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Pitts, Black, and Smith Lead Forum Defending Religious Freedom

Jun 21, 2013 Issues: Pro-Life

Washington - Today, Congressmen Joe Pitts (PA-16), Diane Black (TN-06) and Chris Smith (NJ-04) led a forum in favor of religious freedom and in opposition to a coercive federal health care mandate in Philadelphia. The forum included representatives from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, a business owner and national grassroots leaders.

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to provide a full range of contraceptive services regardless of whether they have moral or religious objections. The mandate exemption only includes houses of worship and does not account for the thousands of religious and non-religious affiliated employers that find it a moral hazard to cover sterilization, contraception and potentially abortion-inducing drugs on their employer-based health insurance.

Congressman Black’s Health Care Conscience Rights Act would address this violation of our First Amendment rights by providing a full exemption for all those whose religious beliefs run counter to the Administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate.

"The Founding Fathers established a bill of rights because they knew that the government would always be tempted to abuse its power," said Pitts. "The bureaucrats at HHS may feel that they know what is best for all Americans, but being an American means the freedom to decide on your own. To let your convictions guide your life. I¹m not Catholic or Mennonite. We don¹t share the same ideas about what is morally objectionable, but I do believe in their right to live and worship according to their beliefs of their faiths."

“What brought us all here today is so much bigger than a single piece of legislation or a political party; it is about protecting Americans’ First Amendment right to religious freedom," said Black. "Every American – religious or otherwise – has something to lose if this administration prevails in their efforts to infringe upon a basic Constitutional right. For some Americans, businesses like Hobby Lobby, Hercules Industries and Conestoga Wood Specialties, and the numerous Catholic charities, living out their faith will soon mean facing the very real possibility of shuttering their doors. But for all Americans the HHS mandate means a dangerous precedent that undermines our most basic founding principles that have made our nation a place where individuals can freely choose to practice or reject any religion without fear of persecution from their own government. With the courage of conviction, we  press on with this fight in Congress to pass the Health Care Conscience Rights Act  and protect the American people from this unprecedented violation of the First Amendment."

“By coercing all insurance plans—including those offered by faith-based institutions—to pay for drugs and devices that are contrary to their deeply held beliefs—including subsidizing abortifacients like Ella and Plan B—President Obama demonstrates a reckless disregard for conscience rights," said Smith. “Everyone must comply regardless of moral convictions or religious tenets simply because his Administration says so.”

Background on Health Care Conscience Rights Act:

HHS Mandate:
Under the health care coverage mandate issued on August 3, 2011, widely known as the HHS mandate, organizations and their managers are now facing potentially ruinous financial penalties for exercising their First Amendment rights, as protected by law. Hobby Lobby, a family business that was denied injunctive relief from the mandate and faces fines of up to $1.3 million dollars a day, unless its owners agree to fund potentially abortion-inducing drugs. If Hobby Lobby is forced to close its doors, some 25,000 jobs nationwide may disappear. The Obama Administration’s HHS mandate exemption only includes houses of worship and does not account for the thousands of religious and non-religious affiliated employers that find it a moral hazard to cover sterilization, contraception and potentially abortion-inducing drugs on their employer-based health insurance. Ultimately, the so-called “accommodation” does not protect anyone’s religious rights, because all companies and organizations will still be forced to provide insurance coverage that includes services which conflict with their religious convictions. The Health Care Conscience Rights Act would address this violation of our First Amendment rights by providing a full exemption for all those whose religious beliefs run counter to the Administration’s HHS mandate.