Obama Mandate — a “direct, obnoxious, unprecedented government attack”

By Dave Andrusko

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

Day Six of the bogus Obama Mandate retooling and aftermath saga and opponents continue to ratchet up the pressure on a number of fronts.

Led by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, who has introduced the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act” in the House, more than 50 members of Congress held a press conference today to call for a legislative remedy to what Congressman Chris Smith described as a “direct, obnoxious, unprecedented government attack on the conscience rights of religious entities and anyone else who for moral reasons” objects to the mandate.

The Act “reasserts and restores conscience rights by making absolutely clear that no one can be compelled to subsidize certain so called services in private insurance plans contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions,” Smith said.

Many others spoke at the press conference, including Senator David Vitter.

Cong. Chris Smith speaking at today's press conference.

“At its core, this is a religious liberty issue,” Vitter said. “This so-called ‘accommodation’ the president announced last week is nothing more than a word game. It hasn’t changed anything because it still requires employers to offer insurance with these controversial services –-even self-insured organizations like many religious hospitals and universities. It may be good enough for President Obama’s conscience, but not for the millions of Americans who cherish their religious liberty.”

Meanwhile, pro-abortion Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has agreed to allow a vote at a yet to be determined date on the Senate version of the bill, introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt. Sen. Blunt outlined the stakes in an interview with the Heritage Foundation following a speech Monday.

“This is a genuine assault on First Amendment freedoms,” Blunt said. “This is not about cost. It’s about the Constitution.”

Blunt told host Rob Bluely, “We want to be sure we’ve established the principle here that the Constitution establishes — that President Washington understood and President Jefferson understood, and my guess is, every president between them and right now understood — and that is respect for conscience is respect for religious freedom.”

Separately, the chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sent a letter today urging the Senate to support the legislation which “would apply longstanding federal law on conscience protection to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [PPACA].” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act “states that the new lists of mandated benefits for private health plans created under PPACA will not forbid those who provide, sponsor and purchase health coverage to negotiate a health plan that is consistent with the religious beliefs and moral convictions of those involved.”  Thus, he added, “it simply ensures that new requirements under PPACA are not used to take away a freedom of conscience that Americans have enjoyed under federal law until now.”

Reuters is reporting that the bishops “are planning an aggressive campaign to rally Americans against a long list of government measures which they say intrude on religious liberty.””We want to make it something that will get peoples’ attention,” Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut told Reuters.

The USCCB will work with other religious groups, including evangelical Christians, on a campaign that reportedly may include TV and radio ads, social media marketing, Reuters reports.

“Along with the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Association of Evangelicals stands ready to contribute money and manpower to the bishops’ campaign, said Galen Carey, an association vice president,” reported Reuters’ Stephanie Simon. “The group is also considering the unprecedented step of asking pastors of every evangelical denomination across the country to read their congregations an open letter protesting the contraception mandate as an assault on religious liberty.”

Finally, writing for the Wall Street Journal, David Rivkin, Jr. and Edward Whelan dismissed Friday’s “revision” as “a farce.” They maintained that the mandate not only “violates the First Amendment’s bar against the ‘free exercise’ of religion” but also violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Rivkin and Whelan conclude their op-ed

“In an effort to rally its base in the upcoming November election, the Obama administration seems more interested in punishing religiously based opposition to contraception and abortion than in marginally increasing access to contraception services. It is the combination of the political motive, together with the exclusion of so many employers from the mandate, that has profound constitutional implications. It transforms the mandate into a non-neutral and not generally applicable law that violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.

“In short, the birth-control mandate violates both statutory law and the Constitution. The fact that the administration promulgated it so flippantly, without seriously engaging on these issues, underscores how little it cares about either.”

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