• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Morning Bell: Will the President Protect Religious Rights?

    Sometimes the White House gets the easy questions wrong. On Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked about a controversial mandate stemming from Obamacare that would require religious employers to provide insurance coverage for birth control despite religious objections.

    The regulation in question, released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), falls under the category of “preventative services” and would require almost all health insurance plans to cover everything from all FDA-approved contraceptives to sterilizations—without cost to the insured. The mandate includes coverage of controversial drugs like ella—which can abort an early pregnancy. Religious employers with serious moral objections to providing coverage for such services will find little help in the mandate’s narrow religious exemption. Since it was first proposed in August, the mandate has received harsh criticism with regard to its treatment of conscience rights.

    It should be easy to conclude that upholding the religious rights of individuals and institutions is the optimal choice. But the White House appears bent on stifling that freedom with this mandate.

    Carney assured reporters, “We want to strike the right balance between expanding coverage of preventive services and respecting religious beliefs.”

    But the mandate requires religious employers to provide coverage for birth control methods that could result in abortion, a serious erosion of religious liberty in America.

    Despite a religious exemption in the Obamacare HHS contraception mandate, many religious employers are not likely to get off the hook. The religious exemption is available only for organizations with a primary mission to “inculcate religious values”—which could exclude many religious service providers, among others.

    But religious employers, like all Americans, won’t accept the mandate’s narrow definition for what constitutes religious exemption. As written, the religious freedom of organizations or entities with a religious affiliation that offer social services or help to people in need may not be protected.

    Former Heritage research fellow Chuck Donovan noted that, though “federal law requires respect for the conscience of health care providers on many of these issues…the new HHS guidelines show disrespect for freedom of conscience.”

    The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health found the exemption so narrow that they held a hearing to discuss its severe threat to conscience rights. As witnesses testified, no American should be forced to choose between compromising their beliefs or obeying government regulations—and that’s exactly what this mandate would force upon religious employers.

    By failing to protect the rights of these dedicated religious organizations, who often provide services without regard to the recipients’ religion, the government does a disservice to American citizens who rely on them. Religious organizations often meet crucial health care, education, and social needs in society, something the government should reward, not punish.

    The uproar surrounding the mandate is heating up everywhere. Belmont Abbey, a private Catholic college in North Carolina, has partnered with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty to sue HHS over the mandate. The mandate would force the college to provide insurance plans for students and employees that cover procedures and prescriptions the college finds morally objectionable.

    The Obama Administration has already pandered to the liberal, abortion-rights community on this issue, and it’s time for them to recognize this wrong choice. If Obama wants to uphold American religious liberty as it was intended, he should alter the mandate’s offensively narrow religious exemption and allow conscience rights and religious freedom to flourish.

    Quick Hits:

    Posted in Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    58 Responses to Morning Bell: Will the President Protect Religious Rights?

    1. Mary......WI says:

      Or Americans can be sure to vote out all liberals in Congress AND as president to completely "ABORT" Obamacare once and for all!

      • RalRus says:

        I agree with Mary, the whole concept of Obamacare no matter what name it is given, should be struck down..I donot feel that the Founders would had prescribed for the Central Government to mandate upon the citizen healthcare or anything else that they as a majority didnot want !! Personnel responsibility has to come into play somewhere along the line..

    2. Whicket Williams says:

      Government never does anything Anybody who waits for the Government to protect their rights will be disappointed. Religious people can and will protect their own rights. That is the only wy they will be protected.

    3. donald stampfli says:

      i don't understand how the president can by himself change a law… believe he needs a little help from congress.
      additionally, he is so busy campaigning that he would not be able to dedicate time to consider a change to the new health care law.
      with any kind of luck, maybe we can get this straightened out after the elections next year… i don't expect anything meaningful out of the white house until we get a change of occupant! d.m.s., poway, ca

      • ThomNJ says:

        This is just par for the course. The Congress abrogated their duties years ago in allowing unelected bureaucrats to create laws – something that, according to our Constitution, only they can do – not bureaucrats and not judges and not bureaucrats by extension working for the president.

