"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Friday, February 17, 2012

First Amendment Violation or Fifth Amendment Violation... Choose Your Poison

The reaction to the Obama Administration's mandate on religious employers to provide birth control, sterilization and abortifacients to their employees under Obamacare's mandated coverages has rightly been condemned as an attack on the employers' First Amendment religious liberty.   But consider the flip side.   Obama's supposed "fix" to this issue was to mandate that the insurance company's provide the same coverage for free (on the stupid theory that the religious employer's premiums wouldn't still ultimately be paying for the "preventive" services).   Is this any better from a constitutional perspective?

Let's assume as a convenient fiction that Big Insurance Co. has a warehouse filled with birth control pills, IUDs, condoms, morning-after pills, and sundry other products that Obamacare mandated that they provide to its insureds as part of "preventive health services." The items are contained in packages that are boxed and stacked on pallets. They constitute "property" for Big Insurance Co., in that they are valuable -- Big Insurance Co. bought them from Big Pharma Co. or Big Medical Device Inc. and now intends to sell them to Mrs. and Miss Insured in exchange for their premiums.

(By the way, did you ever notice that the Administration always frames this as an issue concerning women's health care services... I guess they don't want to have to defend the proposition that Joe Taxpayer should be taxed to pay for the rubbers of some dude down the street.  But I digress... )

Now imagine that the federal government, instead of mandating that Insurance Co. has to give the birth control pills and devices away for free to its Insureds, just decides to confiscate all of this valuable property from Insurance Co. so that the federal government can give away these valuable items to its now happy constituents.

Wouldn't everyone, including the Supreme Court, immediately recognize this as an unconstitutional taking of property, prohibited by the Fifth Amendment?

And... what's the difference between this scenario and what is happening now?

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