EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an opinion editorial submitted by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). The opinions are solely his and not those of St. George News.
OPINION – As every constitutional scholar knows, the U.S. Constitution and the liberties it protects reign supreme. Unfortunately, politics trump everything in the Obama administration, even our Constitution and religious liberty.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the recent ham-handed decision by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Health and Human Services Department to force all employers, including religious-affiliated institutions, to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employer insurance plans.
This would place religious hospitals, charities and colleges in an untenable situation of having to violate their most cherished beliefs about the sanctity of life or to drop insurance for their employees and face the consequences. It would further violate Americans’ First Amendment right to religious freedom, as well as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the bill I co-sponsored and got signed into law in 1993 that prohibits the federal government from burdening the free exercise of religion.
Forcing people and institutions of faith in this country to violate their most fundamental beliefs is an egregious and unconstitutional abuse of government power. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that so many religious leaders, including the nation’s Catholic bishops, have pleaded with the Administration to grant broader waivers to avoid jeopardizing their constitutional right to freely exercise their religion.
Faced with a growing backlash from the American people this past week, the President offered a so-called compromise – one that would force insurance companies to offer abortion-inducing drugs free of charge when employers object to covering it for religious reasons. This, however, is little more than a bait and switch. Religious liberty belongs to every American, not just faith-based employers and institutions.
But rather than upholding Americans’ right to practice their faith, the White House is defending its unconstitutional edict to placate its radical pro-abortionist allies. Defending the indefensible, however, is a tall order. No matter how hard the Administration tries to sugarcoat the mandate with halfhearted compromises and rationalizations, religious leaders and other Americans are not reassured. They have learned from sad experience they can ill afford to take anything from this President on faith.
In this case, the American people neither accept the White House’s sorry explanations about this mandate nor whatever remnant of their constitutional rights the President chooses to recognize. They are not inclined to thank the Administration for letting them retain a few scraps of religious liberty. They further understand that religious liberty belongs to the Catholic hospital or University of Notre Dame no less than it does the Catholic Church. The same holds true of any religion and its affiliated institutions.
Furthermore, the American people know what our President has apparently forgot, that religious liberty cannot be doled out in little pieces to appease certain interest groups or political constituencies. They want the President to start upholding the oath of office he took to support and defend the Constitution – all of it, including Americans’ fundamental right to religious liberty.
Just last month, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld that the right of religious organizations to decide who may further their mission trumps nondiscrimination statues, despite arguments to the contrary from the Obama administration that such organizations were nothing special and deserved no more freedom than labor unions or social clubs. Writing for the entire Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Robert called that view “hard to square with” the First Amendment.
Soon, the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to rule on the constitutionality of Obamacare. What this latest preventative services mandate confirms is that the constitutional problems with the new health law are not limited to its individual mandate that would force every American to buy health insurance or pay a fine. At its core, the entire health law and its expansion of government are a threat to personal liberty.
Well, after three years of this Administration, Utahns and other Americans are saying enough is enough. They want Congress as their representative to stand up for the First Amendment and restore religious liberty by overturning Obamacare and its unconstitutional provisions.
That is why I will continue, with likeminded colleagues, the fight to overturn this unjust law. I am confident that if the will of the American people prevails, it will not stand.
– Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
Copyright 2012 St. George News.