You can’t ‘compromise’ on religious liberty

Susan Walsh AP President Barack Obama announces the revamp of his contraception policy requiring religious institutions to fully pay for … Continued

Susan Walsh

AP

President Barack Obama announces the revamp of his contraception policy requiring religious institutions to fully pay for birth control, Friday, Feb. 10, 2012, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Hasn’t it always been liberals telling us to keep religion out of politics, legislation and government? Now, our liberal president and his administration have proven that they are committed to trying to do just that. The federal government has targeted Catholics and pro-life religiously affiliated organizations, schools, and hospitals by using the power granted to the executive branch in ObamaCare, underscoring warnings made by the ACLJ and other organizations that the 2,700+ page law was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the new power made available to the federal government. Most importantly, it grants broad administrative regulatory authority that bypasses Congress.

Social issues are now at the center of a national debate because liberals have had enough of religious people standing in the way of their policies.

Yet, it doesn’t stop with the HHS regulations. The Obama administration argued at the U.S. Supreme Court that the ministerial exception – which since 1872 has allowed religious institutions to terminate a person hired to teach, minister, and/or affirm a specific theology if they refuse to do so, without fearing a retaliatory lawsuit – should be eliminated. Thankfully, the Obama Justice Department lost 9-0.

But, in their efforts to eliminate faith’s role in politics and government, an entirely new culture war has been ignited by the same liberals who have told us that politics and religion don’t mix, that we shouldn’t legislate morality (unless it comes to raising taxes), and who don’t believe there should be any religion-based conscience exemptions. Under their interpretation of the First Amendment, the bar on “respecting an establishment of religion” trumps the right to the “free exercise” of our deeply held convictions even when that means bucking nearly 150 years of legal precedent.

The Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decision to force religious institutions to provide insurance coverage for abortion pills is nothing short of a war on religious liberty. And President Obama did nothing to change this fact with his latest “accommodation.”

This is not just an assault on life, or even Catholics, it is a direct attack at the heart of religious freedom and free exercise – the very essence of the First Amendment.

Make no mistake; this regulation is not just about contraceptives. The regulation at issue will force all employers to provide insurance coverage for abortifacients – the morning-after pills that can contribute to the abortion of a fertilized egg.

Imagine a pro-life pregnancy center, the purpose of which is to provide an alternative to abortion, being forced to provide health insurance coverage that guarantees coverage of abortifacients for its employees. That is exactly what this regulation does.

Of course, this regulation also requires Catholic and other religious institutions, such as schools and hospitals, to cover contraceptives for their employees as well. Think about that. The Obama administration is telling a religious institution what it must pay for – essentially making a government-mandated doctrinal decision about what the religious institution will support and provide for its own employees.

And the White House believes there are no “constitutional rights issues here”?

But again, this is more than a pro-life issue or a Catholic issue. This is a direct assault on the role of faith in American life.

The First Amendment begins with these immortal words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ..” Yet, the Obama administration made the determination, that regardless of the tenants of a particular faith, it will require religious institutions to provide for its employees (i.e. pay for something) that violates the very purpose and religious beliefs of the institution itself.

So what changed in the president’s “accommodation”? In a word, nothing.

President Obama merely created an accounting scheme in an attempt to pacify the outrage over this issue.

Here is how it will work: Religious institutions will no longer be forced to directly pay for contraceptives and abortifacient insurance coverage that are against their religious beliefs. They will be required to purchase health insurance, and the insurance company will be required to pay for and cover abortifacient. As President Obama stated, “no religious institution will have to provide these services directly.” However, whether it is direct or indirect, forcing religious institutions to violate their faith is a violation of the First Amendment Free Exercise clause.

President Obama calls this a women’s health issue, but he misses the point. This is not a debate about what services women are allowed to obtain. It’s not a debate about what services businesses or insurance plans may cover. It is a debate simply about whether the government can force a religious institution to pay for something – directly or indirectly – that violates its religious beliefs. (Remember, even under the new “compromise,” the organizations would be paying for the insurance plans that carry with them the mandate to provide free contraception and abortion pills.)

Senator Blunt said it best:

This was no compromise, and Planned Parenthood said as much. In a press release lauding the president’s statement, the president of Planned Parenthood stated that it “does not compromise a woman’s ability to access these critical birth control benefits.” I made it clear while I moderated a panel at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that the latest “compromise” is not even worth our consideration.

As Senator Marco Rubio said at CPAC on Thursday, “This isn’t even a social issue. This is a constitutional issue . . . . . The federal government has no right to tell religious institutions to pay for things they believe are wrong.”

