by Christen Varley | Forbes
These are strong words, yes. To those of us whose faith is an integral part of our daily lives, they are appropriate. Faith is not a card we carry in our pocket to display at opportune moments. It cannot be placed in a box and stored until it is needed. Faith cannot be traded away for free stuff on offer from bureaucrats. It can, however, be tested, as it is now for so many of us.
On August 1st, businesses and organizations must begin renewing health insurance benefits that include, free of charge, contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization. No accommodation is being made for employers who have already asserted their beliefs by previously opting out of providing coverage for these products and services. This week, the Newlands, owners of a family business that manufactures heating and air conditioning parts in Colorado, went to court to fight the Obama administration’s dangerous mandate that will force them to pay for insurance services that violate their faith. In Pennsylvania, owners of a lumber mill are fighting the same battle.
Employers with religious and moral objections to the mandate must choose between two poison pills: comply and desert your faith, or resist and be subject to crippling fines. Hard working small business owners shouldn’t have to choose between violating their faith and staying in business.
The loss of conscience rights for businesses is just the beginning. On August 1, 2013, the rule will be applied to religious institutions including hospitals, schools and universities and charities. Organizations whose mission it is to serve the community based on need and regardless of faith will be penalized for refusing to deny their faith in daily operations. The test being applied to houses of worship is daunting at best. I fear many churches, temples and mosques will find themselves on the wrong side of the rule as well.
HHS has written a rule that not only denies Americans our right to live our faith in our daily lives; HHS has also made government judge and jury over what is an acceptable practice of faith. Individuals, including business owners, and institutions have a right to operate as they see fit when engaging in commercial activity. This includes declining to pay for optional product and services employees may choose to avail themselves. When President Obama has already told Americans “you didn’t build that.” Now we are being told “you can’t believe that.”
Our elected leaders swear an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” It is time to live up to that oath. Every American should be free to live and conduct business according to their faith. We do not leave our faith at the door when we exit our house of worship. By definition, our faith requires us to live it every moment of every day.
The administration has tried to make this a debate over access to free contraception. That is not what this debate is about. It is about whether the government can take away our religious freedom, redefine religious, and force any of us to violate our faith and give up their right of conscience.
Politicians and bureaucrats possess neither the power nor the wisdom to determine when an individual may or may not practice their faith. No mere human does. Our nation has been served well by people of faith from before its inception because a respect for faith lies at its roots. The HHS mandate is misguided and must be rescinded or amended to recognize the conscience rights of all.
On August 1, the Obama administration tells us to put our faith on a shelf. What will they ask of us next?
Christen Varley is executive director of Conscience Cause.