Monday, March 12, 2012
Obamacare's illegal fee on faith
Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Fri, 2012-03-09 13:48
During the debate over Obamacare, President Obama repeatedly told us that "if you like what you have ... you can keep it."
But the new Department of Health and Human Services birth control mandate that erodes religious liberty breaks his promise. For the first time in history, our government is taking away the right of individuals to abide by their deeply held religious convictions.
The administration continues to peddle the lie that a "compromise" has been reached to protect our First Amendment rights. But mainstream newspapers across the country say Obama's sidestep is nothing more than a phony accounting gimmick.
The USA Today editorial board responded to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' justification saying, "in drawing up the rules that will govern health care reform, the Obama administration didn't just cross that line. It galloped over it ... contrary to both Catholic doctrine and constitutional guarantees of religious freedom."
In truth, Obama's snake oil compromise makes things worse -- it creates more uncertainty for the American people.
What is this really about? It's about imposing a fee on faith. It's about laying the groundwork for more government. This administration is effectively saying that freedom of religion shouldn't be free anymore.
We've come to the point where freedom of conscience is no longer an essential right afforded to the American people as our Founding Fathers intended.
What's worse? Sebelius won't even pretend the Constitution matters in this debate. During a hearing last week, I asked her if she ever sought a Department of Justice opinion on the mandate's constitutionality. She admitted that she never even asked.
Translation: She thinks she can dictate everything from the top down. But Thomas Jefferson would have disagreed. He said in 1809 that, "no provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority."
Democrats have overreached in trying to make this an issue about access to contraception -- which it is not -- out of desperation. They are employing the politics of fear because they know the effect of the new mandate is that it will force religions to pay fines for freely practicing their faith and living the Gospel outside the brick walls of their respective churches.
When a religiously affiliated soup kitchen doesn't meet HHS's definition of being religious enough, it could be fined millions of dollars or be forced to stop serving the poor if it wants to stay true to deeply held religious beliefs.
This is just the latest example of the frightening concentration of power by big government. Who is HHS to define who is religious enough? Why does HHS get to take away our constitutional freedoms?
Do we really want to punish people who provide valuable services for our country? Why are we going to force, for example, the nuns in Nashville, Tenn., to sin in order to continue teaching children how to read?
Obama has set up a false choice that sets the stage for more big government to sweep in and take over. Government is forcing upon us a poisonous medicine whose effect is the crowding out of religious institutions from effectively serving the public. It's a way of forcing religion underground so it can't compete with a growing federal government.
But what will be the punishment for those religious institutions who wish to provide needy Americans of different faiths with the valuable social services that are needed? Are we not supposed to be our brother's keeper? The government's new price to practice your faith: a $100 fee per person, per day.
This is not the partisan issue some have described. Congress can point to 10 different laws from the past 30 years that protect conscience rights for religious beliefs and moral convictions.
Even the late Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and former President Clinton supported conscience protections that are the same as those Republicans have offered as a fix to this problem.
This is a symptom of the disease of Obamacare. It's time for this administration to put politics aside on religious liberty issues and back away from this radical mandate.
Here is a simple solution: Let's make it so our religious liberties are respected in the same way that they were before Obamacare became law.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn is a Tennessee Republican.
Posted by Brett at 3:05 PM