The man who argued the case in the U.S. Supreme Court that put a dent in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or ObamaCare, told Newton County Republicans Thursday that religious liberties — and thus all of our Constitutional protected freedoms — are under attack.

“It was a great privilege to be a part of the team that stood with David and Barbara Green of Hobby Lobby and represented them in this important case; which really is I’m glad to say a landmark case for religious liberty and a landmark win in defense of our Constitution and our Constitutional freedoms;” said attorney Josh Hawley, the featured speaker at the annual Free Watermelon Feed in Neosho’s Big Spring Park, hosted prior to the August primary elections each year by the county Republican Party.

The University of Missouri law professor said the Hobby Lobby case is only the beginning, as the country faces two different paths it can choose to take.

“One is the path that is the road of our history. It is the road of our Constitution, Constitutional government, limited government, self-government; and our Constitution and Constitutional history, religious liberty is at the very center of our freedoms.” Hawley concluded, “It is the freedom that protects all of our other liberties.”

He said the other path is the one the Obama Administration and many others want to chart.

“That’s the path not of the Constitution, but the path of bigger government, the path of European-style social welfare government, the path of secularism.” Hawley continued, “For the Obama Administration and now many of our friends on the left, religious liberty is not something to be embraced and defended, but it is now the enemy, it is something to be fought against and to be removed from public.”

He equated the fight for religious liberty to the fight to defend our Constitution and all of our other liberties

Hawley said the Hobby Lobby case actually began in 1970 when the Greens began as a mom-and-pop operation from their home that has blossomed into a company with over 600 stores in 47 states, writing a statement of faith into their original company charter that obligated them to treat their employees in a certain way and to interact in their community in a certain way.

“Because of that,” he said, “they pay their employees double the minimum wage, they close on Sundays as you might know, they give significant portions of their company profits every year tocharities, that’s just who they are, that’s the Greens, that’s their business, that’s their dream.”

Hawley said it was their faith convictions that landed them in court with this administration, which showcases the left’s view of what they think of our country and where they want to take it.

“Because what the Obama Administration said to the Greens was, ‘In order to do business in America, you have to give up your faith convictions.’ They said to David and Barbara Green, ‘You have to provide or pay for four abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and if you don’t, then we’re going to fine you $1.3 million every day.’”

He said the argument to the Greens was, “Give up your faith or go out of business.” Hawley noted that was basically the argument of government attorneys as the case made its way through the system all the way to the Supreme Court.

“Quite simply, the government said, ‘If you start a for-profit business in the United States, you give up your religious liberty rights. You cannot make a First Amendment claim for religious liberty as a business person in the United States.”’

Hawley said the argument is that your religious faith should be locked away, and it says that to do business in America, you need to agree with the government’s moral convictions.

“It tells us that they think religion is a problem, that religion is a barrier to progress, that religion needs to be kept out of the public sphere, and certainly kept out of the workplace, and most importantly religion is a barrier to bigger government, which is what much of this case was from the very beginning,” he said.

Hawley proclaimed that religious liberty is really the foundation for all of our other Constitutional freedoms.

“It’s religious liberty that says to the government, ‘There is a line that you may not cross, you may not tell us what to believe, you may not tell us how to worship, you may not tell us with whom we may worship, you are a limited thing, government, there is a bound in which you belong that you cannot cross over.’ That was our argument to the United States Supreme Court; and that I believe is the essence of our Constitutional order, limited government, religious liberty for all, government by the people.”

Hawley believes the Hobby Lobby case is just the opening battle in what will be a multi-year struggle to defend religious liberty and our Constitution against attack. He explained that in the days following the court decision, Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced a bill to roll back the Hobby Lobby decision while also stripping out a decades-old law with bi-partisan support for religious conscience across the board.

“Harry Reid’s bill represents a direct assault on religious liberties. This is what we can expect from the left in the days to come because they know they lost in Hobby Lobby, and they know that in order to grow our government and in order to change our Constitution, they will have to move religious liberty aside.”

Hawley reported that the Missouri legislature has work it should do to more strongly to protect religious freedoms in the Show-Me state.

Republican State Auditor Tom Schweich also addressed the several hundred people who assembled in the park. Schweich said the Newton County free watermelon feed was his first political speech five years ago right after announcing his intention to run, and a year later he made history by being the first to defeat an incumbent for a statewide race in 34 years.

He called this part of the state the heart and soul of the Missouri’s Republican party. Schweich said it is very unusual for a St. Louisian to win statewide office, and do so, they must be welcome in Southwest Missouri.

Schweich said he came in after 12 years of the office being run by Democrats, eight years under Claire MCaskill, whom he referred to as a public relations specialist, and Susan Montee, whom he said wasn’t there most of the time.

He said the state auditor audits only governmental entities.

“My job is to be the taxpayer watchdog for Missouri,” he said.

Schweich talked with career people in the office who had worked under Margaret Kelly to find out how to improve the service, and said he was told that wrongdoers routinely destroyed evidence by the time state auditors arrived.

He said the predecessors did not move fast enough to catch the crooks, so a Rapid Response Team was formed to get in within 24 hours. Soon after, Schweich said calls came in about a St. Louis school principal who was perpetrating a huge attendance fraud to make her school, and herself, look good. He said auditors got in quickly and found that she had destroyed two-thirds of the evidence, but the third of the evidence that was collected led to her conviction and the refunding of $145,000 of taxpayer money to the state.

Schweich said the office has also instituted a grade system for audited entities, and then audit follow-ups for those who grade poorly to ensure problems are fixed.

“In fact,’ he said, “the people who get the audits, they like the follow-ups, because if they got a bad audit they got some bad press, they may have an election coming up, they want to show improvement.”

Schweich feels the worst thing you can do as a public official is steal money and stated that he determined he wanted to catch the worst of the embezzlers first, so aggressive anti-embezzlement training was instituted in the office, teaching the top 10 signs of an embezzler to all auditors.

“I’m happy to say and also a little sad to say at the same time, that since I have been auditor now, we have found 28 public officials stealing your money, we’ve identified the culprit in 22 cases, they’ve all lost their jobs; 16 have been charged with crimes, nine have already been convicted, and we’re sending out the message that if you’re stealing money from Missouri taxpayers, we’re going to catch you and you are going to jail.”

Schweich said the mentality that leads to embezzling public funds comes from the top. “We’ve got a president of the United States who says, ‘Take what you can get from wherever you can get from whomever you can get,’ and it creates this mentality that if you think you can get away with it, just take the money,” he said.

He advised that the Republican party needs to reclaim the mantel of integrity and then listed a number of lies that have come from the current top executive of the nation, and concluded that the president has shown exactly what it means to have no integrity.

He also applied that to Gov. Jay Nixon, who withheld hundreds of millions of dollars. “And then he goes and buys himself a $5.6 million plane, when he has five other planes sitting around.”

Schweich conducted an audit that found no need for another plane, but said the governor just wanted a more comfortable plane.

“That’s a problem, that’s a lack of integrity. So I hope we will stand for integrity,” he said.

Five state representatives and senators also addressed the audience about the five Constitutional Amendments on the Aug. 5 ballot. Coverage on those issues are forthcoming in the days prior to the election in the Neosho Daily News.