Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Members of the Christian Medical Association had harsh words for Barack Obama after his latest attempt to mandate abortion coverage in Obamacare: You have failed.
“This latest version of the contraceptives and sterilization mandate remains unacceptable,” said Dr. David Stevens, executive director of the Christian Medical Association. “Since when does the government get to pick and choose which groups will get to enjoy First Amendment protections?
“Our founders intended the First Amendment to protect every American’s freedom to act according to one’s conscience,” he said. “They didn’t specify that only groups deemed religious will be afforded this protection; freedom of conscience applies equally to all Americans.”
Dr. Gene Rudd, CMA executive vice president, joined Stevens.
“The administration fails to understand that many employers and individual Americans, regardless of a religious label or not, maintain strong conscience objections to participating in any, way, shape or form in a plan that promotes pills that the FDA says can cause the demise of a living human embryo – a developing baby in her earliest stage,” Rudd said.
“It would appear that the administration is trying to diffuse the pressure from federal courts around the country by throwing a sop to religious groups,” Stevens added. “If administration officials think that this action will somehow cause us to back down and accept the terms of surrender, well, that’s just not going to happen. We all plan to stand united in the fight to ensure that everyone’s First Amendment freedoms of religion and conscience are protected.”
Rudd cited Thomas Jefferson’s assertion that “our rules can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them.”
“The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God,” Jefferson said.
The unusually strong reaction followed the administration’s announcement that in addition to churches and synagogues, other organizations and service providers could be exempted from Obama’s mandate that employers provide health insurance coverage that includes abortifacients.
In its announcement, the federal Health and Human Services Department proposed a new “accommodation” for religious, non-profit organizations and companies that object to providing insurance coverage for contraceptive and abortion-inducing services based on their religious beliefs.
But there are still no protections for religious business owners.
“We’re extremely disappointed that the Obama administration does not respect the religious beliefs of all Americans,” said Francis Manion, senior counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice.
“This country’s laws and Constitution protect the religious freedom of all Americans, whether organized into religious bodies or not. Religious believers who simply want to conduct their businesses in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs have the same right to religious liberty as everybody else,” he said.
The legal team already has four lawsuits on behalf of companies owned by Christians, and in those cases judges have issued injunctions preventing the application of the law.
“Courts in 10 different cases have already granted injunctions that prohibit the Obama administration from enforcing the mandate against for-profit business owners,” said Manion. “That’s because those courts have recognized what the Obama administration apparently refuses to accept – that the mandate tramples on religious freedom in violation of the law. Today’s failed attempt to fully address this issue shows that the Obama administration has not yet gotten the message being sent loud and clear by the courts.”
Paul E. Rondeau, executive director of the American Life League, said if Obama “is a so-called constitutional scholar – as his supporters in the media portray him – then his law school should be embarrassed.”
“In 80 pages of legalese and gobbledygook, this administration fails to recognize the constitutionally protected freedom of conscience that all Americans – not just religious organizations as defined by the IRS – are guaranteed in their personal lives and in the workplace,” Rondeau said.
And a statement from Eric Scheidler and Monica Miller, co-directors of the nationwide Stand Up for Religious Freedom rallies, said: “It’s unconscionable that employees and students at an institution like Ave Maria University, which upholds the unchanging Catholic doctrine that contraception assaults human dignity, would receive free contraceptives thanks to their employment or enrollment there. More disturbingly still, businesses like Hobby Lobby, which are not dedicated to a specifically religious purpose but which nevertheless operate upon a basis of faith, are offered no protection whatsoever for their religious and moral objections to providing these services. The Obama administration is still claiming the right to decide who gets to exercise freedom of religion in the public square.”
WND previously reported the Washington bureaucrats who want to require employers to fund abortifacients even if it violates their faith apparently weren’t even able to follow their own rules.
A legal challenge to the Obamacare mandate for abortifacient coverage, filed by the American Center for Law and Justice on behalf an Ohio family whose members run two companies processing and hauling fresh produce, explains the problem.
“The Affordable Care Act expressly delegates to the Health Resources and Services Administration … the authority to establish ‘preventive care’ guidelines that a group health plan and health insurance issuer must abide by,” says the lawsuit.
“Given this express delegation, defendants were obliged to engage in formal notice and comment rulemaking as prescribed by law before defendants issued the guidelines,” the complaint states. “Proposed regulations were required to be published in the Federal Register and interested persons were required to be given a chance to take part in the rulemaking through the submission of written data, views, or arguments.”
The Obama administration, however, “promulgated the ‘preventive care’ guidelines without engaging in the formal notice and comment rulemaking as prescribed by law.”
The complaint says the defendants “delegated the responsibilities for issuing ‘preventive care’ guidelines to a non-governmental entity, the Institute of Medicine, which did not permit or provide for broad public comment.”
That violation is on top of the clear violations by Obamacare of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause and the Free Speech Clause, the complaint says.
The complaint contends the government is not allowed under the Constitution to force the business owners to buy health insurance for employees that includes coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.
While business owners argue the government cannot order them to violate their faith, the government says it can.
“The contraceptive-coverage requirement does not impose a substantial burden on any exercise of religious by Hercules Industries or the [owners],” the government attorneys told the appeals court.
