HHS mandate is officially violating our religious liberty

AFP/GETTY IMAGES A supporter of President Barack Obama’s health care reforms, right, argues with several elderly women who are against … Continued

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A supporter of President Barack Obama’s health care reforms, right, argues with several elderly women who are against the reforms in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., after the morning session March 27, 2012.

The Obama administration’s HHS mandate went into effect last week, August 1, solidifying one of the largest assaults on religious liberty America has ever faced from its government.

The Obama administration now touts it as “free preventive services” but was clearer about its purpose when the Health and Human Services (HHS) first announced the final rule implementing “Obamacare” in January.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius explained that the “final rule on preventive health services will ensure that women with health insurance coverage will have access to the full range of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended preventive services, including all FDA-approved forms of contraception.” FDA-approved “contraceptives” include abortion drugs like Plan B, ella, and others.

The mandate, as it went into effect last week, forces all employers which provide health insurance for their employees to pay for and provide insurance coverage for these abortion drugs regardless of their religious beliefs.

There are two exceptions to the implementation of this rule that the Obama Administration has benevolently bestowed upon people of faith, each of which also violate our religious liberty.

First, the HHS mandate exempts “churches” from this requirement. Of course the Obama administration has taken it upon itself to define what exactly a church is –very narrowly. A church, to Obama, is not what people of faith understand it to be. It is not “The Church” in the broader sense of the world as the Apostle Paul described the body of Christ. No, the Obama administration has basically limited the church to the four wall of the church building, a “house of worship.”

REUTERS

Buttons reading ‘Repeal Obamacare’ are displayed at the American Conservative Union’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, February 9, 2012.

So the “churches” exemption to the abortion-pill mandate does not apply to religious institutions that feed the homeless, minster to the poor, care for the sick, look after orphans, or train up future generations from a biblically based worldview. Each one of these is a specific biblical command to live out our Christian faith and its principles mirrored by many other religions, but not under the government’s concept of religion.

Religiously affiliated hospitals, adoption agencies, homeless shelters, schools, and many other ministries will now be forced to violate their deeply held religious beliefs – that they should not fund, support, or promote abortion-related drugs.

The fact alone that the Obama administration has issued its definition of what counts as a church, a “religious employer,” in the most limited way is an outrage. Religious liberty that is confined to the narrowly defined terms of the government is not liberty at all.

The second exception is even worse. The so-called “religious accommodation” that the Obama administration promised to implement, but has yet to actually finalize, is nothing but a slap in the face to people of faith. First of all, the term “accommodation” is insulting in and of itself. Religious liberty should be celebrated by our government, as it is guaranteed by our Constitution, not merely accommodated.

Further, the framework of the “accommodation” violates religious liberty. Religious institutions have been given an additional year, until August 1, 2013, to figure out how they are going to violate their faith – as if somehow delaying the forced violation of one’s religious beliefs makes it better.

As for the “accommodation” itself, which still remains unfinalized, it changes nothing. Religiously affiliated employers still must pay for insurance coverage that covers abortion pills. The only change was an accounting gimmick aimed at pacifying the religious crowd. It didn’t work. A majority of Americans still oppose the HHS mandate.

It is clear that even these exceptions and “accommodations” do not protect religious liberty.

For everyone else, the HHS mandate is now in effect. If you own a business that provides health insurance for your employees, you must pay for them to have abortion pill coverage, plain and simple.

The battle against the HHS mandate is now in the courts, as many, including the ACLJ, have filed lawsuits to defend the religious liberty of all Americans.

Our client is a Christian business owner who merely wishes to follow the scriptural mandate, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,” over Obama’s mandate. His company’s mission “is to make our labor a pleasing offering to the Lord while enriching our families and society.” And his company’s values statement proclaims, “Our conduct is guided by the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments.” Consistent with those values, he, like many Americans, opposes the requirement that he provide abortion pills for his employees.

Reuters

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney addresses supporters during a “Repeal & Replace Obamacare” campaign in Metairie, La., March 23, 2012. Louisiana’s primary will be held on Saturday, March 24, 2012.

When the government starts dictating what our values and religious beliefs must be, religious liberty is violated, and it is critical that the American people continue to stand up. While religious liberty is being violated for many today, whoever is president, and in turn HHS secretary, a year from now will determine whether this violation continues.

Litigation will continue for years to come over the abortion pill mandate, but as Mitt Romney has made clear, “If I am elected president … on day one I will eliminate the Obama administration rule that compels religious institutions to violate the tenets of their own faith.”


