The officer who handcuffed them is recorded on camera warning members of the media that their First Amendment rights could be terminated. "Your First Amendment rights can be terminated if you're creating a scene or whatever," the officer said. When asked how they were creating a scene, the officer said, "Your presence is creating a scene."From the District of Columbia:
HR 347 was recently signed into law by President Obama. This statute had wide support amongst both parties of Congress. In essence, it criminalizes disruptive behavior upon government grounds, at specially designated national events (Super Bowl, nominating conventions, etc.) and anywhere that Secret Service is protecting “any” person.Since all of the presidential candidates are now receiving Secret Service protection, that means no "disruptive behavior" anywhere near anywhere that anyone running for president might be speaking.
Thus the freedoms of speech, assembly and the press. As Elise notes, we're also seeing an end to the freedom of religious expression insofar as it pertains to how one lives one's life, as apart from merely how one prays in private.
The issue is so clearly one of violating the First Amendment that I am unable to find any common ground with anyone who doesn’t see that. We have nothing to say to each other on this topic. And their belief either that this does not violate the First Amendment or that violating the First Amendment is acceptable is so inexplicable that we don’t really have anything to say to each other about anything else related to the Constitution or governance in general.
Furthermore, it doesn’t matter how this situation comes out. Even if the Administration backs off completely on the contraception mandate for all employers, it’s too late. Even if the Supreme Court rules that the mandate is unconstitutional, it’s too late. That a President of the United States believes it is acceptable to simply ignore the First Amendment is a sea change in our form of government. Perhaps if the Administration had established this mandate and every single person and institution other than President Obama and Secretary Sebelius had screamed bloody murder, I could believe that we had, in a moment of national inattention, elected as President one of the only two people in the United States who consider the Bill of Rights irrelevant. But that wasn’t the case; Obama and Sebelius’ attitude toward the Constitution is clearly so widespread that there is no going back.
We'll have to decide if Elise is right that the First cannot be saved. If so, we'll have to move on to the Second. That is not a light matter, not at all: but consider her argument. There is very widespread support for simply compelling people to violate their beliefs: and not merely to fail to do something their faith says is right (which might apply to human sacrifice, in some religions), but positively to do something their faith tells them is wrong.
The only obvious parallel lies in the draft, which compels military service from all citizens. America's history of support for conscientious objectors is mixed, but has generally found a way to recognize and offer alternatives to most who felt such objections. It's unclear why war should be an easier place for such objectors than the provision of contraception or abortifacients, the need for which is debatable rather than existential.