        So to answer your question how a president can change a law without Congress – well, it seems to happen all the time….especially nowadays with the current thugocracy.

    4. misfit56 says:

      I guess the White House would only interested in protecting religious rights if someone were trying to build a mosque on ground zero

    5. Greg Vincent says:

      While I agree with this article, it is like trying to kill a hydra by cutting off the heads. The solution is to repeal Obamacare, and get the government out of health care and health care insurance.And, while they are at it, could our "esteemed" congress also repeal the ridiculous ban on lightbulbs?

    6. John Matthews says:

      Religious organizations do not just employ members of their particular denomination, and if they did, it wouldn't matter anyway. The mandate allows the individual to choose what type of birth control or care they desire. Just because they must cover their employees in some sort of health care, does not mean they condone what care they receive. If the religious organizations are so concerned, let them provide the health insurance they deem necessary and let the employee decide if this is acceptable. If not, then let them go on the government insurance. There are a plethora or reasons not to participate in Obamacare, but this point you try to raise is not valid. Some religious organizations require their employees to go to a certain church, is that freedom?

      • Clearhead says:

        Maybe you could point out some of those 'religious organizations (who) require their employees to go to a certain church", but then, maybe you can't. Would you be willing to be mandated by the gummit to purchase insurance that would provide legal exoneration for people who decide to murder their mothers? This mandate would allow the murderer to select from a wide variety of methods, the one he would use for committing the act. If you didn't find this acceptable, you could search for insurance that excluded this option. But since all the insurance you could find would be regulated by the gummit, and therefore contain the provision you don't like anyway — well, what's a body to do?

      • sdfultz says:

        I think you hit the nail on the head, when any organization starts discriminating, where does it end?
        I've never heard of a religious organization turning down money from a pro life giver or even question their beliefs, but I think this is why Jesus sent the money exchangers scrambling .

      • rmgangawer says:

        Key phrase "let them provide the health insurance they deem necessary". The whole point is that they won't have that option! They will be forced to provide services they believe to be immoral. As for the requirement to attend a certain church, here's an idea, get a different job! That's freedom.

      • ThomNJ says:

        "Some religious organizations require their employees to go to a certain church, is that freedom?"

        I think that woudl fall under the category of choice. They don't have to work for the religious organization. If you choose to work for any business, you choose to follow their employment guidelines.

        • Juan Martinez says:

          Exactly, ThomNJ. Religious organizations are free to discriminate in their employment in any way they wish to — just like a private club can exclude from membership anyone they don't like, for any reason. An example of this would be, say, a country club that excludes blacks or women as a matter of policy, or the Boy Scouts of America, who exclude homosexuals and atheists (the Girl Scouts, also a private club, does not exclude homosexuals or atheists). A religious organization may discriminate in hiring, and could ask any potential hire whether he or she might ever consider having an abortion. Fine. But it is not reasonable for religious institutions to demand preferential treatment with respect to local, state, or national laws. For example, if a state law requires employees to be paid a higher overtime rate after working a certain number of hours in a day, or in a week, it is not reasonable for a religious institution to pick and choose which laws they want to comply with. Religious organizations already are granted too many special priveleges not available to other non-profits or to secular individuals.

      • sdfultz says:

        Yea, somebody with a clear thought on this issue!

    7. toledofan says:

      One thing is for sure, we know from the past 3 years, Obama will side with the left and show disregard for any Religious Rights and continue his looking the other way on any issues that are affected by the Constitution. I mean religious right or beliefs aren't his strong suit so why would he bother.

    8. Keef says:

      If there were ever a case for the "separation of church and state" – as it was intended to be used – this is it! "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…"…seems pretty clear to me…if it's good enough for the Constitution of the United States, it's good enough for me! My wife and I have a little "thing" we do, wherein when we hear some bit of ridiculousness that is absolutely contrary to what is right/good/true, we entone the phrase "opposite world…". How we got to the place where most people believe that the "separation of church and state" was intended to keep the church out of the state, I don't know. This case is clearly a prime example of the good and proper use of the concept of "separation of church and state"…keep the "state" out of our faith-based morals!!!

