporations such as Hobby Lobby cannot be forced to abide by Obamacare’s mandate to cover contraception for female employees in their insurance plans at no extra cost.
And in May 2016, the Supreme Court sent Zubik v. Burwell, a consolidation of cases brought by religious nonprofits including The Little Sisters of the Poor, back to lower courts.