By Sarah Torre
Obamacare's threats to religious freedom were denounced on the floor of the House of Representatives this week.
"All we're asking is to take us back to where our Founding Fathers had us from the beginning," said Representative Diane Black (R--TN). "[P]eople came here to be able to practice their deeply held beliefs without having government intrusion."
On August 1, however, government intrusion into the lives and faith of countless Americans will lock in. On that date, Obamacare's coercive anti-conscience mandate will take effect in its final form, fully enforced against compassionate religious organizations, job-creating family businesses, and countless other Americans.
At the renewal of their health plan years, employers will be forced to provide or facilitate coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization--regardless of their religious or moral objections.
"No American should be forced to choose between their conscience and their livelihood," explained Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R--NE) Wednesday night. "No American should be forced to choose between their deeply held, reasoned beliefs and the law."
Yet that's exactly what the mandate will do, forcing countless family businesses and charities to make impossible choices. Under the mandate, employers must either violate their deeply held beliefs by complying with the mandate, resist the coercive rule and pay fines of up to $100 per employee per day, or drop health insurance altogether--harming their employees--and pay a fine of roughly $2,000 per employee per year.
"These are not actually choices, but a top-down, burdensome Federal regulatory scheme," declared Representative John Fleming (R--LA), one of the original co-sponsors with Representative Black and Representative Fortenberry of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act that seeks to protect Americans' ability to live and work in accordance with their beliefs.
Formal houses of worship are exempt from the mandate, but countless other employers, such as schools, hospitals, social service providers, and family businesses must comply with the rule. Under the mandate, only those deemed religious enough by the Obama Administration are afforded true protection of their religious freedom.
As Representative Joe Pitts (R--PA) explained on the House floor, giving such authority to government officials is not conducive to protecting Americans' fundamental freedoms:
The bureaucrats at the HHS may feel that they know what is best for all Americans, but being an American means having the freedom to decide on your own, to let your convictions guide your life. What kind of nation will we be when the IRS decides who gets to assemble, when the Department of Justice decides who reports the news, and when HHS decides what religious beliefs are worthy of First Amendment protection?
Indeed, in exercising its new-found authority granted by Obamacare, the Administration has run roughshod over many employers' religious liberty, violating Americans' guaranteed freedom to follow their beliefs, whether at church or in their daily lives.
"This is not just freedom to worship as we hear now it defined down in many ways," explained Representative Dan Lipinski (D--IL) of the American concept of religious liberty. "It is not just freedom to worship in our own homes, in our churches, synagogues, mosques, temples. It is freedom to practice and live out religious faith here in America."
A robust conception of religious freedom that protects the freedom to live out one's faith in daily life is a cornerstone of the American experiment. That's why many Americans will spend the two weeks prior to the Fourth of July (June 24--July 4) participating in the Fortnight for Freedom to express their gratitude for religious freedom and demand greater protection of this cherished right.