Utah Governor: 'I Do Agree' That Obamacare Contraceptive Mandate Violates Religious Liberty

By Jon Street | February 7, 2013 | 6:52am EST

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) (AP Photo)

(CNSews.com) - Utah Governor Gary Herbert, no fan of Obamacare, says he agrees with the U.S. Catholic bishops that requiring no-cost coverage of contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients is “unjust and illegal” and a “violation of religious liberty” under the First Amendment.

At a discussion on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Herbert said although Obamacare is the law of the land, there are "red lines" his state's "free-market" exchange will not cross.

CNSNews.com asked Gov. Herbert, “Do you agree with the bishops that the mandate is a violation of religious liberty under the 1st Amendment and, if so, will you also not comply with it?”

Gov. Herbert responded, “I do agree with the bishops. Again, I think it’s inherent in the founding of our country, religious liberty, and the state of Utah, which again has its own history of persecution and people trying to deny their religious liberty, it really is something we’re concerned about in Utah. So people ought not to have to use taxpayer’s money to put something I think is a very moral, repugnant thing to do. So we would support the position of the bishop.”

Herbert noted that Utah was one of the states that challenged Obamacare in court, only to be disappointed when the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.

So “like it or not," he said, Obamacare is the "law of the land." But that doesn’t mean Utah has to subscribe to the federal government’s “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Long before Obamacare was enacted, Utah set up its own health insurance exchange, which is now called “Avenue H.”  That exchange is different than the one mandated by the federal government, however, and Herbert said he came to Washington to talk with federal health officials about reaching a compromise that would let Utah continue to run its health exchange in a way that is best for Utahns.

“I'm a believer in free markets,” Herbert said. He said Utah's exchange gives consumers choice – along with the information they need to make an informed choice -- and then lets the free market find solutions, rather than the “heavy hand of the government.”

“Effective health care reform cannot be a one-size-fits all,” Herbert said. “There are what we call red lines that we will not cross over as a state. It’s our exchange, we have a right to  run it as we see fit, we are not taking federal money, there are no strings,  it’s our exchange.

Herbert said Utah will not enforce the individual mandate that requires all Americans to purchase health insurance or else pay a penalty to the IRS. It will not administer Medicaid through Utah’s health exchange; and it will not administer Obamacare’s premium tax credit through its exchange.

Despite those “red lines,” Herbert said he is asking the Obama administration to certify Utah’s exchange as compliant with the Affordable Care Act.

According to Herbert, Utah has done a good job with its exchange, the system in his state isn’t broken, and it’s “wrong-headed” for the federal government to force Utah to fix it.

He said he cautiously optimistic that some accommodation can be reached with the feds.

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