The following Op-Ed was published in The News-Times on Sunday, February 25, 2012:
The recent furor over the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services new regulations for ObamaCare demonstrates the clear violations of religious liberty proposed by President Obama.
Many argue the issue is all about healthcare choice but somehow have misunderstood that the objections are rooted in defense of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The issue is the survival of constitutionally protected freedom that ensures respect for conscience and religious liberty.
Cardinal Dolan of New York stated, “Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn't happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights."
Cardinal Dolan said in a Wall Street Journal opinion, “This latest erosion of our first freedom should make all Americans pause. When the government tampers with a freedom so fundamental to the life of our nation, one shudders to think what lies ahead.”
Catholic and other religious institutions will soon be legally required to provide services which violate a fundamental principle of their religious beliefs.
This should be a battle cry for all faith institutions – the First Amendment of the United States Constitution is under attack.
The mandate infringes on the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion and also violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Our government should be protecting freedom not violating it and American citizens owe it to their country to strongly object to this violation of the United States Constitution.
“This ruling is a violation of religious liberty, an infringement on the conscience rights of individuals and institutions that contribute immensely to the common good,” said Bishop William E. Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport.
One of the most troubling facts about ObamaCare is that nearly 2,000 exemptions have been granted to unions and corporations like McDonalds.
Why are religious institutions not granted similar exemptions?
Many lawsuits have been filed by Catholic schools, healthcare organizations and the Eternal World Television Network (EWTN) seeking to strike down the mandate. The Beckett Fund is assisting with the lawsuits and has developed compelling arguments challenging the constitutionality of the Obama Administration’s actions.
Religious freedom prevailed in a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of the United States last month. The case determined the government may not tell churches (in this case a Lutheran school) whom to hire or fire as ministers.
This week the United States Senate is expected to vote on the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S.1467). The proposal will ensure that Americans “retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
Please call Senators Lieberman and Blumenthal at the U.S. Capitol (202) 224-3121 and urge them to support this measure.
This “one-two punch” of major news brought me back to 2009, when I stood with thousands of members of the faith community on the steps of the State Capitol in Hartford.
We stood together in strong opposition to Senate Bill 1098. That bill was a flagrant and unjustified attack on the Church’s constitutionally protected autonomy.
The bill would have removed all financial control from clergy of the Catholic Church and installed it in a board of directors comprised of lay members elected from within the parish. The bill would have also expanded the state’s authority to investigate Church finances.
We fought and we won. After tremendous opposition, the legislature tabled the bill.
More than two years later, I remain encouraged that so many Catholics, and many people of other religions, made the trip to Hartford to speak their minds on that controversial bill.
I also remain hopeful that people of all faiths will stand up now to oppose President Obama’s national attack on religious freedom.
The recent Supreme Court decision was another victory for religious liberty. The ObamaCare health mandate was a defeat, but we pray it will be just a temporary one.
I urge you to contact me at Michael.McLachlan@cga.ct.gov or call (860) 240-0068 with your thoughts, ideas and comments on how I can help you at the State Capitol.