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  • Obamacare's Contraception Mandate Tramples on Religious Liberty

    The Obama Administration’s mandate under the Obamacare statute that many religious employers provide health care coverage for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization tramples upon their free exercise of religion.  The Obama Administration should immediately exempt such religious employers from the contraception mandate.  The Administration’s trampling upon religious liberty with the contraception mandate illustrates yet again the need to repeal the Obamacare statute.

    What the Obamacare Statute Says

    Section 2713 of the Public Health Service Act, enacted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148) (the “Obamacare” statute), provides that “A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall, at a minimum provide coverage for and shall not impose any cost sharing requirements for— . . . (4) with respect to women, such additional preventive care and screenings . . . as provided for in comprehensive guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration . . . .”

    Those HRSA guidelines currently provide for “All Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”  Thus, the Obamacare statute mandates that employer group health plans cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, including contraception, sterilization procedures, and “emergency contraception” (as the FDA calls the Plan B, Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, and Ella “morning-after” pills).

    Obama Administration Issues Regulations, Heritage Responds

    The Obama Administration published its interim regulations implementing the contraception mandate in the Federal Register on August 3, 2011.  On August 9, 2011, The Heritage Foundation filed comments with the Secretaries of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and the Treasury, to urge the Administration to expand the very narrow religious exemption under the interim rules — which focused principally on houses of worship and their ministers — to cover religious institutions, such as religious hospitals and charities, out of respect for the First Amendment freedom of religion.

    On January 20, 2012, Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius issued a statement that, instead of expanding the religious exemption to cover more religious institutions, she would give the institutions an additional year during which to comply with the contraception mandate.  The Obama Administration decision to command religious institutions to violate their religious beliefs a year from now is no better than a command to violate their beliefs immediately.

    How The Obamacare Statute Violates Religious Freedom

    The Obamacare statute and implementing regulations command some religious institutions to do what their religion commands them not to do.  To take one example, the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church commands that “human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception,” and the papal encyclical on human life that sets forth the Church’s beliefs regarding life prohibits “direct interruption of the generative process already begun,” “sterilization,” and “any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation . . . .”

    The Obamacare statute’s mandate to a Catholic institution to provide health insurance coverage for its employees that covers contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization clashes directly with the Church’s mandate based on religious belief that the institution not do so.  The authors of the Bill of Rights foresaw the emergence of such clashes and wisely provided in the First Amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .”

    The HHS and the other departments recognized, in the preamble to the interim rules, that “the Departments seek to provide for a religious accommodation that respects the unique relationship between a house of worship and its employees in ministerial positions,” and provided a narrow religious exemption.  Such an exemption falls far short, however, of the protection the First Amendment contemplates; it covers houses of worship, but not, for example, religious hospitals or charities.

    Exemption of religious institutions from the Obamacare contraception mandate does not involve a clash of the constitutional rights of a religious employer with the constitutional rights of its employees regarding contraception (as enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965) or abortion (Roe v. Wade, 1973).  Such an exemption in no way limits the freedom of employees of those religious institutions to obtain contraceptive services, to obtain insurance covering contraceptive services from a source other than their employer, or to seek employment with other than a religious employer.

    What the Obama Administration Should Do

    The Department of Health and Human Services should broadly exempt religious institutions in its final regulations implementing the Obamacare contraception mandate, pending repeal of that mandate as part of the Obamacare statute repeal.  Such an exemption would allow the religious institutions both to adhere, as they must, to the tenets of their faiths and to provide group health care plans for their employees.  Absent such an exemption, many religious institutions, following their faiths, will have no alternative but to stop making group health plans available to their employees and pay any fines for failure to do so.

    Surely President Obama did not intend what he considers his signature legislative achievement to trample on freedom of religion and to result in the loss of group health care coverage for employees of religious institutions.  This is, after all, the man who told us all in 2006 that “secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.”

    Mr. President, the problem is clear and your Cabinet has not fixed it.  Please direct Secretary Sebelius to expand the religious institution exemption, now.

    Posted in Featured, Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    28 Responses to Obamacare's Contraception Mandate Tramples on Religious Liberty

    1. mdmandklm says:

      Thank you for a very clear and thorough presentation of the issues involved. The O faction is not unintelligent. They know what their position presents. There is a deep anti religious base supporting the whole O agenda. In this case they have shown that they are coming for the "infants" first.

    2. Rose says:

      The law says that the religious employers would be treated equally as any other employer and must provide the coverage as stated. It does not require the EMPLOYEES to USE the coverage. That is between the employee and their doctor or in this case the employee and their God. I might add that not every House of Worship has dogma forbidding birth control . An example is Judaism allowing most hormonal methods like the pill or the patch.

    3. Joe Siano says:

      This is not about access to birth control. It is about a whole new level of people control. The First Amendment protects Churches from the State just as the whole of the Constitution was to protect sovereign citizens from intrusive and overbearing government.

