Much is being discussed about the constitutionality of healthcare reform. What isn’t being discussed is how this reform eliminates religious freedom in America.
Objections remain today to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources’ (HHS) Interim final rule, which amends a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The rule requires employers to provide health insurance that covers certain preventative services for women, including contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients, in accordance with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) guidelines. It also allows HRSA the discretion to exempt religious organizations from these guidelines.
However, the exemption is moot because the law’s definition of “religious” is flawed. It defines a religious employer as having as its purpose to 1) cultivate religious values, 2) primarily employ people who share the organization’s religious tenets and 3) primarily serve people who share its religious tenets.
The problem with this is obvious: churches may be exempt from the requirements, but religious universities, hospitals, and organizations are not. This poses a serious crisis of conscious for religious employers. If they follow the law and provide “preventative services” for free to their students, employees, or clients, they go against the very beliefs they and their organizations espouse.
If religious employers refuse to provide these services, they will be required to pay a hefty fine to the government, which could ultimately put their organizations out of business, thereby eliminating the services they offer.
Religious employers could invoke the “conscience clause,” which permits medical and healthcare providers to not offer certain medical services due to a particular religious belief, and exempt themselves from the rule, but this would require them to turn away patients, students, or clients of other faiths, and force them to go against their beliefs.
All three options violate the viability of a religious organization’s purpose. They cannot consciously follow both the law and their faith, and if they disobey the law they face potentially life-altering consequences for themselves and others.
In response, two schools have sued — Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic School in North Carolina, and Colorado Christian University — and the U.S. Conference of Bishops has announced that they will fight the law.
The Obama Administration could have used a broader definition of a religious organization, yet it purposefully chose to narrowly define what a religious organization is. It also chose to announce this Rule in an election year instead of when the ACA became law two years ago.
Why did the Obama Administration decide to implement this Rule in 2012?
Could it be because his approval ratings are down and his ratings among women have plummeted?
The HHS Rule is not about providing free services to women. It’s not about healthcare or birth control or women’s rights. It’s about religious freedom.
The Administration’s attempt to redefine what a religious organization is impedes the free exercise of religion, which violates the First Amendment.
Can you imagine President Obama telling Mother Theresa that she couldn’t minister to the dying on the streets of Calcutta because these near-corpses were not “Catholic?” That is what he is doing today through this Rule. Any religious organization that offers food to the homeless, for example, will now have to turn people away if they don’t believe in the same religion as that organization.
It was troubling to hear the President talk about the role of faith at a National Prayer Breakfast, while at the same time he intentionally denies people of faith the ability to practice their faith. President Obama professes to be a Christian, although he does not belong to a church or attend church services regularly. Perhaps he should. He might learn that a Christian cannot biblically prohibit another from worshipping God in the manner in which they are called.
Mother Theresa ministered to the dying out of her love for and worship of God. That is the motivation of religious organizations today—to help those in need because of their faith. Acts of service are a form of worship. The U.S. government, for the first time in its history, which was founded on religious freedom, is now preventing people of faith from exercising their religion freely.