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President’s ‘compromise’ still infringes upon religious liberty Print
Guest column
Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

When President Obama mandated that religiously-based organizations violate core tenets of their faith, Americans were rightly outraged.

The president then announced an “accommodation” policy to these organizations, but the so-called compromise is not a compromise at all because it does not take away the mandate that infringes upon religious liberty.

On January 20, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, affirmed a rule that requires church-affiliated hospitals, agencies, and universities to provide contraception and sterilization in the health insurance for their employees.

The president announced a false compromise, mandating that insurance companies offer free coverage of these services directly to the employees of religiously-affiliated institutions.

The announcement merely attempted to alleviate a political problem for the president, after Americans across the political spectrum spoke out against this intrusive government overreach and blatant disregard for our constitutionally protected freedom of religion.

Contempt for right of conscience

However, the contempt for protecting the right of conscience remains. Religiously-affiliated institutions that have moral objections to contraceptives and abortifacients will still be forced to facilitate a government mandate that goes against their faith.

The new regulation, forcing insurance companies to provide contraceptives to employees, actually increases the power of government to mandate further items through its control of insurance coverage under Obamacare.

And while the directive says that companies must meet the mandate without charging either the employer or the employee, there is no such thing as a free lunch. To say that insurance companies will provide free contraceptives and abortifacients is like believing in the Tooth Fairy. We all know in reality someone pays. And in this case, religiously-affiliated organizations will foot the bill as the premiums go up to cover all of the government mandates.

Furthermore, religious-based organizations that are self-insured will be forced to buy insurance coverage under this mandate, and they will end up paying indirectly to violate core tenants of their faith, rather than directly.

Protecting religious liberty

This country was founded by those who came to these shores seeking relief from religious persecution. And the crafters of our Constitution explicitly protected religious liberty, writing that “Congress shall make no law” that violates freedom of religion. The Supreme Court has time and again reaffirmed that this right includes freedom to practice religion without government interference.

The president’s new regulation still represents a serious threat to religious liberty and erodes our right of conscience.

The only acceptable way to protect religious liberty is for the president to admit that he and his administration have made a mistake and to withdraw the mandate over religiously-affiliated institutions completely.

Congress can, and should, act to restore the constitutionally-protected right to exercise religion. I will work in the House of Representatives to reverse this policy and restore our constitutionally-protected freedom of religion.

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., is a congressman representing Wisconsin’s fifth district.