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Mrs. SCHMIDT. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to start tonight by continuing our discussion on conscience protections and our First Amendment rights.
As I did yesterday during the press conference on the same topic, I'd like to read the First Amendment to our Constitution. It states: ``Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.''
Our Founding Fathers thought that those specific five tenets were crucial to the citizens of America--so critical that they needed to be guaranteed first and foremost.
The conscience protection debate that started a few weeks ago with the administration's announcement of a new rule regarding contraception, sterilization, and insurance policies is a perfect example of the importance of these rights.
The government cannot, and should not, be forcing any employer, whether they are Catholic charities and schools or an individual businessman, to violate the tenets of their faith.
As this debate continues, it highlights the great need to have a standard that explicitly protects employers from attempts to erode our First Amendment rights.
We need to fight for the standard in H.R. 1179, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011, introduced by my good friend from Nebraska, Mr. Fortenberry.
It simply protects employers from being forced to violate their religious or moral beliefs by an overreaching mandate from the administration. It takes nothing away from the public, nor does it prohibit women from getting services that are already provided, as some have alleged.
H.R. 1179 is a responsible and reasonable response to clarify what can and cannot be mandated through the healthcare law regarding conscience protections.
We cannot allow the federal government to start going down the slippery slope of eroding our constitutionally protected rights--we took an oath to uphold the Constitution.
As a mother and grandmother, I will do everything in my power to ensure that the rights we enjoy today continue to be guaranteed for my daughter, grandchildren, and generations to come.