Last Friday’s standing-room only hearing before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission was among the most dramatic I’ve witnessed. There was outrage – outrage not just from me as I declared the State Department “AWOL” in our quest to free an American Pastor, Saeed Abedini — a U.S. citizen — captured by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard […]
The American people are watching, and they don’t like what they see. The issue: President Obama’s mandate and follow-up compromise targeting people of faith – policies that violate religious liberty and the conscience rights of millions of Americans.
We’ve been extremely active in calling attention to this problematic development. Our legal team has been writing about this issue for weeks now. We’ve been discussing this daily on our radio broadcast. We’ve heard from more than 60,000 people who have signed on to our petition in just a few days urging reversal of this troubling measure. You can still add your name here.
And, I debated this alarming issue on Sean Hannity’s program on FOX News.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WOnQk_OXr4&feature=player_embedded
As you know, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its mandate, requiring religious institutions, such as religious schools and hospitals, to include abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception in their insurance policies for employees. A mandate that violates the deeply held religious beliefs of many.
Rightly so, an uproar ensued. Massive, well-deserved criticism. The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the mandate “egregiously unfair” and “un-American.” The head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission described the mandate as “bad news” for freedom of conscience and religion.
It was clear the White House didn’t get it. Press Secretary James Carney recently dismissed concerns about the unconstitutional nature of the HHS policy. Carney was asked directly: “What about the constitutional right to freedom of religion?” His reply: “I don’t believe there are any constitutional rights issues here . . . ”
The criticism deepened and the president sought to right a sinking ship by issuing what he called an “accommodation.” This deceptive compromise requires insurance companies to provide employees of the religious organizations that object with contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs free of charge. That’s nothing more than a ruse, a shell game, an accounting trick. To cover costs, insurance companies would boost premiums, forcing religious groups – and the religious employees – to pay more for services that they find morally offensive. The compromise changes nothing – it still places the federal government at the helm of the religious views of faith-based institutions.
Most who opposed the mandate have rejected this “accommodation” – including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which labeled the compromise “unacceptable.”
And, now a new poll from Rasmussen reveals a substantial hit in the President’s job performance – tied directly to the flawed mandate and disturbing compromise. The findings: 59% of Catholic voters expressed disapproval with the president’s actions. The same is true for Evangelical voters with 61% expressing disapproval, while disapproval for other Protestants stands at 52%.
This decline in support for the president’s job performance among people of faith should come as no surprise. A growing number of Americans understand that the mandate and the compromise are not about health care. They represent a dangerous and unconstitutional power play by the federal government. It’s the ultimate in government intrusion, representing a significant threat to religious organizations.
We’ve been advocating against this government interference since last summer when we warned the HHS that the mandate would threaten the very existence of religious organizations, like the Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of St. Cecilia in Nashville, which has been educating young people and caring for the infirmed since its founding in 1860.
In our letter to the HHS, we warned: “In their 151-year history, the Nashville Dominicans have, with the help of God, survived a Civil War on their doorstep, deadly epidemics, devastating floods, economic depression and tumultuous social upheaval. Today, however, they face a new, more insidious threat – their own government . . . What war and disease could not do to the Congregation, the government of the United States will do. It will shut them down.”
The federal government is truly overstepping its constitutional authority. It has no business getting involved in this matter. The Obama Administration is ignoring the fundamental principles on which this nation was built. Thomas Jefferson wrote that “no provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprise of civil authority.” James Madison held that conscience is “the most sacred of all property.” George Washington stated that “the establishment of Civil and Religious Liberty was the Motive that induced me to the field of battle.”
In remarks before the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this month, President Obama preached about the importance of religious faith. “We can’t leave our values at the door,” he said. “If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries . . . ”
The problem is that Obama’s mandate, and subsequent compromise, do just that – demand that millions of Americans leave their values at the door.
Americans expect and deserve to enjoy the protections afforded to them under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That is exactly why millions of Americans will reject this compromise. There is no compromise with one of our most cherished freedoms – the free exercise of religion.