No religious institution, and no American, should be forced to choose between obeying the tenants of one’s faith and obeying the law.

This is an issue that has united both sides of the political isle and people of all faiths. Senators Rubio (R-FL) and Manchin (D-WV) have put forward a bill to revoke this regulation. Senator Manchin even sent a letter to President Obama urging him not to impose this mandate because “it was wrong and an encroachment on religious freedom and [the] Constitution.”

Senator Lieberman (I-CT), an orthodox Jew and former Democrat nomine for Vice President, tweeted, “I am opposed to the administration’s new requirement that religious orgs must offer employees contraception benefits . . . Government should not compel religious organizations to provide services contrary to their beliefs.”

This is a major problem for the president, and the American people, not just Catholics, are speaking out.

The ACLJ has been out in front on this issue, sending a letter to HHS months ago laying out the fact that this rule not only violates the First Amendment, it violates the protections afforded under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The letter states:

We will continue fighting to defend religious freedom in America, through legislative efforts and, if necessary, in court.

One thing is for sure; the debate over this important issue will go on. Senate Minority Leader McConnell stated over the weekend that “this issue will not go away until the administration simply backs down.” In addition, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that President Obama’s “compromise”

As Jay Sekulow, ACLJ Chief Counsel, told the crowd at CPAC, “There is no compromise with the free exercise of religion. ” This assault on religious liberty must be defeated.

Jordan Sekulow is Executive Director of the American Center for Law & Justice and writes for On Faith’s blogging network at the Washington Post. Matthew Clark is an attorney for the ACLJ.

About

Jordan Sekulow and Matthew Clark Jordan Sekulow is executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). Matthew Clark is an attorney at the ACLJ. Follow them on Twitter: @JordanSekulow and @_MatthewClark.
  • OlCoyote

    On the abortion pill issue, Obama is forcefully mixing state and church!

    Marriage through antiquity is a church issue, state get out!

  • Forgod2

    Per our Constitution the government can not legally tell anyone they have to purchase anything. This entire legislation is illegal and should be thrown out along with the entire health care they are forcing people to buy or pay a penalty for not buying.
    I do not understand why congress is allowing this.

  • crazyhorse1876

    Marriage is a state issue also because the society, family, the community, and the state benefit from strong healthy marriages. The state has an interest in encouraging this behavior that is the foundation of a healthy functioning society. It is the state’s business when poverty, risky and delinquent behavior are more common among broken homes than intact homes.

  • mcjze

    I am so disgusted with this man. Once again he has proven to the American public that he has no allegiance to our freedoms nor our way of life. I truely believe that he does not share the same priorities as the majority of Americans because he was not raised in the United States. He wasn’t nortured on the words of the constitution, nor the history of our founding fathers because he did not attend American schools. He was breast fed on the Koran and ways of the communities of Indonesia.

  • mjl61

    What, it’s fine for this “president” to talk about “choice” and then attempt to block our religious foundations from it? He does not realize Who he is messing with here. His meddling in this one goes beyond targeting American citizenry. He is interfering where no man (or mouse) should dare tread.

    Note to Obama: I cannot wait until your taxpayer-funded joy-ride is over. At the risk of completely deflating your opinion of yourself, here it is: YOU ARE NOT GOD. YOU WILL NEVER BE GOD, NOR WILL YOU REPLACE GOD. Get over yourself and get busy cleaning up some of the monumental messes you have made at the expense of this great country. The biggest mistake this country ever made was putting into the Oval Office a person who is as far from being a Patriot as anyone could come. You don’t love this country. You love yourself.

  • whatisthetruth

    Have we a nation gone too far??? Has this nation lost it’s “moral compass”? Folks it’s time we stop saying “God Bless America” and start living “America Bless God”! As many have already so wisely written….”We don’t have the last say, God Almighty does…. I have yet to see anyone leave this world alive… And then comes judgment (or for some who don’t believe in anything beyond death….Nothing). For the wages of sin is death. LORD have mercy on us all and turn our hearts, our lives back to you…

  • HiAll

    This legislation is only ONE reason why the government should stay out of health care.

    The more control the government has over health care, the more “religious issues” are going to come up.

    To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, never give the government something, because then government can take it away, at its convenience.

  • cricket44

    Moronic article. Religious freedoms are NOT threatenend. Business are NOT places of worship.

    If they want to turn away all federal funding, awesome, they can discriminate however they like. Otherwise, follow the rules just like everyone else.

  • Chip_M

    I’d much rather have our secular government involved in health care than religion.

