Right Opinion

Faith-Based Groups Free to Believe After HHS Rollback

Tony Perkins · Oct. 7, 2017

Congress wants to take another crack at repealing Obamacare, but the president isn’t going to sit on his hands until it does. After months of watching the Senate fumble its replacement plan, Donald Trump is taking some matters into own hands. And conservatives will be relieved to know that the unconstitutional HHS mandate is one of them. In a huge victory for religious liberty, the Department of Health and Human Services dealt a death blow to Barack Obama’s order that forced faith-based groups to offer free contraceptives — even if it violated their conscience.

After the Supreme Court scrapped Obama’s mandate for companies like Hobby Lobby, the 44th president tried to hide the same rule under a fancy accounting gimmick. A group of nuns became the poster women for Obama’s “accommodation,” which HHS concocted to spare religious groups from the choice of violating their faith or the law. Or so it said. In practice, the religious groups would still have to pay for the “health care” they oppose — just through a third-party. People on both sides of the political spectrum blasted Obama’s phony compromise, failing to understand why HHS would demand that even the Little Sisters of the Poor should have to pay for birth control. The message was simple: Abandon your conscience, or resist and be fined for your faith.

Thanks to President Trump, churches and religious groups no longer have to make that choice. Yesterday, HHS issued two regulations that beat back this idea that the government can strong-arm Americans into surrendering their beliefs. The first exempts employers and educational institutions from covering pills or procedures they believe destroys a human life. The second exempts some small businesses and pro-life organizations if they have similar objections. No one — not nuns, not store owners, or everyday Americans — should be faced with the choice of violating their beliefs or paying ridiculous penalties to exercise them. The courts realized that, siding with more than 200 plaintiffs on the HHS mandate 90 percent of the time! Like us, they understand that if the federal government can threaten people and organizations with fines for their beliefs, what can’t it do?

Of course, liberals are hysterical about Trump’s decision, claiming that millions of women are somehow going to lose their birth control because a handful of religious groups won’t pay for it. At most, experts think Trump’s new regulations will affect about 190,000 employees, a far cry from the Left’s sky-is-falling estimates. And if anything, these regulations protect employees from losing their insurance altogether. Let’s not forget that under the HHS mandate, some pro-life employers were faced with no choice but dropping employee health care.

As if keeping that promise weren’t enough, the White House also put a stop to the Obama guidance that forced millions of Americans to secretly pay for elective abortion on the health care exchange. After hiding the abortion fees for years, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a bulletin that any policyholder who pays for an Obamacare plan will be notified if it includes a separate abortion fee. For the last several years, the law buried these abortion surcharges. This new CMS guideline creates transparency for millions of Americans who may not know they’re paying for abortion coverage in their Obamacare plans.

The same First Amendment that gives Little Sisters of the Poor the right to object to liberal health care coverage is the same First Amendment that gives Jack Phillips the right to walk away from a same-sex wedding cake job. Our deepest gratitude to the White House for restoring what Obama stole: the freedom to believe.

Originally published here.

Trump Keeps Promise, Restores Religious Liberty in Workplace

President Trump’s promise keeping streak continues! At last year’s Values Voter Summit, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump pledged to the crowd that religious liberty would be “cherished, protected, defended, like you’ve never seen before. Believe me.” On Inauguration Day, President Trump set to work on fulfilling that promise — with a big step taken on May 4th when he signed an executive order directing the Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue guidance ensuring that federal government agencies respect religious freedom.

Friday, that guidance was issued and another concrete step was taken toward undoing the anti-faith policies of the Obama administration. While the Obama administration quarantined religious beliefs as if they are a plague, the Trump administration is restoring our First Freedom to where it’s belonged since the founding of our country. Federal agencies are on notice: You will not only respect the freedom of every American to believe, but the free exercise of religion. The guidance provides 20 principles of religious liberty and makes clear that they apply to federal employees, contractors, and citizens who interact with government agencies. The DOJ emphasizes that religious liberty protections are for organizations and corporations, not just individuals, and also notes that religious employers have the right to hire “only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers’ religious precepts.”

No longer will religious organizations fear losing a federal grant or contract because of the organization’s “hiring exemptions or attributes of its religious character.” And most importantly, the guidance recognizes that “Americans do not give up their freedom of religion by participating in the marketplace, partaking of the public square, or interacting with government.” This includes members of our military, who, under the Obama administration, have been systematically silenced and even purged. Men and women like Chaplain Wes Modder (U.S. Navy-Ret.) and Monifa Sterling, who stared down the ends of their careers for their deeply-held beliefs, can finally come out of hiding and live out their faith openly. Don Vander Boon will no longer live under the threat of having his meat packing plant shut down because meat inspectors don’t like his views on marriage. Churches destroyed by the recent hurricanes will no longer be discriminated against by FEMA.

You can help expand the impact of Friday’s announcement by spreading the word to those who work for or interact with federal government agencies. To aid the Trump administration’s efforts in vigorously protecting religious liberty, we are launching a web hotline for those who believe that they have suffered discrimination at the hands of federal agencies based on their religious beliefs. Please share this webpage with your friends, family and on your favorite social media pages. After eight years of relentless assault on the First Amendment, we can be thankful that we have a president who respects the Constitution and fulfills his promises. Please join me in signing this thank you letter to President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions expressing appreciation for their efforts to protect religious freedom.

Originally published here.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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