    4. This would not be an issue if the Supreme Court had not gutted the free exercise clause in "Employment Division v. Smith." Thanks Justice Scalia.

    5. The only thing that needs to be addressed here is "Separation of Church and State." You either have it or you don't. This administration is trying to circumvent this in far too many areas lately.

    6. Reb says:

      It does seem as the Obama administration is going after religious employers. They can exempt the entire state of Nevada and all of the major Unions from Obamacare, but we have to go after those Catholics and their pro-life stance. I'm sure he was assisted by the ACLU and the feminazies which are part of his leftwing base.
      It also appears that he has no respect for the constitution as this is the third time that he has violated it.
      Michelle Malkin said it best "first they come after the Catholics and then………"

    7. Laura says:

      The King wants it, so it must be done! What happened to "we the people?" Keep government out of our core beliefs. This constant pushing and insisting we change to what the Leftists want is not healthy for our country. If we allow these decisions to stand, they will put us into bondage. Our freedoms are slipping away.
      And WE are to blame.

      • Yib says:

        We the people does not apply to only those who are against it. If it really is "we the people", that would be every single citizen in the US, which includes people who want it, which makes the statute feasible.

    8. This could lead to further attacks on our personal freedoms. I think it goes much deeper than the immediate issue at hand. We cannot stand for this no matter what our religion is or even if we are athiest. America beware!

    9. Arun Patil, M.D. says:

      This mandate shows us, how the communist minded people will enslave this nation if we do not act in a big way. The big way would be to organize a million people march to the White House to protest this mandate before the upcoming election. Remember that in an election year everyone listens.

    10. Guest says:

      If religious organizations didn't want to comply with this provision, then they could have simply designed their plans to ensure they retained grandfathered plan status. Grandfathered plans do not have to comply with the regulation. Even so, why is there such an objection to this? The only way a plan will pay for contraceptives is if a plan participant or beneficiary desires contraceptives. Why don't the religious groups focus their energy on convincing their plan participants why contraceptives are so immoral?

      • N8W says:

        the religious organization is forced to cover you regardless of their beliefs. You have your "Choice," they do not have theirs. If I were a catholic religious hospital that provided health plans you do not have the right to tell me I must provide you the option of contraception. This mandate also violates the "Free Exercise," clause of the constitution.

    11. G Schwei says:

      To all senators and representatives who voted for Obamacare without reading it: how are feeling now, people? A little job threatened maybe? A little foolish? Naive? Did you learn anything??

    12. Kitty Kat says:

      There are so many Americans who do not understand the root problem to this issue. It is not abortion or the insurance plans/policies. It is the issue of the First Amendment rights and freedoms of all Americans that are being challenged at this time. If the american people do not wake up and fight this intrusion on their rights/ freedom, the time will come soon that we have to rights/ freedoms to do as we would like. All people need to contact their representatives and senators, the White House and their local candidates to let them all know that we will no longer sit back and "let" government do what they want and dictate to everyone what they feel is the only way for all people to have and act.

      Again, America wake up because unless you completely agree with the current administration's opinion that you need to be told what to do and how to live, you must rise up and let your opinion be known.

    13. Bobbie says:

      another thing. Obama references the words of our Lord, mocking the words of the Lord Jesus into Obama's dictate for Obama's government policies. Civil law that holds each individual accountable to their own without discrimination, racism or bias, which all people born of human dignity should cherish to protect, Obama fears the thought, civility is too Christian!!!

      Only a man who fears personal dignity fears Christianity.

      The words of Jesus is for the individual hearts of humanity, not government authority over the people. Nothing in the Bible suggests policies or control of government put on anyone. Jesus teaches many life lessons for the individual heart and inner strength. Not government mandates by government dictate whom promote neither life's lessons nor inner strength. Obama is one man rightfully ban from the use of Jesus name because Obama doesn't inspire Jesus teachings, Obama uses satirical utterances.

    14. Arun Patil, M.D. says:

      The mandate to provide health insurance that covers the cost for contraception by Catholic organizations is a clear violation of religious freedom. This mandate must be stopped because it a fore runner of many more to come which will slowly take away our freedom. We must act in a big way now; because this is crucial for the future of our country. We should therefore have a million people walk to the White House to protest this mandate. This should take place before the upcoming election in order for it to make an impression on the president.

    15. BILL says:

      No one is forcing anybody to use birth control. This issue is purely political. Stop the madness.

    16. Ted Pruitt says:

      This is clearly unconstitutional! It infringes upon their freedom of religion! Liberals love to throw around the "separation of church and state" clause when it suits their them, well here is the perfect opportunity to use that clause as a weapon! The Catholic church and all other religous organizations that disagree with this policy should fight all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary!

