The Denver Post: Compromise Confuses the Issue

February 13, 2012
In The News

By Congressman Doug Lamborn

The Denver Post


The Obama Administration's newest "compromise" on the issue of religious freedom and ObamaCare is little more than a political gimmick designed to distract from what is at stake. Despite efforts to confuse the issue, the bottom line is the President's newly-revised mandate still tramples upon religious freedom.


The White House's own fact sheet lays out the contradiction inherent in the new "compromise." It states that religious employers "will not" have to pay for abortion pills, sterilization and contraception, but their "insurance companies" will. But, because the religious organization pays for the insurance policy, they are still forced to pay for and thus violate their core religious beliefs. Additionally, because many religious organizations self-insure, the administration's "compromise" doesn't even apply to them.


With only slightly different wording, the Obama Administration is still forcing religious organizations to pay for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their healthcare plans. Church schools, hospitals, and charities have no good choices in the matter. Religious-based employers can choose to: (A) violate their core religious beliefs and comply with the mandate; (B) fire as well as refuse to treat or minister to persons of other faiths in order to fall within the exception to the mandate; or (C) drop health care insurance coverage for employees altogether and pay a heavy fine to the government.


Requiring the faithful to violate their core beliefs, the first option, is never the right answer in a country founded on the right to freedom of religion. Requiring the faithful to engage in willful discrimination, the second option, to comply with their beliefs-in other words, refusing to serve the needy in their communities who need their services most-is also the wrong answer for our country. The third option, requiring the faithful to pay the government in exchange for being "allowed" to maintain the dictates of their faith, should never happen in a country where our men and women have died to protect our right to practice our beliefs.


Because none of these choices is acceptable, another choice is needed, (D) none of the above. More than a hundred of my colleagues sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, outlining our objections and urging her to reverse the mandate. If the administration chooses to ignore us and the more than 200,000 others who have also weighed in with objections during the public comment period, then Congress should intervene. In fact, I have already cosponsored legislation to protect these organizations, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, H.R. 1179.


The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act leaves sponsors, purchasers, and insurers free to negotiate a health plan without governmental officials using the ObamaCare mandates to force religious and other employers to violate their deeply held convictions. It simply leaves federal law where it was before ObamaCare.


Although the mandate does offer an exemption for religious employers, it is so narrow that Reverend Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA, noted that even Jesus and His disciples would not qualify because they ministered to people of other faiths. Thus, religious organizations such as hospitals, charities, and institutions of higher education would be restricted to only serving their own members and not the community at large, or abandoning their mission altogether.


Three faith-based organizations, Belmont Abbey College, Eternal Word Television Network, and Colorado's own Colorado Christian University, have already sued the government over the mandate. Former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong, Colorado Christian University's President, described the impossible position in which the Obama Administration has placed him: "This mandate forbids us from practicing what we preach. How can we train our college students to advocate for limited government and personal freedom-especially religious freedom-if we don't fight this unparalleled attack on those very principles?"


The mandated healthcare plans would have to include abortion-inducing drugs among the covered contraceptives. These are powerful drugs that can prevent a fertilized embryo from attaching itself within the uterus. It's bad enough when the Obama Administration pushes for taxpayer-funded abortion through its funding to the United Nations Population Fund, the U.N. population control agency linked to China's brutal child-limitation policy, but to make religious organizations violate everything they stand for to pay for abortions from their own funds is reprehensible.


President Obama's flimsy "compromise" is clearly an attempt to avoid political fallout from his unprecedented and heavy-handed mandate. It still leaves religious organizations with no good choices.


The Obama mandate crushes religious freedom, and I am fighting to reverse it. This is a case of religious freedom running up against an administration bent on imposing pro-abortion and anti-religious policies. Anyone who cares about the First Amendment and anyone who cares about the unborn should be outraged.

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