Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Obamacare Mandate’s Crush Religious Liberty

Your Religious Liberty is Obamacare's First Casualty!

More than 2,500 Christian leaders have signed a letter opposing Obamcare’s anti-conscience mandate. The letter’s release adds to the most recent furor over the rule’s blatant violation of religious liberty and decries the mandate’s coercion of religious employers to subsidize abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization regardless of moral or religious objections to such services.

The letter, sponsored by the Family Research Council, explains:

Our country was founded on certain freedoms, the first of which is the freedom of religion. The ability of a religious person to follow their conscience without fearing government intervention has long been a protected right for Americans. It is unfathomable to picture a country that would deny religious freedoms. The letter takes issue with the mandate’s offensively narrow religious exemption that affords a protection of religious liberty only to formal houses of worship—excluding may religious employers like hospitals, schools, and social service organizations. Perhaps most insulting is the Administration’s insinuation that religious belief is merely a private affair that should stay locked behind church doors.

As Richard Land, signatory of the letter and president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, explained at a press conference announcing the release of the letter: “[The mandate] is part of an attempt to atrophy, to nullify, to confine and constrain, and to emasculate and neuter religious freedom down to freedom of worship.”

Increasing attempts to privatize religion, relegating faith to worship services and personal thoughts, disregard the important role faith plays in public life and ignores the work that many faith-based institutions do in sustaining civil society. “What our forefathers protected is freedom of conscience, freedom of religion,” Land continued. “That is—the freedom to propagate our faith, to take our faith outside the walls of our home, outside the walls of our church.”

A narrowing view of religion that refuses to protect faith-based organizations’ ability to act in accordance with deeply held beliefs—the same beliefs that spur them to action in the first place—undermines a robust protection of religious liberty.

As Heritage’s Ryan Messmore writes:

Religious freedom is not just for churches. For many individuals and organizations, losing the ability to abide by their religious convictions in carrying out their work imperils their religious identity. It also threatens the effectiveness of their work and the services they provide for those in need. A more comprehensive, robust conception of religion is an important anchor for vigorous, wide-ranging religious freedom—freedom not merely to believe or teach certain doctrines, but to live out one’s faith in all aspects of life. The letter’s 2,500 signatories join an ever-expanding list of individuals and organizations from diverse faith backgrounds who have denounced the mandate’s assault on religious liberty. Just this week, the Alliance Defense Fund filed two lawsuits against the Obama Administration on behalf of Geneva College, a small Pennsylvania school affiliated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, and Louisiana College, a Southern Baptist school.

Despite the assertions of some pundits and politicians who herald the mandate as supporting “women’s health,” many women have also voiced opposition to the rule’s serious infringement of religious freedom.

Helen Alvaré, associate professor of law at George Mason University, and Kim Daniels, former counsel at the Thomas More Law Center, also released a letter this week signed by more than 750 women in opposition to the anti-conscience mandate. The letter’s bipartisan signatories are as diverse as they are numerous, including businesswomen, writers, lawyers, professors, nurses, teachers, and many others.

“No one speaks for all women on these issues,” the letter states. “Those who purport to do so are simply attempting to deflect attention from the serious religious liberty issues currently at stake.”

Helen M. Alvaré is an Associate Professor of Law who prior to joining the George Mason faculty was an associate professor at Catholic University's Columbus School of Law. Professor Alvaré received her law degree at Cornell University in 1984 and a master's degree in systematic theology from The Catholic University of America in 1989.

Professor Alvaré practiced with the Philadelphia law firm of Stradley, Ronon, Stevens & Young, specializing in commercial litigation and free exercise of religion matters. For three years, she worked at the Office of General Counsel for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, where she drafted amicus briefs in leading U.S. Supreme Court cases concerning abortion, euthanasia and the Establishment Clause. For the next ten years, she worked with the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities at the NCCB. There, she lobbied, testified before federal congressional committees, addressed university audiences, and appeared on hundreds of television and radio programs on behalf of the U.S. Catholic bishops. She also assisted the Holy See on matters concerning women, marriage and the family, and respect for human life.

Professor Alvaré chaired the commission investigating clerical abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and is an advisor to Pope Benedict XVI's Pontifical Council for the Laity, as well as an ABC News consultant. Her scholarship regularly treats current controversies about marriage, parenting, and the new reproductive technologies.

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