Thursday, March 26, 2015

DC tramples religious freedom in healthcare

Excerpted from "Sen. Ted Cruz seeks to upend D.C. laws on contraception coverage, gay rights," Washington Post, March 18, 2015 - Last month, more than a dozen prominent conservative groups and Catholic institutions asked Capitol Hill leaders to overturn the two D.C. laws, calling them “unprecedented assaults upon our organizations.” The laws would restrict the ability of private groups to discriminate based on religious beliefs.

One, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014, would prevent employers from taking action against workers based on their decision to use birth control or seek an abortion. The other, the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014, repeals a longstanding, congressionally imposed measure exempting religiously affiliated educational institutions from the city’s gay nondiscrimination law.

As is the case for all D.C. laws, the two are now under a mandatory 30-day review period before Congress. Without congressional action, they could take effect as early as next month. That happened last month with the city’s marijuana-legalization law, when, despite threats from House Republicans, no lawmaker introduced a measure to stop it. Some Republicans feared a vote on marijuana legalization could expose a rift between conservative and libertarian wings of the party.

Freshman Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who co-introduced the measures [disapproval resolutions of Congress to overturn the DC laws], issued a statement Wednesday saying “what the D.C. Council has done is a major threat to the fundamental right to religious freedom for D.C. residents and organizations, and a brazen display of intolerance.” As evidence that Congress would be within its rights to disapprove the D.C. measures, Lankford pointed to a Supreme Court decision last year that family-owned businesses do not have to offer their employees contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act if doing so conflicts with owners’ religious beliefs.


Jonathan ImbodyCMA VP for Government Relations Jonathan Imbody: “The Washington Post suggests that these recently enacted DC ‘laws would restrict the ability of private groups to discriminate based on religious beliefs.’ In fact, the laws target and discriminate against religious groups by dictating that they must hire individuals who directly contradict the groups' tenets, standards and mission.

“That's a flagrant violation of First Amendment freedoms, as upheld by a unanimous Supreme Court in the Hosanna Tabor case and by Congress in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“What the ironically entitled Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014 actually does is repeal a measure that for decades had advanced tolerance by ensuring that the DC Human Rights Act could not be used to coerce religiously affiliated schools into violating convictions of conscience.

“The DC Council apparently has decided, however, that there is not enough room in the District for religious dissenters who question the Council's edicts on sexual morality. Their discriminatory laws inject unconstitutional governmental coercion that subverts the democratic process of free speech and debate that historically has shaped American public opinion and values.

“Intolerance does not advance tolerance.”

Resources - CMA's one-stop-shop for news, analysis and resources on freedom of faith, conscience and speech.


Protect conscience freedom in healthcare - HR 940, which would preserve patient choice and protect pro-life professionals from discrimination for moral and ethical views.

Protect freedom of faith and conscience related to abortion - S 50. No health professionals should be forced to choose between their careers and following the principles of ethical medicine.

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