Thursday, February 27, 2014

CMA commentary in LA Times responds to religious freedom editorial

LA Times editorial
(Excerpted from, "Critics want to overturn the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but that's going too far," by The Los Angeles Times editorial board, February 4, 2014, Copyright 2014, Los Angeles Times.)

Two decades ago, Congress overwhelmingly approved and President Clinton enthusiastically signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But now that the 1993 law is being used to challenge the Obama administration's requirement that employer health plans include contraceptive services, some supporters of the law are having second thoughts, and several organizations want the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional. That would be a mistake.

Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which says the government may "substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" only if necessary to further a "compelling government interest" and only if the law in question is the "least restrictive means" of achieving that interest.

Next month the Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases in which owners of for-profit businesses argue that the law allows them to disregard the contraceptive mandate because of their religious objections. We hope and expect that the court will reject their claim. The law refers to burdens on "a person's exercise of religion," not a corporation's, and the burden must be substantial. Providing insurance coverage for a woman who uses it to obtain contraceptives no more implicates an employer in her decision than does the payment of her salary, which can also be spent on birth control. Finally, ensuring that women have access to preventive healthcare is clearly a compelling interest.

CMA response - published in LA Times

Jonathan ImbodyBy Jonathan Imbody, CMA VP for Govt. Relations (Published Feb. 4, 2014 in The Los Angeles Times) – The Times rightly defends but wrongly interprets a federal law that forbids the government from imposing ‘substantial burdens’ on the exercise of religious convictions and requires federal officials to pursue the ‘least restrictive means’ of achieving any ‘compelling interest.’

The Times neglects 1st Amendment principles in defending the administration's attempts to force employers with conscientious objections to bow to the government's edict to provide controversial contraceptives and sterilization surgeries.

The government easily could avoid restricting religious freedom by directly supplying poor women with contraceptives, just as it does worldwide.

Just as the 1st Amendment protects the free speech of citizens and corporations such as The Times, it also protects the free exercise of religion by citizens and employers. When the administration attempts to force even elderly nuns to violate their religious convictions, clearly the government has trampled on sacred 1st Amendment ground.

CMDA Right of Conscience Resources

Use our easy pre-written customizable message to support H.R. 940 - Healthcare Conscience Rights Act (House bill) and S. 1204 - Health Care Conscience Rights Act (Senate bill)

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