During debate in the Senate today, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) spoke out in opposition to an amendment offered by Senator Roy Blunt "to amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to protect rights of conscience with regard to requirements for coverage of specific items and services."
"This is not an amendment that addresses the necessary divide between the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof, as outlined in the First Amendment of our Constitution -- a concept which I care deeply about," said Senator Webb. "This amendment, by definition, attempts to widen the restrictions on our laws from the necessary divide between Church and State into the unknown and often undefinable provinces of an individual's personal definition of conscience.
"The effect of this amendment on its face would be that any stakeholder could decide to deny health care benefits to any individual, on the very loose definition that to provide such care somehow violates a personal definition of one's moral convictions," said Senator Webb. "Quite frankly, it would be the same thing as the Congress saying that not only should religious establishments be exempted from taxation under the doctrine of church and state, but also anyone who has a moral objection to paying taxes should not pay them, either.
"This is a vaguely drafted and potentially harmful amendment," concluded Senator Webb. "It is not about protecting religious institutions, or protecting the clearly objective and understandable parameters of religious belief. It should not be approved."