“Respect for Rights of Conscience Act” Shot Down In Senate

The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, introduced as an amendent to the Transportation Bill, last week in response to the Obama Administrations Birth Control Mandate, which opponents feel is an “egregious violation of religious freedom,” was defeated today in the Senate in a 51-48 vote that included Maine Senator Olympia Snow, who announced yesterday she was not seeking re-election, voting with Harry Reid and Democrats against the measure.

The issue has gained a tidal wave of momentum across the religious and political spectrum. Rights activists concerned about government/statist violations of basic Constitutional rights are joining in the opposition to the Birth Control mandate. “For America” Chairman L. Brent Bozell, III, wrote in a letter to U. S. Senators:

“…On behalf of ForAmerica’s 2 million supporters, I write to urge you to take a stand for the Constitution — the First Amendment, religious liberty and individual freedom — by casting a YES vote on Senator Roy Blunt’s Amendment #1520 the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act…The recent ObamaCare regulations written and released by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius represent a blatant and unprecedented attack on the First Amendment, individual freedom, religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Indeed, these regulations represent perhaps the greatest intrusion on individual freedom and religious liberty in our nation’s history…”

In a letter to his colleagues in Congress Senator Roy Blunt wrote that the Obama Health Care Bill is:

“…a broad assault on America’s freedoms,and that is why the protection from that assault must be broad-based. The language in this amendment stands on exactly the same legal footing as decades of federal conscience protections in health care. In fact, the late Senator Ted Kennedy included a strikingly similar conscience protection faith-based health plans in his 1997 proposal, the Health Insurance Bill of Rights, and conscience portection language accomplishing the same purpose was included as part of the draft 1994 legislation based on the recommendations fro the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, headed by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton… While the Administration claims that this so-called “accomodation” [referring to the Obama compromise regarding the mandate] fixes the problem, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the exact same Preventive Services Rule that initially caused serious concern from groups nationwide – such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – dating back to last August. The Administration promises ‘future regulations’ to implement the accomodation for non-profit religious institutions, but this will be done outside the scope of public accountability, and the ‘change’ does not even begin to address discrimination against self-insured religious institutions like the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington or for-profit religious employers. What the President does not appear to understand is that just because you come up with an accounting gimmick and pretend like religious institutions are wrong, does not mean that you’ve satisfied the fundamental constitutional freedoms that all Americans are guaranteed…”

In a February 15 letter to all U.S. Senators, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston explained to Legislators how the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act” (S. 1467) is especially needed since a new mandate by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will force almost all health insurance plans to cover all FDA-approved contraceptives, including drugs that can cause an early abortion, and sterilizations, stating that even many religious organizations will not be exempt from the mandate.”

Cardinal DiNardo said:

“The Administration’s rule makes no provision for the rights of insurers, even religiously affiliated insurers, but places responsibility for enforcing the mandate more squarely than ever on their shoulders. This is a radical departure from current law, under which a health plan that excludes contraception can be sold even to federal employees if the carrier has any religious objection to such coverage…[the mandate] does not support discriminatory decisions to withhold basic coverage, does not free anyone from responsibilities under other state or federal laws, and does not allow anyone to deny coverage for high-cost treatments using morality and religion as a pretext…” (Read MORE HERE)

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago as early as 2009 warned and urged Catholics in the United States to tell the Obama Administration to retain Health and Human Services regulations governing conscience protections for health care workers:

Cardinal George wrote in Catholic New World . Com, this week:

“This year, the Catholic Church in the United States is being told she must “give up” her health care institutions, her universities and many of her social service organizations. This is not a voluntary sacrifice. It is the consequence of the already much discussed Department of Health and Human Services regulations now filed and promulgated for implementation beginning Aug. 1 of this year…Why does a governmental administrative decision now mean the end of institutions that have been built up over several generations from small donations, often from immigrants, and through the services of religious women and men and others who wanted to be part of the church’s mission in healing and education? Catholic hospitals, universities and social services have an institutional conscience, a conscience shaped by Catholic moral and social teaching. The HHS regulations now before our society will make it impossible for Catholic institutions to follow their conscience…”

But Harry Reid and opposing Democrat Senators were determined in their opposition to the Bill. As JENNIFER HABERKORN and KATE NOCERA write in POLITICO, “…Democrats — who think they have a political winner if they can frame the debate as a women’s health issue — say they’ll be there to refight the issue as many times as it takes….’We know that this is just an attempt in a series of attempts,’ Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said after the vote. ‘We’re going to stand up; we’re going to fight back.’…”

Senator Blunt expressed his disappointment at the Senate’s rejection of the Bill:

“I am truly disappointed by the partisanship that has been injected into this debate on religious freedoms. Instead of working to pass a bipartisan measure that has been part of our law for almost 40 years, this debate has been burdened by outlandish and divisive efforts to misinform and frighten Americans…The fact remains that this provision would simply preserve the fundamental religious freedom that we enjoy today. For the first time in our history, the Obama Administration’s health care mandate is an egregious violation of our First Amendment rights…Unfortunately, this is only a glimpse of what Americans can expect as a result of President Obama’s government health care takeover – which is why we need to repeal and replace this bill with common-sense bipartisan solutions…This fight is not over. I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress to protect the rights that make our nation great.”

See the “For America” Petition HERE

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