The Supreme Court today held that the “Individual Mandate” is a constitutional tax on all Americans. The Court’s ruling, however, did not address the major religious liberty issue regarding the constitutionality of the “HHS Mandate.” Since last August, the religious liberty community has criticized the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate, which requires most religious employers to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilizations to which they have religious objections. For many religious employers, the HHS Mandate begins to take effect in five weeks, on August 1, 2012.
Had the Court struck down the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the religious liberty issues would have vanished. Because the Court left the law intact, the religious liberty community’s legal challenges to the HHS Mandate take on increased urgency. (The HHS Mandate is not a part of the PPACA, and is arguably contrary to it. But HHS relied on the PPACA in adopting the HHS Mandate.)
The HHS Mandate is a dramatic departure from the Nation’s bipartisan tradition of protecting religious conscience rights in the context of abortion funding. By adopting an extremely narrow definition of “religious employer” for purposes of the HHS Mandate, the Obama Administration has unilaterally, and unacceptably, re-defined religion. Religious institutions are only protected if they are entirely inwardly focused. Religious institutions that provide assistance to all persons, regardless of religion or creed, are penalized. By easing government’s burden and providing food, shelter, education, and health care for society’s most vulnerable, churches and charities lose their conscience rights because they are too inclusive.
The Christian Legal Society recently provided comments to the Obama Administration regarding the numerous ways in which the HHS Mandate violates religious liberty.
Please pray that the HHS Mandate will be abandoned by the Administration or held unconstitutional by the courts in coming months. Please pray for President Obama. Please pray specifically that he will take seriously his duty to protect religious liberty and will reverse course on this needlessly divisive mandate. Please also pray for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the government official most directly responsible for the mandate and a longstanding proponent of abortion.
This is Kim Colby's sixth post in a series celebrating, in an ironic twist, the Fortnight for Freedom. Kim is the Senior Counsel for the Center for Law and Religious Freedom at the Christian Legal Society. MS