By Senator John Thune
There is an old political axiom that is attributed to Thomas Jefferson, and more recently Gerald Ford, that says, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.” Those words took on new meaning in January when we found out that the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, was issuing new regulations with regard to President Obama’s signature health care law.
For the first time in history, the federal government would force faith-based institutions to pay for coverage of products and services they find morally objectionable or against the very tenants of their religious beliefs.
In the initial announcement from the Obama Administration, only churches were exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services in their insurance plans. This exemption left many faith-based institutions, such as schools and hospitals, unprotected from violating their religious beliefs.
Following much scrutiny from religious and non-religious leaders alike, on February 10th, President Obama announced that he would revise the way religious employers provide contraceptives to their employees in an attempt to quell the rising backlash of individuals outraged over the violation of their First Amendment rights.
While I appreciate efforts to address those opposed to government intrusion on the freedom of religion and conscience, I do not believe the revision goes far enough to protect religious freedom guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. While religious employers will no longer be forced to provide products to which they have moral objections, they will be required to facilitate, directly or indirectly, access to those products, which is a clear violation of their conscience.
I am a cosponsor of legislation to ensure that Americans whose religious beliefs are at odds with President Obama’s wishes do not have to choose between following the law and following their conscience, an objectionable proposition that our Founding Fathers meticulously pondered as they drafted our Constitution.
Let us remember exactly why many of our forefathers came to this country in the first place. They came here in many cases because they were trying to get away from religious persecution in their homelands. They came to the United States with a desire to start anew and to assert that in this new government, basic freedoms like religious liberty would be protected.