Conservatives Unite in Opposing Obama’s Assault on Religious Liberty

By Terence P. Jeffrey | February 13, 2012 | 12:57am EST

President Barack Obama speaking about his adminisration's regulation to require health-insurance plans to cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients, at the White House on Feb. 10, 2012. (AP Photo)

( - A sweeping alliance of fiscal, social and national security conservatives and leaders of the Tea Party movement came together on Monday to denounce the attack that President Barack Obama has launched on the free exercise of religion by ordering virtually all Americans to buy health insurance plans that pay for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients even if doing so forces them to act against their consciences and the teachings of their faith.

The conservatives called for Obama’s mandate to be fully and unconditionally repealed.

“The Obama administration’s mandate that Catholics provide contraceptive, sterilization and abortifacient services is the greatest assault on religious freedom in the history of the Republic,” said L. Brent Bozell III, who is president of’s parent organization, the Media Research Center.

“Never before has this nation ever witnessed the federal government so ruthless in its over-reach of power, and so dismissive of the Constitution,” said Bozell. “This is an issue that affects every Catholic and non-Catholic, should it be another Christian, a Jew, even a non-believer. To allow this ‘rule,’ as this administration so arrogantly calls it, to stand is to surrender our most basic freedom, the freedom of conscience. We cannot.”

Edwin Meese, who served as attorney general to President Ronald Reagan, said that patriotic groups have an obligation to stop Obama’s mandate.

“This is an example of one of the greatest attempts at the shredding of the Constitution in our history,” said Meese.

“The members of Congress have a duty, and all citizens and patriotic groups have an obligation, to do everything in their power to stop this assault on the Constitution,” Meese said. “Unless we do so, we will have allowed the destruction of the basic tenet of our democratic republic: a government that acts only with the consent of the governed.”

Jenny Beth Martin, the co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, also said Obama's assault on religious liberty was historically unprecedented.

“The Obama administration’s mandate that Catholics and other faith-based institutions provide contraceptive, sterilization and abortifacient services under ObamaCare is perhaps the boldest assault on the U.S. Constitution by any president in history,” said Martin. “The most terrifying element of this rule is that it is just the beginning of the government’s rule-making process and other violations of constitutional rights are certain to follow.”

“Tea Party Patriots believes that this rule is unconstitutional and, we call for the administration to immediately repeal it,” said Martin.

Best-selling author and radio talk show host Mark Levin said that Obama’s mandate is evidence that the nation is in a constitutional crisis.

“It is neither noble nor virtuous to dismiss or downplay the peril our country faces,” said Levin. “Barack Obama is an imperial president exercising unconstitutional power. The nation is in the midst of a constitutional crisis.  Now is the time for all freedom-loving Americans to be heard.”

Radio talk-show host and former Reagan Education Secretary Bill Bennett called for the regulation as well as all of Obamacare to be repealed.

“Religious liberty and freedom of conscience are at the mercy of government run health care and the power of big feminism,” said Bennett. “ObamaCare must be repealed and this ruling overturned.”

In all, 38 conservative leaders joined in demanding a stop to President Obama’s attack on the freedom of conscience. In addition to Bozell, Meese, Martin, Levin, and Bennett, these leaders ranged from Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy to Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; from Patrick Henry College Chancellor Michael Farris to House Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio; from Andrew Breitbart to Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance; from Let Freedom Ring President Colin Hanna to Center for Military Readiness President Elaine Donnelly.

Among others allied in denouncing the regulation and calling for its repeal are former Reagan domestic policy adviser Ken Cribb, former George W. Bush counselor Ed Gillespie, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N Human Rights Commission Ken Blackwell, Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, Americans United for Life President Charmaine Yoest; Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition and Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coaltion, Ron Robinson of the Young America’s Foundation, Don Feder of the World Congress of Families, and Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia.

Conservative journalists joining their voices in the cause include National Review Publisher Jack Fowler, American Spectator Publisher Al Regnery, Washington Examiner Editorial Page Editor Mark Tapscott, Editor Joseph Farah, Western Journalism Center President Floyd Brown, nationally syndicated columnist David Limbaugh, and the author of this article, who is also a nationally syndicated columnist.

The controversy over what conservatives see as President Barack Obama’s assault on religious liberty began in August, when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius published proposed regulations for “preventive services” that would be subject to mandatory insurance coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare). Sebelius said that virtually all health-care plans sold in the United States would need to cover sterilizations and all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives, including those that cause abortions.

The only groups that would be exempt from this mandate were “religious employers,” which the regulation defined as those that were primarily involved in inculcating the tenets of a religion, primarily served the members of the religion in question, primarily employed members of that religion, and were organized under the section of the Internal Revenue Code used by churches. In practice, this exemption would apply only to churches per se, and not to religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and charitable organizations.

