Morning Bell: Religious Liberty Under Attack
Mike Brownfield /
Today is Ash Wednesday — the first day of Lent — the beginning of 40 days of prayer and fasting observed by Christians across the country, culminating in the Easter feast. Likewise in April, Jews will gather to celebrate Passover, one of many traditions observed under the religious freedom that the U.S. Constitution was designed to preserve. Now, though, that freedom is under direct attack by the very government that purports to represent the people, and that is but the first step in Obamacare’s re-writing of America’s blueprint.
This week, two more Christian colleges joined other religious institutions in fighting back against that attack when they filed lawsuits against the Obama Administration for imposing an anti-conscience mandate under Obamacare. The controversial regulation forces almost all employers to provide health insurance coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization, without a co-pay.
Heritage’s Sarah Torre writes that Geneva College, a private institution in Pennsylvania associated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, and Louisiana College, a small Southern Baptist school located in the middle of the state, have deeply held moral objections to the mandate and are left with no choice but to take their case to court:
With an offensively narrow religious exemption that will cover only some formal houses of worship, the mandate leaves many religious employers who hold moral objections to abortion and contraception without recourse. The mandate places the many non-exempted religious employers in an untenable situation: forced either to violate their beliefs by providing coverage of morally objectionable services or forgo providing employee health insurance altogether and pay hefty fines for doing so.
To date, seven lawsuits have been filed in response to this mandate, and those legal actions are but the tip of the iceberg of opposition to the Administration’s despotic directive.
The controversy began last August when the White House announced the anti-conscience policy as an interim final rule. Individuals and leaders from various faith backgrounds, including Roman Catholic, Jewish, evangelical, and Protestant traditions spoke out, prompting President Obama to announce an “accommodation” in response. But the proposal announced at a February 10 press conference would have done nothing to resolve the moral problem at the heart of the matter. In fact, more than 300 leaders to signed a letter deeming the gesture “unacceptable.”
Moreover, the so-called “accommodation” turned out to be nothing more than a smokescreen, since the Obama Administration ultimately finalized the August version of the rule that had caused the controversy in the first place. Adding insult to injury, the White House finalized the rule within hours of holding a press conference in which the President implied further changes — repeating the disregard for accountability to the American people first seen when they were told that Congress would have to pass the bill to find out what was in it.
The fight, though, extends beyond the issue of the anti-conscience mandate and speaks to the dangerous, endemic flaws at the root of Obamacare. In a new Heritage video, several political leaders speak out against the anti-conscience mandate while warning that this first assault on religious freedom is but a taste of what’s to come under the President’s health care law. George Weigel, a prominent Catholic scholar, says that Obamacare puts our society’s core in jeopardy:
What is at stake here ultimately is whether civil society will survive, and whether voluntary institutions or voluntary associations ranging from the traditional family to multimillion member organizations like the Catholic Church to small businesses will be allowed to function only if they imitate the government, only if they imitate the state.
Truly, the state will attempt to refashion society using Obamacare as its cudgel and awl. Matthew Spalding, vice president of American Studies at The Heritage Foundation, writes that this new, unaccountable regime of unelected bureaucrats — with regulatory authority over one-sixth of the American economy — will issue regulations that will fundamentally alter Americans’ way of life. Spalding says the anti-conscience mandate is but one of the ways that individuals will be affected under this new order of governmental dominance:
What is happening has little to do with health care or even public policy and everything to do with the role of government in the most immediate and intimate matters of our lives. All is subject to government control, regulatory dictate, and administrative whim. Nothing will be allowed outside of the new regulatory scheme: no independent state programs, no individuals or businesses permitted not to participate, no true private market alternatives.
In announcing his school’s Obamacare lawsuit, Louisiana College president Dr. Joe W. Aguillard declared, “The time for silence is over. Louisiana College will not sit by and allow this or any government to usurp our God-given religious freedoms and our time-honored Baptist heritage.” Like Louisiana College, Americans collectively are witnessing their time-honored liberties being trampled upon. They should not sit idly by, either. And Congress should repeal Obamacare forthwith in order to preserve the people’s freedom.
Click here to watch our new video, Religious Liberty: Obamacare’s First Casualty, to learn more about this issue.
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