This morning, the Supreme Court didn’t just miss the opportunity to protect individual liberty. It also failed to defend religious freedom. The Court’s ruling to uphold Obamacare doesn’t mean the law has cleared its legal challenges, however. Twenty-three federal lawsuits against Obamacare’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate—which goes into effect on August 1—now take on added urgency.
Implementation of the behemoth 2,700-page Obamacare law has only just begun, and the HHS mandate signals the damage to religious liberty and other freedoms Americans will experience as the teeth of the law sink deeply into our society in the coming months and years.
The HHS anti-conscience mandate is a completely separate rule from the individual mandate, and its constitutionality was not considered by the Supreme Court in the cases decided today. The HHS mandate, along with the individual mandate and the rest of Obamacare, still presents a clear threat to individual and religious liberty. Nothing short of full repeal of the statute will adequately protect our freedoms from this federal overreach.
The next legal battleground against Obamacare resides in the fight to protect employers from the coercive requirement to provide coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization under the HHS mandate.
More than 50 plaintiffs have joined the 23 lawsuits against the anti-conscience mandate to demand relief for countless religious employers forced into an untenable situation by the coercive rule.
Obamacare’s anti-conscience mandate affords the narrowest religious exemption in federal law, effectively covering only formal houses of worship. Countless other religious employers, like schools, hospitals, and religious charities, are forced to provide coverage for the mandated services despite moral or religious objections—simply because they step outside the four walls of a church to serve others.
Creating the choice to violate conscience or forgo providing health insurance entirely—and risk hefty fines under Obamacare—the HHS mandate profoundly and adversely affects many employers and the people they serve. It also does severe damage to the broad understanding of religious freedom that Americans have enjoyed throughout the history of this great nation.
As the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s Senior Legal Counsel Hannah Smith stated:
“Never in history has there been a mandate forcing individuals to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or pay a severe fine, a fine which could force many homeless shelters, charities, and religious institutions to shut their doors.”
The HHS anti-conscience mandate is only an early warning sign of how one-size-fits-all health care requirements will trample on religious liberty as well as individual liberty.
To protect religious liberty specifically and individual freedom generally, Obamacare must be repealed. While the HHS mandate is litigated in Court, the broader fight for freedom now moves to Congress. Policymakers should repeal the entirety of Obamacare and replace it with health care reform that reduces costs, increases access, and leaves personal health care decisions where they belong: in the hands of the American people.
Americans need and want health care reform that respects their liberties and their conscience.