The administration never offered any exemption at all for individual Americans or privately owned businesses.

Before the end of August, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had filed comments with HHS objecting to the proposed regulation, declaring it “an unprecedented attack on religious freedom.” The bishops argued that the regulation violated the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion because it would force Americans—whether they were individuals, employers, or insurers—to buy or provide insurance coverage that paid for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients even if they had moral or religious objections to these things.

Since the Catholic Church teaches that sterilization, artificial contraception and abortion are morally wrong, the regulation would force Catholics to act directly against the teachings of their faith.

The bishops asked parish priests to speak out against the mandate from the pulpit at Sunday masses and call on members of their congregations to contact the Obama administration and urge that the proposed regulation be rescinded in its entirety.

On Jan. 20, HHS Secretary Sebelius announced that the regulation would take effect, as planned, on Aug. 1 of this year. The only concession she offered was that religiously affiliated organizations such as hospitals, universities and charitable organizations, that did not qualify for the very narrow religious exemption in the regulation would be given one additional year to “adapt” before the regulation was forced on them. However, Sebelius said, by Aug. 1, 2013 even religious hospitals, universities, and charitable organizations would be forced to submit to the mandate.

Most of the Catholic bishops in the United States responded to Sebelius's announcement by writing letters to the Catholics in their diocese, which parish priests read from the pulpit at Sunday Masses. These letters declared the HHS regulation an unambiguous violation of the First Amendment rights of Catholics and other people of faith, and bluntly said: “We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law.”

On Friday, after the bishops’ letters had been read in churches nationwide, President Barack Obama announced what he characterized as “a solution that works for everyone.”

Under this solution, all health-insurance plans in the United States would be forced by the government to cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients free of charge. But, as President Obama described it, if a woman works for a religious hospital or charity that objects to these services, the insurance company--not the employer--would pay to provide the services to the woman free of charge.

“Under the rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services--no matter where they work. So that core principle remains,” the president said. “But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company--not the hospital, not the charity--will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.”

Late Friday, the Catholic bishop responded, saying that this “solution” was “unacceptable.”

“It would still mandate that all insurers must include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.

“But we note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders—for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals—is unacceptable and must be corrected,” the bishops said.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R.-Ohio), the chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, called Obama’s adjustment to the regulation a “figleaf” that did nothing to protect the religious liberty of private-sector employers.

“It’s a fig leaf, not a compromise,” said Jordan. “Whether they are affiliated with a church or not, employers will still be forced to pay an insurance company for coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs.

“This is not just a problem for church-affiliated hospitals and charities,” Jordan said. ‘Under these rules, a small business owner with religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs and contraception must either violate his religious beliefs or violate the law.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said that Obama’s proposed “solution” violates the rights of insurance companies, too.

“How will the insurance company pay for this?” asked Perkins. “The President suggests giving away these drugs and services is good for the bottom line because the insurance company saves money in the long run by reducing the number of pregnancies. Really. If this is good for business and saves money, why didn’t the insurance companies do this years ago?”

“Insurance companies are not charities,” said Perkins. “They will be off setting the costs by increasing the administrative costs of organizations plans.”

Rep. Jack Kingston (R.-Ga.) said Obama’s “solution” was in fact a power grab.

“Friday’s phony compromise is classic Obama double speak designed to fool the non-political swing voter, give a wink and nod to the left and stab the soul of religious liberty,” said Kingston.

“The mandate still accomplishes its purpose--a nanny state power grab, centralized government planning over free market solutions and a further erosion of the Constitution,” Kingston said. “Whether organizations choose to violate their faith or the law they’ll still subsidize contraceptives.”

Concerned Women for America President Penny Nance said the regulation could properly be classified as “tyranny.”

“Requiring employers affiliated with the Christian faith, like Concerned Women for America, to include free abortion-inducing drugs in their health insurance plans is contrary to both Christian doctrine and constitutional guarantees of religious freedom,” said Nance. “When religious groups are forced to deny their deeply held religious convictions, it is not called ‘balance,’ it is called ‘tyranny.’”

Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center for Security Policy, said: "Every American has a stake in this fight.

"If the liberties you hold most dear have not been savaged yet, just wait,” said Gaffney.

National Review Publisher Jack Fowler said: "President Obama’s act of raw executive power is an unconscionable scheme to force people of faith to accept and engage in practices they find immoral and contrary to their beliefs. National Review was founded to stand athwart History, yelling Stop. Now is the time for all good men and women, regardless of their ideologies, faiths, or partisan affiliations, to yell Stop against this statist expansion at the cost of our most basic liberties and the destruction of our religious institutions.”

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