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Public Statements

Religious Freedom

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. SCALISE. I thank my friend, the gentleman from Colorado, for yielding and for taking the lead on this hour dedicated to standing up for religious freedom.

I also thank my colleague from Nebraska (Mr. Fortenberry) for his leadership and for bringing forth legislation, of which I am a proud cosponsor, that would repeal the decision that President Obama came down with that is an attack on religious freedom.

As a Catholic who attends church, it's rare when you see a Catholic priest talking from the pulpit, calling on the parishioners to call Congress, to contact Congress about any issue. Yet I want to applaud the Catholic bishops who have been so vocal in helping bring this issue to light, for standing up and saying, This is something that we will not comply with because it violates our own religious beliefs.

The beauty of the Constitution--and especially when you look at the Bill of Rights--are the rights that it lays out to all Americans. And when you read that First Amendment, there is a reason why freedom of religion is included in the First Amendment placed in the Bill of Rights, because our Founders believed it was a right that was handed down to us from God through our Founding Fathers and that it was given to all American citizens.

But yet the President came out with this ruling, and he says, Well, we'll tailor a little exemption just for places of worship. Not religious organizations, just places of worship. And everybody else, they're on their own. They've got religious beliefs that--they don't want to have to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, for example, which the President mandated. Then the President basically said, No, you have to do this, even if it violates your religious beliefs. That violates the First Amendment of the Constitution. It violates the Bill of Rights. No President has the ability to violate the Bill of Rights, those constitutional rights we have.

And then the President, just a few days ago, came out with what he called ``an accommodation,'' an accommodation where he said, Okay, we'll carve out a little more exception. It still doesn't apply to an employer, for example, that has those same religious beliefs, so we'll carve out an exemption.

Well, guess what? After the President carved out that exemption, so to speak, they actually issued a final rule. This is the final rule from the Obama administration after he gave a press conference, a political speech. And in the final rule, it says, ``These regulations finalize, without change, interim final regulations.'' In other words, they didn't even put any of the things from the President's press conference where he said he was going to give accommodations. None of that is in the final rule.

The final rule still says, if you're a Catholic school, for example, or a Catholic Church--and I know Colorado Christian University is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit because they would face a $500,000 fine under this rule. Even if the President gave a press conference, you can't go to court and say, Look, I'm not going to comply with this rule, because they're going to say, Well, you have to comply; it's the law. And they will say, Oh, but the President gave a speech saying I don't have to. It's still in the rule.

Again, any President who thinks that he has the power to issue accommodations to the Bill of Rights is a President who thinks he's got the ability to take away that Bill of Rights. He doesn't have that. And that's why I'm so proud to stand here with my colleague from Colorado and so many others that have stood up and said, we are going to stand up and defend those religious freedoms that are so precious, not just for religious organizations, but for all Americans, as is called for in the Bill of Rights. So it's an important issue that we need to keep fighting for because this is all a component of the President's health care law.

I remember back in those days when the President stood right here on this House floor at that podium and he looked at all Members of Congress and he said, If you like what you have, you can keep it. Do you remember that? All Americans heard that. Time and time again, the President said, If you like the health insurance you have, you can keep it. Guess what: With this ruling, he broke that promise he made to the American people because if you're a religious organization and you like the fact that you don't have to provide--and you are not going to provide--abortion-inducing drugs because it violates your own conscience, the President is now saying, You can't keep it. You have to abide by my ruling. That goes against the will. And if you are a religious organization that is self-insured, they're left out of this too.

There are so many problems with this. I'm glad that they're fighting it in the courts. But the bottom line is, they shouldn't have to go to the court to defend the First Amendment. That should be something that's sacrosanct. The President shouldn't be trying to violate and attack our religious freedoms.

I appreciate the gentleman for his leadership tonight.


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