The devastating tornadoes that ripped through the South and Midwest last week left broken homes and shattered lives in their wake. While the wind and rain still blew, churches, ministries, and charitable organizations fanned out across many states to help pick up the pieces. Public policy should respect the vital role these Good Samaritans play and, at the very least, not harm their ability to serve the common good.
In southern Indiana, the New Albany Salvation Army set up food canteens to feed survivors. In Missouri, volunteers from Mennonite Disaster Service helped survivors clean up debris and moved livestock to safe facilities. And in Alabama, Catholic Charities USA helped provide sanitation services and tree removal for storm victims.
Whether it’s a hurricane in New Orleans, an earthquake in Haiti, or tornadoes in Illinois, Good Samaritans roll up their sleeves and help in whatever ways they can. And they often stick around to help long after the government shelters are disbanded.
What tends to motivate local groups like this is faith. Spurred by a sense of calling to love their neighbors and care for those in need, these groups’ religious identity is crucial to their effectiveness.
Sadly, these are some of the very organizations that will suffer under Obamacare. In particular, Obamacare’s anti-conscience mandate will force insurance plans, including those carried by religious employers, to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization—even if such coverage violates their beliefs. If employers choose to drop insurance coverage or not to comply with the mandate, they will face steep fines.
These fines on faith could divert dollars to Washington bureaucrats instead of charity-run relief efforts in Alabama and Indiana. As a result of these fines, some faith-based organizations may have to eliminate programs and staff and perhaps even shut down completely.
Only houses of worship will be exempted from the mandate; most groups like these relief agencies will not. That’s because the Obama Administration has decided that only churches that serve people of their own faith should be protected as “religious organizations.” According to this logic, neither the Salvation Army nor Catholic Charities USA qualifies as religious, because they provide food, water, and shelter to whoever needs it without first stopping to ask about their theology. Under Obamacare, not even Jesus and his disciples or the Good Samaritan would be considered religious enough to qualifyBy weakening their religious liberty and identity, Obamacare threatens not only religious groups and individual business owners but also threatens the common good they serve. Obamacare needs to be repealed, and our public officials need to protect the good work that faith-based groups do in responding in times of need.