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Mr. FLEMING. I would like to thank my good friend from Virginia for having this Special Order this evening and the leadership that the gentleman has provided in this area with the Prayer Caucus and so many other things, both on Armed Services and outside of Armed Services, in that realm.
Mr. Speaker, I am greatly inspired and moved this evening with the speeches that I've heard talking about religious liberty and all of the things that we are struggling with right now with religious liberty.
Religious freedom is at the center of who we are as Americans. With foresight and clarity, the Founding Fathers enshrined religious freedom as a First Amendment right. Quote: ``Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof''--the First Amendment.
Despite these undisputed facts, time and again we have witnessed a whittling away of this freedom. The passage of the President's signature legislation, ObamaCare, ushered in a new wave of government oppression for businesses, religious organizations, faith-based schools, charities, and hospitals.
Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned this evening that with ObamaCare and with many other things that we're seeing on the religious front, on the military front, that Washington and this administration is actually substituting its religious beliefs for our own; a very dangerous precedent.
What have we talked about? ObamaCare. You know, we discuss ObamaCare and all the problems, the cost and the rationing board and all of these things, but what's left out of that discussion are some very, very important points.
ObamaCare's HHS mandate requires that all insurance plans cover various items and services that are in direct conflict with deeply held religious beliefs or moral convictions. Three groups are singled out for this:
Number one is health care providers themselves, who in many cases will be forced to participate in certain techniques, certain types of treatment that are against their deeply held religious beliefs, such as abortion, such as getting abortion pills--what we call abortifacients--sterilization procedures, and such as that.
Another important group is religious institutions. The Catholic Church has, for many decades--really, centuries--gone about the work of the Lord to provide health care to individuals but will be required, under the HHS mandates, to actually provide certain procedures, such as sterilization and birth control pills, that are against their deeply held beliefs. Regardless of whether you agree with that or not is beside the point. According to the First Amendment, the church and its institutions should be allowed to do what is right by their own personal religious beliefs.
The third group is private businesses. You have already heard about Hobby Lobby and many others who, because of the HHS mandate, will have to provide coverage through insurance for certain things, which may include abortions, and yet that's against their own deeply held religious beliefs--and suffering fines of tens of thousands of dollars per episode and per day for having done so. That is not right under the First Amendment.
There are 67 cases and over 200 plaintiffs that have filed suit against the administration to protect the First Amendment right to religious freedom. They are working their way through the courts.
Tyndale House, a Christian publishing company, well known for their production of the Bible, as well as family-owned and operated business Fresh Unlimited, Inc., a fresh produce processing and packing company in Ohio, and Beckwith Electric, a Florida-based electric company, are among the 37 for-profit companies seeking relief from the HHS mandate.
Hospitals, charities, Catholic dioceses, and religious colleges, including Louisiana College in my own State, are at various stages of defending their first freedom against the administration's constitutional HHS mandate.
Instead of supporting publishers, grocers, electricians, doctors, nurses, teachers, and professors, ObamaCare strips away the ability for these individuals to live their lives in a manner consistent with their religious beliefs.
This administration has relentlessly lambasted the religious freedom of hardworking Americans, threatening ruinous fines for noncompliance. And again, companies such as Hobby Lobby, a well-known arts and crafts store that started out just as one single store, faced crippling fines for their religious beliefs.
Congressman Fortenberry, Congresswoman Black, and myself have put together a compendium of conscience protections through legislation. We've attempted many times to get this up for a vote and passed through the House and through the Senate that would block many of these HHS mandates that come down from ObamaCare. So far we have not gotten the support from the other side of the aisle to get this done, but we will continue until this is completed.
Then, finally, military religious freedom. We know that the military oftentimes is a microcosm of what happens in the demographics across America. And today, religious freedom is under tremendous pressure. We have situations where military members can no longer put a Bible out on their desk, that somehow that's offending someone and that's breaking a statute or a law.
You heard the recent case of Master Sergeant Monk, who, because he wouldn't champion something that was against his religious beliefs--closely held and taught by his own church--is now facing potential court-martial for speaking out against that. The list goes on and on, Mr. Speaker, of what's happening, and it's very recent.
This is not your father's military. This is not really the military you were in even 5 years ago. This is a new military in which religious freedom is being pushed away and substituting Washington's morality, Washington's faith--this administration's faith--instead.
So with that, I do want to thank my colleagues who are here tonight talking about the important things. What could be more important than religious freedoms? I think many would say that's the foundation, the basic foundation upon which this Nation was created and why many people have immigrated over the centuries here and many people even today continue to immigrate to the United States because of its religious freedom.
Let's hold this dear. Let's not let go of the First Amendment, the ability to not only believe what you choose to believe in religion, but also to speak out and express as well, even to take action. All of these are fundamental and very important.
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