Boehner Again Won’t Say If GOP Will Defund Obama’s ‘Attack on Religious Freedom’

By Jon Street | August 2, 2012 | 6:05 PM EDT

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

( – House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) again would not say on Thursday whether the Republican-controlled House of Representatives he leads would provide the Obama administration with money to implement a regulation that Boehner himself has called an "attack on religious freedom."

The regulation, which took effect on Wednesday, requires health-care plans to provide coverage, without cost-sharing, for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.

The Catholic Church has condemned the regulation as an "unjust and illegal mandate" that would violate the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion for Catholic workers, business owners and institutions by forcing them to buy and/or provide health care plans that violate the teachings of the Catholic faith.

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At a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday, asked Boehner: “You called the Health and Human Services contraception mandate, quote, ‘an unambiguous attack on religious freedom.’ The Republican House can permit or not permit funding for this attack. Are you going to give the administration the money to do it?”

Boehner replied: “Listen, I and other members of the House continue to work with organizations that are concerned about this attack on religious liberty. And I don’t think we need to disclose at this point in time what our tactics will be or how we’re going to approach this.”

The speaker added: “But this is a very serious issue in our society and there are millions of Americans who are unhappy with it. And we’re going to continue to work with them.”

On Wednesday, Boehner labeled the mandate “the administration’s attack on religious freedom” in a news release, saying, “As I noted last week: whether the administration’s attack on religious freedom is reversed through judicial action, legislative action or other means, it must be reversed.”

The day before, on Tuesday, President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Boehner announced they had reached an agreement that would keep the government funded through March 2013. The trio agreed to fund government agencies for six months following the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, at $1.047 trillion.

“The agreement reached by House and Senate leadership to fund the government through the first quarter of 2013 is a welcome development, and we are encouraged that both sides have agreed to resolve this issue without delay,” the White House said in a statement.

In his own statement Tuesday, Boehner said: “Leader Reid and I have reached an agreement by which the House and Senate will approve a six-month continuing resolution in September to keep the government operating into next year.

It is unclear whether the agreement that was reached by Obama, Reid, and Boehner would fund the Obamacare sterilization mandate.

The speaker, meanwhile, has stated his willingness to “work” with those who say the law violates their rights to religious freedom.

Although Obama, Reid, and Boehner have agreed to the continuing resolution, both the House and Senate will vote in September before it can be signed into law by the president.

Last week Boehner indicated to that he thinks “resolving” the regulation's attack on religious liberty may not be something for Congress to deal with because he thinks it may be one of those policy goals that “can sometimes best be done [through] other than legislative avenues.”

However, 127 House Republican members have signed a letter urging the GOP House leadership --Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.)--to use the appropriations process to defund Obamacare.

The letter, in part, states, “[W]e urge you not to bring to the House floor in the 112th Congress any legislation that provides or allows funds to implement ObamaCare through the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Health and Human Services, or any other federal entity. We also urge you to take legislative steps necessary to immediately rescind all ObamaCare-implementation funds.”

More than 40 Catholic institution and business owners have filed suit against the HHS regulation, arguing it violates the First Amendment. American Orthodox bishops, Jewish, and Protestant leaders have also criticized the regulation.

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