July 4, 2014 at 1:00 am

COLUMN

Freedom and the Hobby Lobby

The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision is not as controversial as some would suggest. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

The Fourth of July is a time of celebration in our country.

It’s a time for reflecting on the individual freedoms declared on our behalf by the brilliant founders of our country while we rejoice over the statement of independence and the Constitution that they crafted to ensure those rights.

Independence Day is a time for the expression of pride over American exceptionalism because no other country has ever accomplished what we have, especially in so short a time period as the 238 years we have been a nation.

Current events always shade the mood of our celebration, and this year’s could be cast as gray given what has been happening in Washington.

We enter this Independence Day weekend witnessing a president who has been trampling the constitution that guards individual freedom against the powerful fist of big government.

President Barack Obama has described the constitution as a document of “negative liberties,” and he’s right.

The founding document limits the rights of government to infringe on the freedom of individuals.

Our nation sits under that cloud on this Fourth of July, witnessing an unprecedented Washington quest for power and use of that clout to damage those who are viewed as enemies — translated; those who resist sublimation by the state.

It would be easy to allow feelings of depression to creep in during this special weekend at a time when our own government attempts to punish political opponents through use of the IRS, collect private, personal, information for who knows what use, and opens our borders through a complicit campaign to allow illegal immigrants to flood the country.

But before we allow dejection over current events to overwhelm us, it may be helpful to reflect on the small victories for the independence that we celebrate today.

This week brought a win for religious freedom when the Supreme Court ruled that individuals who run businesses can not be compelled to surrender their personal religion freedom simply because they own a company.

While statists decried the so-called Hobby Lobby ruling, claiming that corporations are simply an accumulation of capital and not people, it was an important victory for liberty tempered only by the fact that the ruling was not based on stronger grounds than a 5-4 ruling.

If a company owner can’t express his own constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom through corporate policy, then a newspaper, for example, can not claim the first amendment right of freedom from government control of speech.

Similarly, the Supreme Court outlawed the totalitarian tactic of forced unionization of home health care providers, who receive taxpayer funded assistance to care for family members in many cases.

Unions, through the complicity of politicians they helped elect, were skimming millions of dollars in dues from these Americans against their will.

Again, there’s the puzzle of why four members of the court would disagree that these individuals had the right to their own decision on such matters, but the overarching fact remains that they represented the minority.

But perhaps the most uplifting example of our American exceptionalism came on the local front this week out of the most tragic of circumstances.

When 44-year-old amateur soccer referee, John Bieniewicz, was assaulted and killed in Livonia by a player who disagreed with his on-field decisions during a meaningless recreation league game, the community reacted with outrage.

The suspect, from a team that carries the name Bint Jbeil — a Lebanese city controlled by the Hezbollah terrorist organization — allegedly sucker punched Bieniewicz, knocking him immediately unconscious with the blow that would result in the death of a 44-year-old father of two young boys, and a dialysis supervisor at Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor.

That suspect, Bassel Saad, then ran from the field and sped away in a car with a friend while others on the field attended to the stricken Bieniewicz, even to the point that another player, Henry Ford Hospital Doctor Jamal Saleh, administered CPR in efforts to revive the official.

Livonia police chief Curtis Caid says Saad turned and flipped his middle finger toward the field, showing no apparent remorse for the assault and no concern from the fallen Bieniewicz.

The referee was not a man of wealth and his friends immediately galvanized to begin a fundraising campaign to assist his family with funeral expenses and future college costs for Bieniewicz’s sons.

Organized by attorney James Acho, a campaign at the online FundMe site quickly raised over $75,000, mostly from complete strangers.

Huntington Bank boss Mike Fezzey, always ready to help in the community, added to the total with another campaign.

Local restaurateur Norm LePage dedicated a day of proceeds from one of his eateries.

And local soccer aficionado Roger Faulkner secured a $5,000 donation from the U.S. soccer federation.

One hopes the response helps to emphasize the overarching, optimistic message of Independence Day.

No matter how heavy the burden of despair over events that confront us, we remain Americans, committed to our freedoms and — more importantly — dedicated to each other in the common goal of protecting liberty for us all.

Happy Independence Day.

Frank Beckmann is host of “The Frank Beckmann Show” on WJR-AM (760) from 9 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday.