By Representative Tim Scott
The first clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion. Not the second clause or the third amendment - but the first clause of the First Amendment. It was clearly an important issue for our founding fathers.
In keeping with those protections, throughout our history multiple groups across the United States have been exempted from certain laws due to their beliefs or traditions. Indians, Aleuts and Eskimos living in Alaska are exempted from provisions in the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The Amish aren't required to pay Social Security taxes. Uniform restrictions regarding head coverings were relaxed for Jewish troops in our Armed Forces.
Unfortunately, the "pass it so we can see what's in it" attitude that swept the President's health care reform package into law defies these protections. And as the Obama Administration faces public outrage as the national health care reform package has violated that freedom, it is easy to see why. This is not a Catholic issue or a Republican issue. It is an issue that strikes to the heart of our nation.
The administration admitted they did not consult with Catholic leaders when attempting to revise the mandate - which still does not allow for the proper exemption. It was pointed out by Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that not even Jesus or Mother Theresa would qualify for the exemption as it is written.
Many of us in Congress have been aware of this problem for months, and like me signed on in support of Congressman Jeff Fortenberry's Respect for Rights of Conscience Act long before this became a national issue. My home state of South Carolina has joined several other states in a lawsuit to block the Department of Health and Human Services from mandating religious organizations provide services related to birth control. And while some on the left have tried to frame this as a birth control issue, it is not that at all. It is, quite simply a matter of ignoring the rights granted to us all by the Constitution.
Our nation was founded by those who believed in faith and freedom. Too often, Americans who are proud of their faith and the values it instills find themselves under attack. Government should be protecting our right to religious freedom, not assaulting it. The administration seems to be looking to do the minimum amount possible, instead of just doing the right thing: repeal this mandate. Plain and simple.