Jordan Sekulow is executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice and 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.
  • michael w. undernehr

    Silence is murder ….. as stated in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS—- it does not say THOU SHALL NOT KILL ,killing is always justified or other wise it is murder—-keep sugar coating and avoiding the real issue—- keep silent the murdering will not stop! do the right thing –do all you can do to stop murdering innocent children or be damned.

  • sandra gardner

    People who are not drawn to learning about the bible which IS THE DIRECT WORDS OF GOD HIMSELF, lack the knowledge and the understanding of GOD’S WAY of doing things and his way of thinking. HIS WAYS and HIS THOUGHTS are SO MUCH MORE HIGHER than us human beings. The bible was brought to us to help us understand how HE has operated throughout history and to learn about HIS TRUE CHARACTER , how AWSOME HE IS and how very much HE wants a close relationship with all of us. He did say THE PEOPLE PERISH FOR A LACK OF KNOWLEDGE. if somone was in poor health and you had the info to help the person heal, would you not help aid the person in their healing? But also what if the person just liked to be miserable and didn’t want you to help them get better in their health. We can be the same way in not wanting to gain the knowledge to aid us in getting better. MIND, BODY AND SOUL. …what do you think? How my comment relates to what is being discussed here is this gather as much sound information from the highest level as you can so you can then make good sound decisions for yourselves and your loved ones, not on the lowest level but the highest.

  • Forgod2

    Each time I applied for work I assessed the position, the boss I would work for, I looked at the workers and tried to assess if they were happy. I also was given the opportunity to ask about the company.
    If I chose I could turn down the offer for a position with them.
    The same is true for anyone today. If they don’t like the insurance coverage and that is their deciding factor then they can turn down the job opportunity and look elsewhere for work.
    businesses sometimes offer HMO or PPO coverage which I detest. I have turned down some offers because of that.
    It is a free country and a free choice.
    A business should not have to change because someone does not like the mode of operation or healthcare coverage.

  • Marlene S.

    Thank you Jay for telling the truth.

  • Bonnie

    We are here to serve the Lord God Almighty, not somebody else’s idea of the way life should go, or the way life should be exterminated — even if they are the government! If you don’t stand for something (like God’s principles) you WILL fall for anything anyone tries to sell you, even though they portray it as “a health bill,” when it is really a “death bill” in many areas beyond abortion!”

    Thank you ACLJ team for all your hard work in defending our freedoms to the greatest degree! God Bless you! More Power to you!!

  • Margaret Luckey

    This is not a republican or democratic issue. This is the issue of seperation of Church and state. Making someone go againast his or her religious beliefs is not a seperation of church and state. It is being right smak dab in the middle and dictatiing to someone what he or she is to do against their faith. I feel that if someone wants these services and a company chooses not to have them in their health care just go somewhere else and get a job. We have become a country where we are slowly allowing our government to take away our rights and then justifying it. Wake up. Take responsibility and claim your rights back. Do not allow our government to do such things.

  • cricket44

    Shameful, Jordan, how you keep perpetuating these lies.

  • persiflage

    Margaret, where do you get this nonsense? Individuals aren’t being forced to do anything at all. Contraceptive benefits are a requirement for corporate concerns that provide health insurance to their employees. Please note that both religion and contraception are voluntary rather than mandatory in the USA.

    It doesn’t matter if that corporate concern is run, owned, and/or maintained by the Catholic Church or any other religious faith. Business is business, and is governed by civil laws.

    Churches are not required to provide birth control pills or condoms, so that’s a blessing, isn’t it?

  • cricket44

    Businesses are not places of worship. Any business that takes federal funds *in any way* cannot then flout federal rules in order to discriminate against employees by denying them benefits *already earned.* It is the religious freedoms of the employees that are being violated.

  • cricket44

    I will say Jordan knows his audience. These comments are loaded with lies, misinformation and no small amount of malice.

    No facts, though. Much confusion about what religious freedom actually means but no facts.

    These people speak for an element of “Christianity” that is fanatical and hysterical.

  • amelia45

    The religious freedom that the Obama administration respects is the freedom of the individual. Each person is free to make a choice about taking birth control or having a sterilization procedure.

    What the Republican’s want is to give employers the power to require that those who work for them must live by tenets of the employer’s faith. It is both religious tyranny and class warfare – that should certainly appeal to the evangelicals, who insist they have the only possible right answers, and those who glorify money over God.

