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Public Statements

Religious Freedom

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. I thank my great friend from California for his leadership, former Attorney General of California, one of the most decisive and wonderful debaters in the House of Representatives and a great champion of life.

Mr. Speaker, President Obama's slick public relations offensive this past Friday contained neither an accommodation nor a compromise, nor a change in his coercion rule. It was, instead, a pernicious attack on religious freedom.

The Obama final rule promulgated on Friday is an unprecedented government attack on the conscience rights of religious entities and anyone else, and I repeat that, anyone else who, for moral reasons, cannot and will not pay for abortion-inducing drugs, such as ella, or contraception and sterilization procedures in their private insurance plans.

Mr. Obama is arrogantly using the coercive power of the state to force faith-based charities, hospitals and schools to conform to his will at the expense of conscience.

Mr. Obama's means of coercing compliance, ruinous fines of $2,000 per employee when faith-based organizations refuse to comply, and they will refuse to comply, will impose incalculable harm on millions of children educated in faith-based schools. It will also impose harm on the poor, sick, disabled, and frail elderly who are served with such extraordinary compassion and dignity by faith-based entities.

For example, Catholic Charities employs 70,000 employees. They will be hit with a fine by the Obama administration of $140 million per year. That's the fine. That's the penalty: $2,000 per employee.

Notre Dame has about 5,000 employees. That will be a $10 million fine on Notre Dame. And so it goes for those faith-based organizations.

Let me just say to my colleagues that vocal apologists of the Obama coercion rule say over and over again that the IOM, the Institute of Medicine, panel that reportedly researched and did recommend the coercion rule was somehow independent. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Journalist Kathryn Jean Lopez reported that the Human Life International organization looked into the members of the panel. You stack the panel, you get a predetermined outcome. They found that it was packed with pro-abortion activists.

For example, member Claire Brindis, member of the organization of NARAL Pro-Choice America; Angela Diaz, member of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health; Paula Johnson, chairwoman of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts; Magda Peck, also on the board of directors, or was, of Planned Parenthood of Nebraska and Council Bluffs. She was chair of the board as well as vice chair. If you just stack an IOM or any other panel, you will get a predetermined outcome, and so they did.

Mr. Speaker, finally, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act reasserts and restores conscience rights by making absolutely clear that no one can be compelled to subsidize so-called services in private insurance plans contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions. This legislation must be on the floor soon, and I hope the American people will realize how important this bill offered by Mr. Fortenberry is to conscience rights in America.

I thank my good friend for yielding.


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