(CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration’s health care mandate requiring nearly all Americans to carry insurance that covers sterilization, contraception, and abortion-inducing drugs without co-payments is the administration “saying we will punish you, we will hurt you” and “even put you out of business” if you do not comply, said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.).
Smith also said the Obamacare regulation is “an astonishing assault on religious freedom” that is deliberate, “no accident,” and that if not reversed, “will result in government-imposed discrimination against those that seek to live and build a better world according to their faith.”
“I never would have believed this kind of religious violation could occur in the United States,” said Smith.
The congressman made his remarks on May 8 at a rally for religious freedom outside the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Representative Smith was there to speak principally in reference to an ongoing lawsuit filed by Priests for Life against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Priests for Life is a not-for-profit educational group that adheres to Catholic religious teaching and seeks to educate people about the sanctity of human life, from conception to natural death. Priests for Life is headed by Fr. Frank Pavone, a Catholic priest, and employs about 50 people.
The organization, in its lawsuit, argues that the HHS mandate on contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs violates its religious belief and the conscience of its employees. (See priests-for-life-v-sebelius.pdf)
Commenting on the lawsuit, Rep. Smith said, “Under the Obama administration’s coercive mandate, religious nonprofits like Priests for Life have found themselves in the impossible position of being forced to violate their moral or religious beliefs, or face crippling fines. And this not only puts the Priests for Life organization at serious risk, but also their dedicated employees who may lose their jobs and their health care.”
“This Obamacare mandate is an astonishing assault on religious freedom,” said Smith. “If a business does not bow to the mandate, Obamacare imposes financial penalties that are completely unfair, unreasonable, and unconscionable.”
“The Obama administration is saying we will punish you, we will hurt you, we could even put you out of business for providing healthcare for your employees unless you provide healthcare according to the government’s conscience,” said the congressman. “President Obama has no business imposing his morality on people of faith, but that is exactly what their oppressive mandate does.”
Representative Smith further said that the mandate being a violation of religious freedom and coercive in nature was deliberate.
“And let’s make no mistake about it, this mandate is very much Obama’s willful intention,” said Smith. “The imposition of this attack on religious freedom is no accident. It comes straight from the pages of Obamacare. … Rather than honor conscience rights, the president dishonors and employs coercion.”
“To tell people of faith that their conscience is irrelevant and that they must follow the federal government’s conscience rather than their own is completely antithetical to the American principle of freedom of religion and the first amendment,” said Smith. “Unless reversed, Obama’s attack on conscience rights will result in government-imposed discrimination against those that seek to live and build a better world according to their faith.”
“Under the weight of the mandate’s ruinous fines and penalties many businesses could be forced to shut down, eliminating jobs,” he said. “I never would have believed this kind of religious violation could occur in the United States.”
To date, 96 lawsuits (representing more than 300 plaintiffs) have been filed challenging the HHS mandate. Fifty-five injunctions have been granted so far, for non-profit and for-profit groups combined, as the cases make their way through the courts. Only seven injunctions have been denied.
There is no exemption for individuals who object to the contraceptive and abortifacient coverage. They must carry health insurance that provides those services or pay a penalty to the Internal Revenue Service.
“Virtually all Americans who enroll in a health plan will ultimately be required to have contraceptive coverage for themselves and their dependents, whether they want it or not,” said the USCCB. “Likewise, unless it qualifies as a ‘religious employer,’ every organization that offers a health plan to its employees (including many religious organizations) will be required to fund or facilitate contraceptive coverage, whether or not the employer or its employees object to such coverage. This requirement to fund or facilitate or produces a serious moral problem for these stakeholders.”