  • amelia45

    A little history on the HHS mandate under the Affordable Care Act and why it is not the Obama administration who who pulled something new and strange out of the blue but continued what had been a slow march of change for over 40 years.

    Where did the HHS mandate come from? Was it a “bolt out of the blue?”

    Back in 1970, a not yet well-known Republican from Texas, had this to say in seeking government subsidies of contraceptives for poor women in Title X legislation: “We need to take sensationalism out of this topic so that it can no longer be used by militants who have no real knowledge of the voluntary nature of the program but, rather, are using it as a political stepping stone. If family planning is anything, it is a public health matter.”

    The speaker was George H.W. Bush. Title X, the law he sponsored that still funds family planning for the poor, passed the House by a vote of 298 to 32. It passed the Senate unanimously. A Republican president, Richard Nixon, signed it into law.

    In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which gave working women some protection from being discriminated against in health benefits and leave benefits of employers. Until that time, pregnant women could be fired and an employer had no obligation to allow a woman to return to her job after giving birth, even though a man who fell and broke his leg would have some job protections rights.

    In year 2000, the EEOC enacted a regulation to REQUIRE EMPLOYERS TO INCLUDE CONTRACEPTIVES IN HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE if the health insurance covered other forms of preventative care. YEAR 2000. This a mandate that stayed in play, unmentioned and undisturbed as a national political issue during the 8 years of the Dubya Bush presidency.

    Between 1970 and about 2005, 26-28 states passed state legislation requiring that prescription drug insurance benefits sold in those states had to include contraceptives; not all of them allowed an exemption for a religious employer.

    How have reg

  • amelia45

    DePaul University covers contraceptives. The 1,800 employee-university responded to a complaint from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission several years ago and added artificial contraception as a benefit to its Blue Cross PPO.

    Boston College, the six former Caritas Christi Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts include coverage of contraceptives in their health insurance coverage as do other Catholic hospitals and universities in other states. Marquette U. covers contracept

    Some do so because the states require it; some do so because of the EEOC regulations; some do so because they see it as an issue affecting recruitment of faculty and staff. Some do it out of respect for the differing religious beliefs of those who work for them – although it seems that such respect is no longer to be offered.

    The result of decades of federal and state actions regarding contraceptives and of the growth in the acceptance of contraceptives as important to the health of women and families:

    By the time the HHS mandates were issued, 90% of employees who received insurance from an employer had contraceptive coverage in their health insurance. Survey after survey had shown that somewhere between 90% and 98% of women in this country use artificial contraceptives at some time during their child bearing years.

    Importantly, use of contraceptives is not just a woman’s decision. Families make these decisions, husbands and wives together choose to use contraceptives to determine when and how many children to have, to order their lives so that the children they do have can be cared for, educated, and well raised. Contraceptives are a normal, routine, everyday part of the life of women and families.

    This is the situation when the HHS mandates were formulated. That contraceptives were and are a widely accepted and used health care issue was obvious. That contraceptives could be mandated in health insurance regulations was proven in both federal and state courts. That courts would uphold a

  • amelia45

    I wonder if Margartet understands that she is taking the rights away from an individual and giving them to an employer. The rights are shifting away from the individual person and giving an employer the right to require or coerce an employee to live according to the religious beliefs of the employer.

    The individual no longer has a right to conscience in this scenario – that right seems to belong either to a religious group or to an employer.

  • Catken1

    Then serve God and not Caesar. Don’t run public businesses. Keep to your religious aims.

    And hold all the views about life you like, but do not seek to co-opt other human beings’ bodies against their will for the support of lives your religion deems more important and more human than theirs.

  • Catken1

    Because of course there are so MANY jobs currently available and so MUCH choice of employer for the average worker just trying to support their families…

    And yes, it is a free country and a free choice. Public businesses must still, however, comply with public laws, applicable to all, which ensure free choice for their employees, and which do not put undue burdens (like the extra expenses entailed in unplanned pregnancies) on the rest of us. I shouldn’t have to pay extra money for my insurance, or for other societal costs, so that some Catholic employer can self-righteously push extra pregnancies on an unwilling female employee.

  • Catken1

    The Bible and religious beliefs are not relevant to civil law. You may believe your religious dogma is the highest possible knowledge, but you may not use the civil law to require others to submit to it.

    After all, others believe precisely the same thing about Islam – would you like to be required by civil law to comport yourself according to Sharia law to suit someone else’s views of what is good and righteous?

