By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
While political pundits ponder the impact that the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on the Affordable Care Act could have on the 2012 presidential election, it’s clear that the controversial legislation will force many Christians to choose between their principles and their pocketbooks.
In fact, the Health and Human Services’ mandate, which requires organizations to provide sterilization, contraceptives and abortion drugs — even if they have deeply held moral objections to these practices — is the centerpiece of a lawsuit filed earlier this month on behalf of Belmont Abbey College. It is also the subject of an urgent memo issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops calling the provision an “unprecedented threat to individual and institutional religious freedom.”
Hannah Smith, senior legal counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the Catholic college near Charlotte, N.C., said the government is “forcing religious orders and believers to pay for services they find immoral or pay a stiff fine.”
“A monk at Belmont Abbey may preach on Sunday that pre-marital sex, contraception, and abortions are immoral, but on Monday, the government would force the same monk to pay for students to receive the very drugs and procedures he denounces,” she said in a press release.
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, described the mandate this way: “Worship God if you wish, just keep your religion out of public policy. You can hold to your religious tenants that teach life is sacred, but you’ll still have to help pay for abortions. You can follow your own religious beliefs concerning sexually immorality, but you’ll still have to help foot the bill to protect or prevent others from having to be responsible for their own sex lives.”
Dr. Creech said the mandate requires religious organizations to facilitate what they “firmly believe to be immoral behavior.”
“Your obedience to God is secondary, because it is the state that grants your religious rights instead of the state being required to protect them,” he said, summarizing the philosophy behind Obamacare. “This is at the heart of our President’s healthcare initiative. And quite frankly, I am not about to apologize for saying that it is an unprecedented attack on the individual conscience and a man’s fundamental right to exercise his religion. The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, with its mandatory requirements to support sterilization and contraceptives actually usurps the authority of God in the life of the church.”
Although the government has issued numerous waivers for special interests groups like teachers’ unions and even McDonald’s restaurants, it will not offer the same courtesy to most religious organizations. The exemption that is allowed would not cover organizations that serve people outside their membership or engage in purposes beyond the inculcation of religious values. In fact, the exemption allowed is so narrow that Catholic Bishops point out it wouldn’t even cover Jesus, himself.
In its 26-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Belmont Abbey contends that the healthcare act “runs roughshod” over religious groups, violating the school’s freedom of religion and speech.
“Having to pay a fine to the taxing authorities for the privilege of practicing one’s religion or controlling one’s own speech is un-American, unprecedented and flagrantly unconstitutional,” the suit says.
The Conference of Catholic Bishops had this message for the department of Health and Human Services: “Pregnancy is not a disease, and drugs and surgeries to prevent it are not basic health care that the government should require all Americans to purchase. Please remove sterilization and prescription contraceptives from the list of ‘preventive services’ the federal government is mandating in private health plans.”
Dr. Creech said Christians should be in prayer that the Supreme Court, which on Monday announced its intent to issue a ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will wisely strike down the individual mandate and other provisions that violate Americans’ constitutional rights.