Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, throughout my Senate career I have spent a lot of time defending the first amendment. Most of it I spent defending one particular clause of that amendment, the one relating to the right of free speech, but recent events have shown quite unexpectedly the urgent need to defend another clause in the first amendment. I am referring, of course, to the right of free exercise of religion.
Make no mistake, the Obama administration's decision to force religious hospitals, charities, and schools to comply with a mandate that violates their religious views is abhorrent to the foundational principles of our Nation. No one in the United States--no one--should ever be compelled by their government to choose between violating their religious beliefs and being penalized for refusing. Yet that is precisely what this mandate would do.
One out of six patients in America is treated at a Catholic hospital. Catholic Charities is the largest provider of social services to poor children, families, and individuals in America. The Catholic Church runs the largest network of private schools in this country. These institutions have thrived because they have been allowed to freely pursue their religious convictions in a country that, until now, respected their constitutional right to do so. But this ruling should send a chill up the spine of people of all religious faiths and even of those with no faith at all because if the state--in this case, the Federal Government--is allowed to violate the religious rights of one religion, then surely it can violate those of others. If the rights of some are not protected, the rights of all are in danger. Isn't that what history clearly teaches? Isn't that what the Constitution is all about?
The Obama administration has crossed a dangerous line. The Founders knew that the right of religious belief is inviolable. They gave this God-given right the pride of place they knew it deserved, right there in the first amendment, so that Americans would never have to fear its loss. Unfortunately, because of the actions of this administration, Americans now do.
This is a huge mistake that I hope the administration is currently reconsidering, and if they do not, Congress will act. The first amendment rights of the American people must be protected. Those of us who recognize the fundamental importance of religious freedom to our Nation will see to it that it is respected by this government and restored in full.
I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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