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Mr. CRUZ. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about one of the saddest developments in the Senate--namely, the all-out assault on the First Amendment being led by Senate Democrats.
It is important to clarify what the issue before this body is not about. The issue before this body is not about access to contraceptives, despite a whole lot of politicking by Senate Democrats who suggest to the contrary.
In this body the number of people who would do anything to restrict access to contraceptives to anybody is zero. Let me repeat that. There is no one in this body, there is no one I am aware of across the country who is advocating restricting anyone's access to contraceptives.
My wife and I are blessed with two little girls. I am very glad we don't have 17.
Nobody, nobody, nobody is talking about restricting access to contraceptives.
What are we talking about? What we are talking about is the Federal Government using brute force to force people to pay for the abortion-inducing drugs of others against their religious faith. That is extraordinary.
It is remarkable and it is dismaying.
I am sorry to show what the current First Amendment looks like in the wake of the Democrats' assault on the First Amendment.
In the Senate Judiciary Committee we have been debating on amendments some 47 Democrats have supported that would repeal the free speech protections of the First Amendment. Sadly, every Senate Democrat in the Judiciary Committee supported it.
Today, this body is considering another provision that would effectively cross out the free exercise rights.
Where have we entered when the Bill of Rights has become a partisan matter? What kind of world is it? It used to be the case that we would find bipartisan agreement that the First Amendment is part of our civil compact--that we will stand together with one voice in support of the free speech rights of individual citizens, in support of the religious liberty rights of individual citizens.
The proposal we are going to vote on in just a few minutes would go directly after the religious liberty rights of Americans.
Let me talk a little bit about one group of people who will be affected by this bill if this bill were to pass. Let me talk about the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns.
The Little Sisters of the Poor are an international congregation of Roman Catholic women founded in 1839 by St. Jeanne Jugan. Their mission is to:
..... offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself.
The bill that is being voted on on this floor would shut these nuns down. The bill that is being voted on on this floor, if it were adopted, would fine the Little Sisters of the Poor millions of dollars, unless these Catholic nuns are willing to pay for abortion-producing drugs for others.
When did the Democratic Party declare war on the Catholic Church? And let me note, this is not hypothetical. I am not suggesting in theory this might be applied to the Little Sisters of the Poor. Right now--today--the Obama administration is litigating against the Little Sisters of the Poor, trying to force them to pay for abortion-producing drugs and threatening to shut the Little Sisters of the Poor down.
How far have we come from the basic bipartisan agreement in favor of religious liberty? Faith fines should have no place in American society.
The Little Sisters of Denver, which provides approximately 67 full-time jobs, has said it will incur penalties of roughly $6,700 per day--nearly $2.5 million per year--if it chooses to stay true to its religious beliefs; that is, $2.5 million a year in faith fines--fines to Catholic nuns who are devoting their time to caring and providing health care for the elderly. That is more than one-third of their $6 million budget each year.
What has become of the Democratic Party? When did they become so extreme that they would actually propose fining nuns millions of dollars if they are unwilling to pay for the abortion-producing drugs of others? That is not a mainstream position. That is a radical, extreme position.
I would encourage every one of my colleagues on the Democratic side of the aisle to ask themselves: How are they going to answer their constituents when they say: Senator, why did you vote in favor of a law that would fine Catholic nuns millions of dollars if they refuse to pay for the abortion-producing drugs of others?
Let me make a basic suggestion. If you are litigating against nuns, you have probably done something wrong. And the Obama administration is doing so right now.
Mr. President, drop your faith fines.
Mr. Majority Leader, drop your faith fines.
To all of my Democratic colleagues, drop your faith fines. Get back to the shared values that stitch all of us together as Americans.
I call upon my Democratic colleagues to stop playing election-year politics. I recognize scaring women by suggesting someone is coming at their birth control may be good politics. It is false. Even the Washington Post has said it is false and a lie.
But election-year politics should not trump religious liberty. Senate Democrats should not wage war on the Catholic Church.