    9. jeffdotcooper says:

      Arguing one component of Obamacare accepts the premise that the healthcare law is moral, which it is not. If we begin to quibble over small parts of the law, then conservatives are setting themselves up to cave in on this issue. We must argue that the bill is a violation of our rights as a whole, not just in part.

      • JasonW says:

        Excellent point and we need to extend it to all arms of the federal government. These types of quibbles over details allow the ratcheting of our society up the progressive ladder. The "compromise" we're told we need to embrace is a measure of the rate at which we climb the ladder, but the destination is the same. Let's not get wrapped up over what the highest tax bracket is. We should be focused on how to throw out the tax code entirely and what to replace it with. A trillion dollar cut to the budget over 10 years is meaningless when our annual deficit is in the multi-trillion range. We need to be discussing how to shut down entire branches of the federal government. I would say which ones but I can't remember them right now. Fortunately, many of these things are at least being seriously discussed by our current crop of candidates. We should support and encourage those high level discussions.

    10. Roy Martin says:

      Its obvious that the Obama administration has no regard for convictions of others including the Religious community..The policies of this administration are typical of those who have an agenda aimed at the freedoms we all enjoy and have enjoyed for generations..This is another move to set up government as knowing best regardless of religion or other beliefs that the people may have and support..This administration has to go and soon so we can get back to those freedoms stated in the constitution..

    11. Dwana townsend says:

      This among other reasons is why Obamacare should be repealed!!! This law is unconstitutional for several reasons. Didn't our ancestors come here because they wanted religious freedom?

      Anyone know if Obama has any spiritual beliefs? We never see him attend any religious services, nor does he participate in National Prayer Day! I don't think America can take 4 more years of this back seat driver. Ask yourself what has he really done for America? How many days has he actually worked? What will he do for the next 4 years if re-elected when he doesn't have to campaign. My guess is a 4 year vacation.

    12. Jim Thompson says:

      It seems to me that individual employees would not have a choice but to consider employers religions before
      accepting employment. If the employer can dictate what coverages it's health insurance provides, then
      employee rights are comprised. What happened to "Freedom of Religion" for employees?

      • jeffdotcooper says:

        You make an interesting point but you are basing it on the premise is that healthcare is a right, and it is not.

      • JasonW says:

        Your first sentence is the key. Individual employees DO have a choice- they can choose not to work for an employer who does not provide the type of coverage they want. But this is a choice that many people don't seem to acknowledge these days. If you want a job to be a right, pass a constitutional ammendment. Otherwise, I'd appreciate it if the federal government would stop dictating the terms of the employment contract I can enter into with my employer.

    13. Grace Marie says:

      Mr. Carney is dead wrong, as are President Obama and HHS. It is not their place to "strike a balance." Religious freedom is OUR right under God; it is not their right to regulate, balance, or manipulate our God-given rights. When "balance" is needed, surrender that "power" back to the states so that these decisions may be made in specific religion-based situations such as poligamy, ingesting/smoking conscious-altering substances, type of medical care, etc. One size does not fit all, especially in the realm of religious freedoms. As a Roman Catholic, I'm waiting for Pres. Obama to rule through presidential fiat that the Catholic priesthood is now open to women. Modern mantra = one mustn't discriminate.

      • Kelvind Kao says:

        Appeal to your Archbishops to excommunicate Nancy Polensky? and John Kerry and all those politicians and others of great influence on American society for their strong and corrupt stance against our church's teachings on abortion.

