Attack on religious freedom

Published 10:00 am Saturday, February 18, 2012


The disorder surrounding the Obama Administration’s contraception mandate provides yet another example of why government-run health care is bad for America.

The original rule, authored by the Department of Health and Human Services as required under President Obama’s health care reform law, would force religiously affiliated charities, schools, universities, and hospitals to offer free contraceptives to their female employees, even when doing so violates the religious beliefs of the employer.

To be clear, this is not a question of whether individuals may use birth control—that, of course, is well settled. The question raised by the administration’s policy is whether the government can force a religious institution to provide birth control against its wishes. I believe the answer to that question is no.

Many people of diverse faiths immediately identified this mandate as an attack on the Constitutional right to exercise freely the religion of one’s choosing. The public’s uproar over the policy was swift, and it became clear that many Americans would not tolerate a test of their First Amendment rights. The White House, feeling the pressure, announced a weak “accommodation” to the rule: although the religious institutions are not required to provide birth control, their insurers are—and at no cost to the employee.

Forced money laundering does not make this policy better. The administration’s “accommodation” is a political solution that demonstrates no serious respect for long held religious beliefs.

In many respects, the administration’s “accommodation” is an inadequate answer, and the House is expected to consider legislative responses to the situation this week. But the whole affair reminds us of everything that is wrong with a one-size-fits-all, government-run health care system. One of the first votes I took after taking office was to repeal the health care law, which increases the size of government, burdens job creators, and does nothing to bring down costs for most Americans. (The democratically run Senate has rejected efforts to repeal the law.) Since then, my House colleagues and I have stayed focused on passing legislation to dismantle this government take-over of health care piece by piece.

We are only now understanding the true scope and reach of the health care law, and in the future we may see more issues arise that challenge our traditional, conservative values. That is one reason why I recently joined the Values Action Team in Congress, which is a group of like-minded members dedicated to supporting life, family, and less government intrusion into our churches and schools.

Our Values Action Team meets and communicates regularly to ensure that each member is up-to-date with the latest information on values-related issues and legislation. We will mobilize quickly to make sure our voices are heard in the ongoing debate about government’s role in American society, and we will continue to block policies that are offensive to our constitutionally protected liberties.


Alabamian at hearing

It was an honor to introduce Mr. Charles Cooper, a native Alabamian, as a witness for an important House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing this week. Congressional Committees routinely call on witnesses to provide expert testimony during hearings. Mr. Cooper testified during a hearing to examine the President’s unprecedented National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recess Appointments.

A founding member and the current chairman of the litigation firm Cooper & Kirk, Mr. Cooper is named one of the 10 best civil litigators in Washington, D.C., by The National Law Journal. He previously clerked for Judge Paul Roney of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and to Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist. In 1985, President Reagan appointed Mr. Cooper to the position of Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel.

The House Committee Education and the Workforce hearing examined the important constitutional questions surrounding President Obama’s recess appointments to the NLRB, an organization that has proven hostile to small business and job creators in recent years. The lack of public disclosure surrounding these board nominees is unprecedented and unacceptable.

I was pleased that Mr. Cooper could participate in the hearing to offer his experience from past legal work. His knowledge supplied information about the impact that these important issues will have on employers governed by the board.