Congressmen Diane Black (R-TN), John Fleming, M.D. (R-LA), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and Joe Pitts (R-PA) applauded the U.S. Tenth District Court of Appeals ruling which reversed a lower court ruling denying a preliminary injunction to Oklahoma City-based crafts store Hobby Lobby and its sister company, Mardel, in their lawsuit against Obama administration's Health and Human Services (HHS) employer mandate requiring insurance coverage for drugs that may cause an abortion. Reps. Black, Fleming and Fortenberry are the authors of H.R. 940, the Health Care Conscience Rights Act; legislation providing full exemption from the Obama Administration's Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate and enforcing conscience protections for individuals and health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer patients to abortion providers because of their deeply-held, reasoned beliefs. Rep. Pitts recently hosted a forum on religious freedom and HHS mandate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was joined by Congressman Black, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and grassroots leaders.
"As someone who has been fighting to stop the Obama administration's assault on religious freedom since taking the oath of office, today's court ruling is a welcome development," said Congressman Diane Black. "The Court of Appeals properly recognized today that being an American means being able to freely choose our faith and live by the dictates of that faith at home, at church, and in the public square. While we celebrate this decision, we know that the fate of Hobby Lobby and other organizations with objections to the Obama administration's HHS mandate is still uncertain. In fact, in just over a month from now the one-year "safe harbor' for religious charities objecting to provisions of Obamacare will end -- putting countless nonprofit employers into the same predicament that Hobby Lobby finds itself in today: forced to choose between violating their religious beliefs or paying devastating fines that could put them out of business. With the Obama administration intent on violating religious freedom, it is critical that Congress acts swiftly to pass the Health Care Conscience Rights Act to offer full relief from the HHS mandate."
Congressman John Fleming, MD added: "No American should be forced to protect himself from government attacks on personal religious freedoms. Unfortunately, that's exactly the situation the Obama Administration has created for hundreds of individuals, organizations, and businesses that are trying to avoid being branded as criminals for not caving in to the Obamacare HHS Mandate. While I'm relieved that there are federal courts acknowledging the merit of these plaintiffs' objections, the time is past due for Congress to bar this Administration from continuing its war on our religious freedom."
"I'm pleased that the 10th Circuit recognized that private employers have a right of conscience. While the Obama administration has tried to put forward phony compromises for nonprofits, they have just assumed that religion should play no role in the market place. The First Amendment does not restrict religion to places of worship. A business owner has the same constitutional rights as clergy," said Congressman Joe Pitts.
Under the health care coverage mandate issued on August 3, 2011, widely known as the HHS mandate, organizations and their managers are now facing potentially ruinous financial penalties for exercising their First Amendment rights, as protected by law. Hobby Lobby, a family business that was denied injunctive relief from the mandate and faces fines of up to $1.3 million dollars a day, unless its owners agree to fund potentially abortion-inducing drugs. If Hobby Lobby is forced to close its doors, some 25,000 jobs nationwide may disappear. The Obama Administration's HHS mandate exemption only includes houses of worship and does not account for the thousands of religious and non-religious affiliated employers that find it a moral hazard to cover sterilization, contraception and potentially abortion-inducing drugs on their employer-based health insurance. Ultimately, the so-called "accommodation" does not protect anyone's religious rights, because all companies and organizations will still be forced to provide insurance coverage that includes services which conflict with their religious convictions. The Health Care Conscience Rights Act would address this violation of our First Amendment rights by providing a full exemption for all those whose religious beliefs run counter to the Administration's HHS mandate.