    14. Lloyd Scallan says:

      Has the author of this article been living on another planet? When will she, and ever other American, realize Obama has no intention of allowing, nor does he believe in "religious freedom". Don't she not understand, despite the "kabuki dance", gleefully covered by the media, when Obama actually entered a real church, was just another political distortion to fool the voters. 20 years in Rev. Wright's black theoical, white hating, so called "church" is the only religious practic Obama every knew. Why would anyone expect Obama to "uphold American religious liberty"? It's just one more freedom Obama is determined to destroy.

      • ThomNJ says:

        Thank you for that – I get tired of writers making the (false) assumption that obama somehow actually thinks conservatively and that there is some magical way that he will reconsider in that very same line of thought. It ain't gonna happen.

    15. Robert says:

      I would pose the following questions. Should any not-for profit institution (especially healthcare) that willingly accepts public funding have the right to discriminate against an individual based on their religous beliefs? Shouldn't the institution that accepts funding also be required to accept the rules/regulations attached to the funding? The institution fully retains the right to choose as does the government have the right to determine the rules to obtain funding. I am sure your essay was not promoting an environment where individuals and institutions have the right to choose which laws and regulations they want to accept and reject without any ramifications.

      • Jeanne Stotler says:

        Catholic Institutions DO NOT get federal money unless it'd from student loans, and that's between the student and the place giving the loan, does not require the Catholic institution to partake in assuring it . As a Catholic and a mother of 9, I am totally against any form of interference in my life from the federal goverment, they are already some that are trying to kill off all us elderly, this is not what my ancestors came here in 1620 and 1685 for, and it's not what my grandfather and Brother in law died for, we need a smaller gov't. with less control over our lives.

    16. none says:

      Interesting, does this imply the so-called political conservative right is accepting the inevitability of "obama care", and now simply attempting to smooth its edges a bit; in effect becoming complicit with this illicit abomination and seemingly the liberal/progressive socialist creep in general; how sad, America is seemingly already gone.

    17. Ken Brust says:

      This joins a long list of ticking bombs in the "We have to pass the bill before we can learn what is in it." ObamaCare monstrosity. We can only pray that the Supreme Court (minus solicitor Kagan) throws this invasion of American life on the trash heap

    18. Belinda says:

      Obama wants the government to run "your" life, he cares only about his election and what "he" wants. You all need to remember that next Nov. when he is expecting you to vote for him and his "rules." Of course he willk have the Union by his side along w/ the movie stars help decide. Soros and VanJones will put their 2 cents in on how your life will be controlled.

    19. Bob Eric says:

      The phrase "you have to pass the bill to see whats in it" comes to mind.

    20. Brad460 says:

      Folks, we're wasting our time here. It is not even worth debating. What is needed is a strong and strict defiance of the law. Simply refuse to comply. I can assure that that if/when it ends up impacting my business I WILL NOT comply. Plain and simple. This is no longer a dialogue about comrpromose. We're past the discussion stage. The law has been written, passed, and signed. The discussion is OVER. Stand up now or surrender your values. It's that simple.

    21. Bobbie says:

      if the "affordable health care act" is in question of it's constitutional merit, why are mandates, costs or anything being implemented!

      If Obama wants to uphold American religious liberty as it was intended, he needs to honor the oath of his job and stay out of the business of our health and religious beliefs. he needs to bring back the free market he's collapsing so we can bring back our freedom of choice and make our personal decisions and pay our own costs according to the lifestyles we choose.

      Insurance companies are charging people more according to their lifestyles. this is also wrong. how a person chooses to conduct their lives leads them to their own consequences and for whatever reason the cost of medical procedures should not increase because a chosen lifestyle at their personal expense, brought them there.

      people have to grow up and pay their own personal expenses in order for Americans to be free to live independently by taking on personal responsibilities and costs, without mom and dad government.
      health care worked alot better while being a Christian nation…

    22. Zane Cooler says:

      The WH is trying to make a minority(abortion,homosexuality,immigration etc) a majority…mainstream-like. They're gonna push the American people too far one of these days.

      • June says:

        Zane-"They" already have pushed the American people too far and it's past time for all of "them" to leave, by whatever means possible!

    23. I have come to the conclusion that the Constitiution was written based on principles from the Word of God. These principles were put in place to protect Christians from evil men that caused them to flee other countries to come to this one and Worship the one true God as they saw fit. We were founded as a Christian Nation. The Constitution was put in place to keep evil and the evil in mens hearts in check. Any one who attacks these principles should be immediately held suspect.

    24. Doreen says:

      Liberals want freedom "from" religion, not freedom "of" religion and this is just one more example of them trying to ram their agenda down everyone else's throats. Destroy religion and the people will have no choice but to turn to the government for everything, which has always been the real goal of this administration. Religion creates a feeling of community, a belief in something greater than the self, and inherent hope no matter what the circumstances surrounding the individual may be. That makes religion a clear threat to the concerted effort to make everyone completely dependent on the government and the concentration of power in the government that the current administration is actively seeking through all legislative measures and executive actions. Tearing down religion is merely one of the many destructive agendas hidden in the health care law and one more reason why the Supreme Court will declare the law unconstitutional.

    25. Rev. Richard Bolland says:

      The U.S. Constitutions states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.."

      Clearly, the government, in this action, is prohibiting the free exercise of religion when it requires religious employers to fund abortions which make them complicit in what they deem to be sin. In such cases, religious organizations and individuals must defer to a much higher law: "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)

    26. Obama and his cohorts are violating the fundamental principles of our country with this rule. As the Declaration of Independence states, we all have an inalienable right to property and the pursuit of happiness. Obtaining such property is part of that pursuit. John Locke stated that "every man has a property in his own person" which includes our conscience. James Madison stated "government is instituted to protect property of every sort…Conscience is the most sacred of all property…". This rule then takes away our precious right to property even apart from our religious freedoms. There need not be any provision for some religious waiver for organizations or people to protect their property right of conscience. Such a fundamental right to property should always be protected no matter whether it is associated with a religious belief or not. People need to stand up and protest this effort both now and in November 2012.

    27. haroldson says:

      obama has no intention of respecting any religious right of the American people,now or ever., He has no respect for any thing American or that is different from the Islamic religion, He bad mouthed the leader of Israel bows to the Arabs, Lies to the Jewish people. He surrounds himself with people who are liars and as crooked as a dogs hind leg , Since he has held office he has about ruined the country. now that elections are coming up he seems to think no has a lo enough memory to remember his lies and shady closed door policies and meetings. to top all he has cheated the American every since he has been in office Why would any American want to vote for such a loser?

    28. Erica says:

      This has always been a very touchy topic. Personally I think it is between God and the person. Don't think on judgement day everyone will be standing around pointing a finger. AND People please, if you are that religious you shouldn't be having SEX to begin with if you're not married….. so if you're gonna do that , then using condoms should be a no brainer !! but I'm sick of hearing I;m Catholic and don't believe in contraception then you run out and have sex get pregnant and it's the tax payers who have to foot the bill !!! ENOUGH, Government can offer what they want, but it should be up to the individual what they do. In the end it will be them facing God and their decision.

    29. ThomNJ says:

      Noticed a quote from John Adams today: "The highest story of the American Revolution is this: It connected in one dissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity."

      I guess the "progressives" have succeeded in making that soluble instead…………….

      Vote in 2012 and never stop voting.

      • Jill Maine says:

        And pay strict attention to the indoctrination going on in the public schools. We can keep voting but we need to keep truth and freedom alive too for the floowing generations.

    30. Bobbie says:

      if the "affordable health care act" is in question of it's constitutional merit, why are mandates, costs or anything being imposed on society, especially when findings are corrupt and out of reach?!

    31. kaydell says:

      When are you going to accept that what President Obama is doing is his program to change America to a socialist country. His program is by design which most media dismiss as not true. This began with Joe the Plummer and all the media rushed to his aide.

      Did not Nancy Pelosi say, you have to pass this bill to know what is in it. We now find that many things are in this health care plan that are most disturbing to our freedom of choice.

