Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) released the following statement in response to the proposed rule issued today by the Department of Health and Human Services:
"The Administration made clear today its belief that the religious freedoms found in the Constitution apply only to churches and religious organizations. It failed to recognize that in addition to religious groups, the very essence of those religious freedoms is to provide protections for individuals--including scores of business owners.
Under the proposed rule, non-profit organizations that are not specifically connected to a church and for-profit businesses owned by people of faith will continue to be forced to make an intolerable choice--obeying their religious convictions or participating in the public square. Thomas Jefferson wrote "No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority." When the government says you can believe whatever you want, but you will be penalized if you exercise those beliefs, we have entered dangerous territory of silencing religion. We cannot allow a religious litmus test to determine who may fully participate in American life."
The mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in August of 2011 required most employers to sponsor employee health plans that that cover abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraceptives--despite the fact that these services directly violate many employers' religious beliefs. The proposed rule issued today slightly expands the category of "religious employers" who are exempted from the mandate, but fails to provide protection for others whose consciences prevent them from providing such products.
Congressman Forbes is founder and Co-Chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus.