The state of religious freedom is at the forefront of national conversation as people across America attempt to process the stunning actions recently taken by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that pit religious freedom against compliance with a federal healthcare mandate, forcing people of faith to make a decision that infringes upon the religious freedom that our Founding Fathers robustly protected from our very beginning. Unfortunately, the HHS mandate is not an isolated incident; it is more of the same. Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, a bipartisan group of 103 Members of the House of Representatives dedicated to preserving religious freedom in America, will continue standing up against burdens on these inherent freedoms.
In August 2011, HHS issued a mandate requiring that all health plans cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization at no cost to the patient, despite the fact that scores of people have religious and moral objections to these services. The mandate included an extremely narrow exemption for churches, but offered no protection to religious hospitals, schools, and charities, with the reason being that these entities often serve and employ individuals that do not share the groups’ religious beliefs. After receiving over 200,000 public comments on the mandate, HHS refused to broaden the religious exemption, instead merely giving religious institutions an extra year to comply. After a firestorm of opposition, President Obama announced on February 10, 2012 a “compromise” that purportedly will exempt religious organizations from directly covering the services, but will force the insurance companies they hire to cover them. To reiterate, employees at such organizations will still receive, by virtue of the insurance plans offered by their employers, services to which their employers have religious and moral objections. The President’s new arrangement—which may not be released in detail until August 2013—is really more of an accounting gimmick, as it will still ultimately require abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to be provided to all employees of religious institutions at no cost. On February 15, 2012, HHS published in the Federal Register the finalized mandate and its narrow religious exemption, in their original form, and explained that the new “compromise” announced by the President would be fleshed out in the coming year and a half. This scenario leaves religious hospitals, schools, and charities still unprotected and uncertain of what the “accommodation” offered to them will look like.
What People are Saying about the Mandate
More of the Same: Hostility Towards People of Faith and Religious Institutions
In the Armed ServicesAir Force Rapid Capabilities Office removes “God” from patch due to pressure from the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. Rep. Randy Forbes led 35 of Members of Congress in sending a letter calling for reversal of the decision.
And Across AmericaLegislative bodies across the country are facing lawsuits for opening sessions with prayer. The Supreme Court recently declined to clarify the law on a county board’s practice of opening meetings with prayer. The lower court held the board’s prayer policy unconstitutional because it resulted in prayers that too often mentioned “Jesus.”
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Congressman J. Randy Forbes, Founder
Senator James Lankford, Co-Chairman
For a complete list of Members of the Congressional
Prayer Caucus, click here.
Contact the Congressional Prayer Caucus Amy Vitale, Amy.Vitale@mail.house.gov