    17. ABC says:

      "Mr. President, the problem is clear and your Cabinet has not fixed it. Please direct Secretary Sebelius to expand the religious institution exemption, now."

      This is the wrong answer on many fronts and the Heritage Foundation should be embarrassed by it and pull it off the website. First, it seeds power to the federal gov't – ie ask for an exemption. OK, what will you do for me so that I will grant you this exemption. This is how the gov'ts continue to gain power, strip us of our freedoms, and one more example of how policies with exceptions breed corruption. Second, under what logic do certain organizations get special treatment? What kind of government singles out special groups for special treatment. How about my organization? What do I have to do, who do I have to bribe, I'm sorry, I meant whose political campaign do I have to contribute to for my organization to get special treatment. Third, the US government does not have the right to tell me what I need to provide for my employees (with the possible exception of safety related issues) or tell me personally what kind of insurance I have to buy or if I have to purchase any at all.

      The correct answer, the one I would expect from the Heritage Foundation is, this is just one more example of why Obmacare has to be immediately repealed. It is a fundamental violation of our rights and will breed corruption at an unprecedented rate.

    18. mary hitz says:

      when are real Catholics going to realize that obama is anti-religion? he hates all who do not agree with him for he has not religion. read cass sunsten. where is the Catholic church in California? They have said nothing. Harrry for Arch. T. Dolan of New York.

    19. dougindeap says:

      Notwithstanding wild-eyed cries to the contrary, THE HEALTH CARE LAW DOES NOT FORCE EMPLOYERS TO ACT CONTRARY TO THEIR BELIEFS–unless one supposes the employers' religion forbids even the payment of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion).

      Questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith are entirely real, but not new. The courts have occasionally confronted such issues and have generally ruled that the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, fraud, negligence, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. Were it otherwise and people could opt out of this or that law with the excuse that their religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate. When moral binds for individuals can be anticipated, provisions may be added to laws affording some relief to conscientious objectors.

      Here, there is no need for such an exemption, since no employer is being "forced," as some commentators rage, to act contrary to his or her belief. In keeping with the law, those with conscientious objections to providing their employees with qualifying health plans may decline to provide their employees with any health plans and pay an assessment instead or, alternatively, provide their employees with health plans that do not qualify (e.g., ones without provisions they deem objectionable) and pay lower assessments.

      The employers may not like paying the assessments or what the government will do with the money it receives. But that is not a moral dilemma of the sort supposed by many commentators, but rather a garden-variety gripe common to most taxpayers–who don't much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action of the government. That is hardly call for a special "exemption" from the law. Should each of us feel free to deduct from our taxes the portion that we figure would be spent on those actions (e.g., wars, health care, whatever) each of us opposes?

      • Delores Noble says:

        I agree, employers should not be compelled to provide coverage for contraception, abortifacients & sterilization. However, folks, this is only the beginning. Our handicapped are in danger as well as our senior citizens. Once the government begins to issue insurance coverage, they can decide who lives or dies and how this is accomplished.

        We need to pray and pray hard.

    20. Bill Feldman says:

      As a 'real' Catholic, I find the comments above offensive. This not about religious freedom. It's about what's the best public health policy. Institutions like the Catholic church who provide private insurance services, should do so without regard to religious conviction. Catholics like all Americans must choose to follow their (religious) convictions. Not everyone believes that contraception is bad much less 'sinful' and this is a very serious health issue for many, many women.

    21. R. Lang says:

      If the government feels so strongly about the need for these products, why doesn't it make this contraception available for free to anyone who wants it and avoid the whole separation of church and state issue. In fact, if they did, as the only buyer of these medicines they cold get a great deal from the drug companies.

    22. Jean Baller says:

      The Obama administration is using this issue to turn it into a" women's issue" women deserve healthcare. He can't run on his accomplishments so he is using issues like this to appeal to women and how the Catholics don't want women to have access to health care exp: contraception. This issue is just one of many dirty tricks he will try to pull during the campaign

    23. Ann says:

      abortifacients drugs are not covered:

      Preventive Services Covered Under the Affordable Care Act

      "Contraception: Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling, not including abortifacient drugs"*

      The above information is dated: 2012-01-30 http://tinyurl.com/7ewqjfr

    24. Della Frank says:

      Obama cares nothing about our religious freedoms…wake up people.

    25. Leah says:

      This does not violate the religious freedom of any group employer or provider, as they will not be required to pay for an employee if their values conflict with this particular division of Obamacare. According to the White House Office of the Press Secretary:
      "The policy also ensures that if a woman works for a religious employer with objections to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, the religious employer will NOT be required to provide, pay for or refer for contraception coverage, but her insurance company will be required to directly offer her contraceptive care free of charge."

      This provision of Obamacare allows all members to make their own choices. Instead of "trampling on religion", it manages to not only preserve individual liberty and freedom of religion, but also gives women who desire it a chance for a safer future.

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