By U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson
When people all across the world envision the Statue of Liberty standing tall on Ellis Island, a few words come to mind: America and freedom. There are so many freedoms here we sometimes take for granted – or even forget how blessed we are to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Like freedom of the press. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The right to bear arms. The right to petition. The right to own property. The right to equal justice. In fact, our freedom is so central to our country’s DNA that our Founding Fathers permanently established that our government could not prohibit the free exercise of speech or religion, among other things.
Yet, a bold and brazen attack on our religious liberties from within has people of all faiths up in arms and rightfully so.
As you may know, the Administration recently announced a new rule as part of the sweeping government takeover of healthcare. The new policy would require faith-based employers – including Catholic charities, schools, universities, and hospitals – to provide services they believe are immoral. Sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and devices, and contraception all violate the doctrine of the Catholic faith and the Administration was about to force faith-based organizations to make an impossible choice between doing their religious duty or violating their conscience.
Finally after an uproar from people of many faiths and political persuasions, the President retreated – in theory. He announced that the government would not force religiously-affiliated institutions to directly provide birth control coverage as part of their employees’ health care coverage. Instead, female employees of faith-based groups will have access to no-cost contraceptive coverage through the employee’s health insurer, which the government will force to offer the coverage for free.
Since there is no such thing as a free lunch, someone will have to pay for this somehow and this so-called “compromise” is smoke and mirrors. In addition, a Catholic entrepreneur and business owner now will have to violate a core religious belief to offer employees this government-mandated benefit. That’s just not right.
Charitable religious organizations are an integral part of our society. Catholic hospitals care for millions of Americans and Catholic universities educate countless students each year. There are many other religious organizations that provide meals, daycare, housing, and numerous other services. Again, these groups act out of a religious obligation. Essentially the government will be forcing an organization to decide which commandment to follow.
While I have vehemently opposed the President’s government takeover of healthcare and continue to fight for full repeal, even supporters of the law are shocked at the rule.
Certainly, for many Americans contraception is not controversial. Here in America, it is not the government’s role to determine doctrine for a particular religion. In fact, the opposite is true. The government has a responsibility to protect minority religious views.
This is not an attack on women’s health or on contraception. The federal government already spends billions of dollars to provide free or low cost contraceptives – much to my dismay. This is a question of whether the government has the power to force people to violate their convictions.
I am working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to eliminate these rules and provide strong protection for minority religious views. Better yet, we should get rid of the President’s government-run health law all together.
This is America. There should be no such thing as a government-takeover of healthcare – or religious doctrine.
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