It is not just the nuns who are dismayed. The Catholic bishops have said the proposed bill ``does not befit a nation committed to religious liberty'' and would allow the government to ``override religious freedom rights of Americans regarding health coverage.''
So it is not just the nuns. It is to the Catholic bishops that the Democratic party has said: Your free exercise of religious rights has no place in a Democratic Senate.
The Catholic bishops went on to say:
If, in the future, the executive branch chose to add the abortion pill RU486, or even elective surgical abortion, including late-term abortion, to the list of ``preventative services,'' those who object to providing or purchasing such coverage would appear to have no recourse.
Think about that for a second. The Catholic bishops just said the bill this body is getting ready to vote on, if passed, would enable the Federal Government to try to force Catholic nuns to pay for and carry out partial-birth abortion. That is staggering.
If we want to talk about mainstream
positions, there are mainstream positions, there are far-left positions, and then there is extreme radical fringe, which is the Federal Government forcing Catholic nuns to pay for partial-birth abortions. And that is where virtually every Senate Democrat is today.
Under the legislation before this body, the Catholic University Ave Maria would be forced to make the same choice: Authorize abortion-inducing drugs right now or pay millions of dollars in fines to the U.S. Government.
As Ave Maria President Jim Towey has said:
Ave Maria University pays 95 percent of the cost of the health plan we offer our employees. Under the federal mandate Ave Maria University would be paying for these drugs if we complied with the law. So we will not.
Every Senate Democrat who votes yes in a few minutes will be voting to fine Ave Maria Catholic University millions of dollars simply for standing true to their faith. That is a vote that should embarrass any Member of this body.
Mr. Towey went on to say:
We are prepared to discontinue our health plan and pay the $2,000 per employee, per year fine rather than comply with an unjust, immoral mandate in violation of our rights of conscience.
Belmont Abbey College is another proud religious school--founded by Benedictine monks--that the Democrats have put in the same predicament. The Democrats' legislation would force Belmont Abbey College to pay $20,000 a day in faith fines. Faith fines have no place in our democracy.
Let me ask again: Why are Democrats so hostile to the Catholic Church? Why are Democrats trying to use the Federal Government to fine Catholic institutions for holding true to their religious beliefs? It all comes down to a hard-line, extreme, out-of-touch position on abortion.
Just yesterday we had a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee about legislation so broad that it would set aside State laws providing parental notification for abortion, prohibiting late-term abortions, mandating taxpayer-funded abortions. These are extreme radical views held by a tiny percentage of the American people but yet held by a large percentage of Democratic activists.
This position would also rip apart the bipartisan legislation that President Clinton signed into law in 1993. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed the Senate 97 to 3. When President Clinton signed that Act, he said:
What [RFRA] basically says is that the Government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone's free exercise of religion. This judgment is shared by the people of the United States as well as by the Congress. We believe strongly that we can never, we can never be too vigilant in this work.
We should listen to the words of Bill Clinton in 1993, and the Senate should back away from this assault on religious liberty.
I will finally note two simple things.
In 1997, when the Senate considered another assault on the free speech protections of the First Amendment, then-Senator Ted Kennedy, liberal lion of the Senate, stood and said:
We haven't changed the Bill of Rights in over 200 years and now is no time to start.
Senator Ted Kennedy was right in 1997.
Likewise, President John F. Kennedy, in a historic speech to the Nation, said:
I would not look with favor upon a president working to subvert the First Amendment's guarantees of religious liberty.
Where are the Kennedys today? Does any Democrat have the courage to stand and speak for the First Amendment today? Does any Democrat have the courage to stand and speak for the constitutional rights of practicing Catholics? Does any Democrat have the courage to stand and speak for the Little Sisters of the Poor? Does any Democrat have the courage to listen to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and speak for religious liberty?
It saddens me that there are not 100 Senators here unified, regardless of our faith, standing together, protecting the religious liberty rights of everyone.
Faith fines have no business in our democracy. I urge every Member of this body to vote no on this assault on basic religious liberty of every American.
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