“It is common ground that a religious organization can engage in the exercise of religion, and other federal statutes grant religious organizations the prerogative to discriminate on the basis of religion in the terms and conditions of employment. But Hercules Industries is not a religious organization. It is a for-profit employer that manufactures HVAC equipment.
“Thus, Hercules Industries’ plan must afford the company’s employees and their family members the employee benefits required by law,” the attorneys said.
But what about companies based on the owners’ religious beliefs?
Too bad, the federal attorneys said.
“The personal religious beliefs of the corporation’s officers and controlling shareholders, the Newlands, cannot provide a basis for the Hercules Industries plan,” they wrote.
Leaders of a number of religious-advocacy groups are warning of the Obamacare contraception mandate consequences for business owners of faith:
Larry Cirignano, president of Faithful Catholic Citizens: “Give up your religion or go bankrupt. This is not a mandate; it is an ultimatum. Buy insurance and kill babies or go bankrupt fighting us. Not all of us can afford lawyers to fight this ‘mandate.’”
Matt Smith, president of Catholic Advocate: “Aug. 1 will be remembered as the day our most cherished liberty was thrown in a government dumpster and hauled away. A day when family owned small businesses were forced to abandon their religious beliefs to provide products and services for free. And if they don’t, they will be taxed and fined at a time when job creators are struggling with enough costs and bureaucratic red-tape at every level of government just to stay in business. While the courts have provided a reprieve for one family business in Colorado, the government will never be able to repair the broken conscience of thousands of others until this mandate is removed.”
Brent Bozell, chairman of ForAmerica: “August 1st is a day that will live in infamy for the First Amendment and the fundamental freedoms and rights we as a people have enjoyed since the founding of our nation. The HHS mandate imposed on the American people is the beginning of the end of freedom as America has known it and loved it. August 1st marks the day when many family owned and operated businesses lose their rights to exercise their faith in their daily lives. The government has told them: Either comply with this mandate in violation of your faith and do what we tell you, or you will pay crippling faith fines to the federal government. With the stroke of a pen, the Obama administration has shredded the First Amendment and the Constitution right before our eyes.”
Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute: “The Obama administration’s assault on religious liberty is taking root … Failure to comply with the mandate will result in penalties that could cost business millions of dollars. The administration clearly did not reach a much-vaunted ‘accommodation’ with business owners who strongly oppose the mandate and believe it is a clear violation of their constitutional protection of religious liberty. The HHS mandate forces business owners to choose between following their religious beliefs or obedience to the federal government. The Obama administration clearly believes the government is supreme and that individuals and businesses must bow to its dictates or suffer severe consequences. We know that Obamacare is wrong for America. The HHS anti-conscience mandate is clear evidence of why the law violates the most fundamental principles upon which our country is founded.”
Gary Marx, executive director of the Faith & Freedom Coalition: “Confidence in the system and hope for religious liberty was mildly restored when a federal district judge issued a temporary injunction blocking Barack Obama’s health-care mandate from compelling a business to provide insurance coverage of sterilization, contraception and abortion-inducing drugs. This is certainly a victory, but the fact that it only applies to one company means the federal government is still going to force millions of Americans to choose between having health insurance or their conscience and faith. With an administration intent on suppressing religious liberty, we can expect a historic turnout of voters of faith showing up in November.”
Penny Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America: “The only solution that has been provided to the majority of Americans is to stand up and fight for their religious rights by refusing to comply or battling in court. … We must remember the wise words of Thomas Jefferson, ‘All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.’ To force religious groups to deny their deeply held convictions is not called balance; it is called tyranny.”
Jeanne Monahan, director of the Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity: “Today as a result of this initial implementation of the HHS mandate, the relationship between the separation of church and state is critically changed. Americans can no longer follow their consciences or religious dictates on issues as critical as abortion-inducing drugs. Organizations such as Wheaton College, or businesses such as Weingartz Supply of Ann Arbor, Mich.,will be forced to violate their consciences. On this sad day Americans have no ‘choice’ in this matter.”
David Stevens, MD and CEO of the Christian Medical Association: “What will stop this administration, with its radical pro-abortion agenda, from further undermining conscience rights and pursuing policies that effectively force out of medicine physicians with life-honoring convictions? Who will keep government panels from effectively denying physicians and patients choice about what are the most effective and appropriate medicines, surgeries and treatments? We call on Congress to turn back this law’s assault on our freedoms and restore American values and constitutional principles in health care.”
Paul E. Rondeau, executive director of American Life League: “History tragically teaches us that if our government can abolish one constitutional right, then all constitutional rights are put in jeopardy. This path sets a dangerous and foolish precedent that First Amendments rights such as freedom of speech, association, freedom of the press and the rights to assemble and petition the government may be just as easily curtailed in the future. We call on all citizens to tell their elected representatives that this erosion of rights must not stand.”
Kristin Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America: “Today marks the beginning of the end of religious and conscience rights in America. As an employer, I am forced to make a false choice between providing a vital service to my employees and violating my conscience and values. The abortion-pill mandate is an egregious attack upon my rights, as well as the rights of all people of values and faith in America.”