    32. steve h says:

      Keep your silly religious beliefs out of federal law. I'm so tired of these bible thumpers trying to shove their nonsense into federal legislation and policy. You can beleive whatever fairy tales you want to, but don't force them on others.

      • Bobbie says:

        how about keeping federal law out of religious beliefs, steve h? THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is the entity unfairly, intimidatingly intruding. had they not you wouldn't be hearing about it! the way it's suppose to be in AMERICA unless the religious belief is a threat to the safety of humanity! the president and his government is the only one subliminally forcing hardships on and discrimination against Christian faith!

    33. Kelvind Kao says:

      The Archbishops of America must be united with one voice and stand strongly on the side of the teachings of the Church and not be seen sitting on the fence on issues like abortions which they are sadly doing today!. Those Catholic politicians like Nancy Polensky?, John Kerry and their likes who are outspoken in favour of abortions and yet claim that they are faithful Catholics should be excommunicated immediately and not be allowed to partake the Lord's supper at Mass nor to receive any other sacrements, save the sacrement of reconciliation. While they claim to be devout Catholics and yet says the Chuch's stance on abortion is wrong and the Church's authority not doing anything about their claims would only confuse other Catholics about the truth of the Church's teachings on such issues and bring doubt as to whether life really begins at conception.

    34. Phil Harris says:

      I am afraid we may be on thin ice here. While the idea of religious freedom may sound good now, this can come back to cause more problems. For instance: under the concept of Dhimmitude Muslims and Mormons could be exempted from buying health insurance as they consider purchasing insurance as gambling.

      Further, we may be opening the expression of religious Freedom to accepting Sharia Law for Muslims. Let us be very careful on this!!!

    35. Ben C. says:

      We are clearly on the path of tyranny. All that Congress and the President are doing points us in this direction. As citizens seek “security” from the federal government they give up personal liberty. The transfer of personal responsibility to government dependence is nearly complete. There are more voters who receive from the government than those who give to the government so election outcomes are predetermined. The only way to save this republic is to crush apathy with information. It may be that the “internet” will be the catalyst – whatever it is it needs to happen today, if not yesterday.

    36. Richard says:

      Good for Obama! Maybe real Christians should not treat Republicans who kill almost 1,000 Americans a week by denying them healthcare…after all the bible says "Thou shalt not kill" and the Republicans do it even in violation of the clause in the Declaration of Independence (which is an outline of why people have the right to overthrow a government) concerning the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" something the Republicans openingly detest.

    37. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      I doubt it.

    38. Mike, North Carolina says:

      "Will the President (Obama) Protect Religious Rights?"
      Quote Obama (running for President and speaking against Americans) "clinging to their religion and guns".
      Quote our Constitution (Amendment I) "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", and (Amendment II) "…the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed". Both of those things mean any law or regulation which infringes upon or violates those rights is Unconstitutional.
      And what does Obama call our Constitution? (Quote) "A document of negative rights, limiting government".
      Obama has already spoken against Americans "clinging to their religion and guns (i.e. clinging to our Constitutional freedom of religion and the right to keep and bear arms)", he and his accomplices have since spoken and acted similarly, but now you ask "Will the President protect religious rights"?
      In ways recounted above, and others, Obama has already answered that question, and so the answer is no, he will not protect religious rights.

    39. Dr. Henry Sinopoli says:

      The only right Obama or any life-time politician is committed to protect is their right of re-election. Get real…they are the new royalty. You can write political reports all day about the lifers…they are not embarrassed or bothered by any reports…they have no shame. As long a Bohner can play a round or two, he's fine.

    40. Dr. Real says:

      If Obama is worried about the rights of employees who desire birth control, etc. from religious organizations – he can stop worrying. Employees have rights too and one of them is the right to find another job.

    41. Keith says:

      Why stop at repealling Obamacare. Recall or impeach the usurper and get us a real president, We need an EMporer as a president, not an Emporers Joker.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.