  • Chip_M

    Keep it in your churches please. If I wanted to be preached to I’d attend one.

  • rockhavenw

    Under this administration, our personal freedoms are being demolished at an alarming rate! WE THE PEOPLE must stand together and proclaim NO MORE! PRESIDENT OBAMA: You must stop ignoring OUR Constitution. You CANNOT take away our freedom to follow our religious beliefs. This issue is not about freedom of CHOICE, it is about a President, and his government representatives and agencies, that are determined to make it easy, “normal,” and part of the LAW, to facilitate the killing of unborn children, regardless of whether or not we believe abortion is murder!

  • whatisthetruth

    Not a bad idea… try it sometime

  • dragonrose10

    Chip_M this disagreement with this Law/directive/regulation on WHAT EVERY Group / orginization / company /etc. MUST do / buy / pay $$ for/ etc. is not preaching to you! It is support YOUR consitutional RIGHTS. Churches DO NOT force you to do things only advise, suggest, recommend. This ADMINISTRATION is moving to be able to FORCE every individual to DO / BUY/ pay $$$ for ONLY what they want and in any manner (fees, taxes, etc.) they wish!.

  • dragonrose10

    Thank you for this comment. Yes it is forcing people and penalties. This one is for Health care, it is the lead move for more control and forcing actions etc. on all citizens.

  • dragonrose10

    I view this law/directive/regulation as the first step in the move to CONTROL and REGULATE all aspects of everything. A direct violation of our consitutional rights that are set for all USA Citizens with no paramaters of what and/or who that is! Let us who have common sense set our goal to FIRE all who vote / express approval of this and other violations of our rights.
    ? FIRE? well that is exactly what you do when you vote to ELECT someone you HIRE them. Would keep employed any indvidual who did this sort of work?

  • Djones121

    What nonsense. This issue has nothing to do with religious liberty. The red hats want to force their outdated and dangerous teachings on birth control on their thousands of Catholic and non-Catholic employees of their mega-billion empire of hospitals, universities, colleges and other SECULAR businesses. Last week the redhats announced they also want all businesses owned by Catholics, such as sporting goods stores, to also not provide for birth control services in the insurance they provide their employees. The redhats can’t get their flock to follow their teachings, so they want the Federal Government to give them enforcement power.

    Some Republican hacks want a wedge issue to split the Democratic Party. This is pure partisan politics, don’t confuse it with the Constitution.

    It is past time for the priests, rabbis, ministers, witch doctors, shamans, and political charlatans to stop meddling in U.S. public health policy.

  • david6

    Hospitals and colleges are enterprises, not religious activities.

  • david6

    Religion has nothing to do with this. Hospitals are not churches. Tim Dolan and the rest of the American bishops have been completely rejected on their doctrines about birth control and now they are trying to find ways to get the government to enforce what they are totally unable to get anyone to accept. Their claims about morality are a joke.

  • alert4jsw

    There are religious institutions in this country that have never accepted the concepts of a secular society, or personal religious autonomy, and this column is just what I would expect from one of their leading spokesmen.

    Religious institutions are free to preach any doctrine they wish to anyone who voluntarily walks through their doors. But rather than welcome the freedom our secular constitution grants them, they seem to consider any attempt to prevent them from fully controlling people’s lives as a form of persecution. Granting any church the “right” to enforce its doctrines through special laws or exceptions to laws is an inherent violation of the religious autonomy of the individual and allows that church the privilege of dictating matters of conscience not only to its members, but to everyone. Since this would grant the church a legal privilege not shared by individuals or even other institutions, it is a clear violation of the First Amendment’s principle that government may not favor one religion over another or religion over non-religion.

    The claim that the Catholic (or any) church’s “conscience rights” are being violated is sheer nonsense. The concept of “conscience” describes a brain function by which the individual is able to determine right from wrong. Institutions, as inanimate entities created by people, have no “conscience.” Institutions may promote certain values, but these are collectively established by those running the institution, be it a “Board of Directors” or a “College of Cardinals.” Quite often there is a conflict between the conscience-based decisions of individuals and the values promoted by institutions, and in those cases the constitution is clear about which must prevail.

    Constitutionally, it is “the people” — individuals — who are “endowed by their creator with inalienable rights,” not the artificial entities created by them. Institutions, including corporations and churches, are not “people.” And much of the furor — and fury -

  • usapdx

    Religion cannot compromise the supreme law of the United States, the Constitution.

  • usapdx

    No one or group is above the supreme law of the country, the Constitution. All religions as well as anyone else cannot take a right away from a American period.

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