(CNSNews.com) – Conservatives, religious leaders, and pro-life advocates denounced the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services (HHS) sterilization-contraception-abortifacient mandate on the eve of its effective date, charging that August 1 will go down in history as the day religious liberty came to an end in America.
“August 1st will be remembered as the day our most cherished liberty was thrown in a government dumpster and hauled away,” said Matt Smith, president of Catholic Advocate.
“A day when family-owned small businesses were forced to abandon their religious beliefs to provide products and services for free,” Smith said. “And if they don’t, they will be taxed and fined at a time when job creators are struggling with enough costs and bureaucratic red tape at every level of government just to stay in business.”
The HHS “preventive services” regulation mandates that nearly all health insurance plans in the United States must offer sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortion-inducing drugs free of charge; businesses and individuals who buy health insurance will subsidize those products and services even if they are opposed to them on religious grounds. Businesses and individuals who do not purchase health insurance will have to pay a penalty tax to the federal government.
The Catholic Church, other denominations, and members of Congress have denounced the HHS rule as a violation of religious freedom as defined in the First Amendment, and lawsuits have been filed against the measure.
On Tuesday, July 31, political activists and religious leaders alike condemned the Obama administration for forcing individuals and businesses to choose between violating their religious beliefs or paying a tax.
“August 1st is a day that will live in infamy for the First Amendment and the fundamental freedoms and rights we as a people have enjoyed since the founding of our nation,” said L. Brent Bozell III, who is president of CNSNews.com’s parent organization, the Media Research Center, and is chairman of ForAmerica.
“The HHS mandate imposed on the American people is the beginning of the end of freedom as America has known it and loved it,” he said. “August 1st marks the day when many family-owned-and-operated businesses lose their rights to exercise their faith in their daily lives.”
“The government has told them — either comply with this mandate in violation of your faith and do what we tell you, or you will pay crippling faith fines to the federal government,” Bozell said. “With the stroke of a pen, the Obama administration has shredded the First Amendment and the Constitution right before our eyes.”
The “preventive services” regulation was finalized in February and is part of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). Under Obamacare, businesses with more than 50 full-time employees must provide their employees with health-care coverage or face a fine of about $2,000 per worker per year.
If a business chooses to not comply with the HHS mandate by continuing to provide their workers with insurance that does not cover the specified preventive services, they would be subject, under the health care law, to a penalty of about $100 per day per worker.
“Give up your religion or go bankrupt. This is not a mandate it is an ultimatum,” said Larry Cirignano, president of Faithful Catholic Citizens. “Buy insurance and kill babies or go bankrupt fighting us.”
“Not all of us can afford lawyers to fight this ‘mandate,’” he said. “None of us can afford to pay the fines $100 per employee.”
Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, was critical of President Barack Obama’s so-called compromise on the rule, which shifted the burden to health insurers to provide the “preventive services,” rather than religious employers, even though employers and individuals must still buy into the health plans.
"The administration clearly did not reach a much-vaunted ‘accommodation’ with business owners who strongly oppose the mandate and believe it is a clear violation of their Constitutional protection of religious liberty,” Turner said.
“The Obama administration clearly believes the government is supreme and that individuals and businesses must bow to its dictates or suffer severe consequences,” she added. “We know that ObamaCare is wrong for America. The HHS anti-conscience mandate is clear evidence of why the law violates the most fundamental principles upon which our country is founded.”
Gary Marx, executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, praised a federal judge in Colorado for issuing a temporary injunction on Friday, stopping the Obama administration from enforcing the regulation against Hercules Industries, a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning business owned by a Catholic family.
“Confidence in the system and hope for religious liberty was mildly restored when a federal district judge issued a temporary injunction blocking Barack Obama’s health care mandate from compelling a business to provide insurance coverage of sterilization, contraception, and abortion-inducing drugs,” Marx said.
“This is certainly a victory but the fact that it only applies to one company means the federal government is still going to force millions of Americans to choose between having health insurance or their conscience and faith,” he said. “With an administration intent on suppressing religious liberty, we can expect an historic turnout of voters of faith show up in November.”
“The owners of Hercules Industries fought and initially won their battle when the court issued an injunction,” said Penny Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America. “They do not have to violate their religious beliefs or forfeit their livelihood, which is what the mandate is forcing millions of Americans to do starting tomorrow.”
“The only solution that has been provided to the majority of Americans is to stand up and fight for their religious rights by refusing to comply or battling in court,” she said.
“We must remember the wise words of Thomas Jefferson, ‘All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent,’” Nance added. “To force religious groups to deny their deeply held convictions is not called balance; it is called tyranny.”
Paul E. Rondeau, executive director of the American Life League, warned against a troubling precedent set by the Obamacare mandate.
“The president’s HHS Mandate redefines and marginalizes religious freedom in favor of government ideology,” he said. “History tragically teaches us that if our government can abolish one constitutional right, then all constitutional rights are put in jeopardy.”
“This path sets a dangerous and foolish precedent that First Amendment rights such as freedom of speech, association, freedom of the press, and the rights to assemble and petition the government may be just as easily curtailed in the future,” Rondeau said.
“We call on all citizens to tell their elected representatives that this erosion of rights must not stand,” he said.
Christen Varley, executive director of Conscience Cause, also vowed that her group would continue to fight against the regulation.
“The implementation of this policy tomorrow marks the beginning of the end of religious freedom in our nation,” she said. “If we do not stand up and make our voices heard, it is only a matter of time before our other liberties come under direct assault.”
"Who will stop U.S. Health and Human Services political appointees from forcing employers and individuals with faith-based convictions to subsidize abortion or life-ending contraceptives and imposing huge 'faith fines' on those of us who resist?” said David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical Association.
“We call on Congress to turn back this law's assault on our freedoms and restore American values and Constitutional principles in health care,” he said.
Father Peter West, vice president for Missions at Human Life International said the mandate is “morally abhorrent” and an “affront to religious liberty.”
“But it should also offend every American who believes in the principle of religious freedom and freedom of conscience guaranteed by the Constitution,” he said.
“This injustice cannot stand.”