Religious Freedom

Floor Speech

By:  Alan Nunnelee
Date: Feb. 16, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. NUNNELEE. I want to thank the chairman, the gentleman from California, for your leadership in this area.

Religious freedom in America is under attack, not from some outside source, but from within. And if we've learned anything from history, we should have learned that great civilizations are at a greater risk of destroying themselves from within than they ever are in danger from any outside peril.

Freedom of religion is one of the cornerstones of our society. In 1789, when James Madison and the rest of the Framers of our Constitution were crafting that great document, their genius created the concepts of separation of powers, checks and balances, limited government. However, when that document was presented to the States, the people said that with all of its genius, that document was inadequate. While it outlined a framework for government, it failed to guarantee individual rights.

So in order to establish the Government of the United States of America as we know it today, our ancestors insisted that our Nation adopt the Bill of Rights--10 amendments to the Constitution that would guarantee rights to every individual. That Bill of Rights begins:

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Yet the Obama administration has displayed a disturbing contempt for the religious liberty guaranteed in that Bill of Rights. The message coming out of them seems to be: it's okay to have religious beliefs as long as you confine that practice to your church. They just don't get it. They don't seem to grasp the fact that our faith is part of who we are. We don't check it in and check it out when we walk into our places of worship. We take it with us everywhere we go.

Now, defenders of this health mandate are attempting to play a clever political game. They're attempting to frame this as a narrow debate between women's rights and the Catholic Church. The truth is, this is about an outrageous idea that the State can force citizens of this Nation to violate their religious beliefs by some degree or regulation, and that some bureaucrat at Health and Human Services can violate constitutional rights.

All Americans--its individuals, not just religious institutions--should be free to purchase and provide health insurance that does not violate their religious beliefs. This principle is so basic that it's tragic that we even have to introduce legislation to reaffirm it. But it's the position of the Obama administration that has put us in the position we're in today. That's why I'm a proud cosponsor of the Rights of Conscience Act, and I urge its swift passage.


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