  • Catken1

    “do all you can do to stop murdering innocent children or be damned.”

    Fine. I expect you therefore to work against laws that allow you to refuse the use of YOUR organs, blood supply, bone marrow, or other body parts to innocent children who need them.

    After all, if a woman’s refusal of the use of her body is “murder”, so is yours. She is as human as you, and owns her body just as you do. If her right to choose who may use her body and when is less important than another person’s right to live inside her and use her organs, so is yours.

  • Shay Porter

    Contraception I don’t have a problem with (abstinence is the only way to be 100% sure of course and I would prefer that young people would take sex more seriously). But abortion pills are another thing. In a country with more than adequate access to contraceptives, why should I be forced to not only condone something I don’t agree with but pay for someone’s desperate attempt to erase the consequences of their actions?

    This of course doesn’t apply to certain circumstances (mostly in the cases of rape) and I don’t really mind the day after pill (an emergency contraceptive). But abortifacients (pills that abort a viable child) are the same as surgical abortion. Which I believe is murder. If I were to start up a religious based business (I would likely keep it private) and I couldn’t in good conscience provide abortions or abortifacients to my employees, I would be condoning murder.

  • Kimmi Noelle McKnight

    OK, although up til now i’ve been on the fence about the pairing of these two (Romney-Ryan), i am fully on board and backing these guys!

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Please keep in mind that in the 19th century Sekulow’s counterparts were railing against germ theory and vaccination as violations of ‘god’s plan.’ Perhaps there is a better ethical conversation that we should be having about abortion, but any arguments coming from the religious right on this subject are so thoroughly draped in idiocy and hypocrisy that they more or less ring hollow.

  • AnAnonymousFool

    amelia45 – thanks for the history lesson. It was definitely informative. It presents the progression of events that led up to the current state of affairs.

    Having said that and as you can see from my earlier comments – I ask of you – So What?

    In other words – does the preexistence of something that is inherently unjust (as you yourself have pointed out via the various suits brought against the various pro-contraception measures over time) make it rational to perpetuate it for ever?

    By your argument the civil rights movement, womens suffrage, slavery, etc. – none of these issues merited the change at the time they did – simply because the issues pre-existed at those times!

    So just because you have listed all the precedents for an unjust state of affairs – that doesn’t change the unjustness of the that state of affairs. Does it?

    The HHS Mandate is just another unjust, totalitarian, unconstitutional, and un-american policy in a long line of poor choices made by our leaders – be they Republican or Democrat.

    In Christ
    An Anonymous Fool

  • amelia45

    What it does is demonstrate that what Obama did was not some deliberate, new, radical slight against those of religious faith. What he did had been entirely acceptable as a government action in the past.

    Now, I also happen to believe that we are in dangerous waters in trying to demonize the government as “secular” as if that isn’t exactly what it is supposed to be. That doesn’t mean the society is secular – because it is not. What we want – or should want if we really do believe in religious freedom – is a secular government.

    I want the government to go to the best medical advisors in the country when they look at what is important to the health of the people of this country. And that is what they did. “Contraception is also recommended as a part of health care for women by the nation’s leading health care professional associations, including the including the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Public Health Association.”

    It is dangerous to get into grounds in which the institutional structure and hierarchy of a faith based organization has the power to determine national policy. It is one thing for that faith based institution to preach and exhort its own people to accept a tenet of faith – it is another to claim the power to coerce or require others to live by tenets of a faith they do not accept.

    One of the most dangerous things we are doing right now comes out of the mistake we made in promoting the so-called “faith based initiatives” with government money. The moment we did that, we joined faith and government in a way that has led to nothing but horror in centuries past.

    A little reminder from one of our Founding Fathers:

    “In some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Gov’ & Religion neither can be duly supported: Such indeed is the tendency to such a

  • Patrick Hickey

    Am I the only one that thinks the HHS is in violation of the Church/State mandate.Is this not the state dictating a religious standard…

  • amelia45

    NO. It is the state dictating a medical care standard and leaving it up to the individual to decide if he/she will make use of it.

    What the Catholics (others?) want to be able to do is require/coerce others to do what the Catholic hierarchy/other religious bosses decide is right for them.

  • jamesdalbright1

    How do we defy these miseducated anti-Christian Socialist misfits.

  • jamesdalbright1

    How do we defy these miseducated anti-Christians Socialist misfits that are a threat to our society.

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