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  • Freedom of Conscience

    by Representative John Fleming

    Posted on 2013-06-12

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    FLEMING. I thank the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Fortenberry) for bringing us together this evening with a number of colleagues talking about an extremely important topic today, and that is health care conscience rights. You've heard some of the major points here, and I'm going to touch on more.

    On August 1, 2013, the administration's coercive health care mandate will take effect. It will force religious organizations, American family businesses, universities, and countless others across the great country of ours to violate the deeply held moral and religious beliefs that we have. The HHS mandate is a serious affront to religious freedom and leaves American businesses, nonprofit religious organizations, and individuals with three terrible decisions.

    First, they could violate their conscience and religious convictions and comply with the mandate, purchasing and providing items and services they find morally objectionable.

    Second, they could resist the mandate, not complying with the Federal regulations, and face fines up to $100 per employee, per day.

    Or third, they could drop employee health coverage altogether--which defeats the purpose, the basic idea of ObamaCare to begin with--leaving employees to fend for themselves and still pay a Federal fine of $2,000 per employee, per year, according to the business that employs that person.

    These are not actually choices, but a top-down, burdensome Federal regulatory scheme that forces the American public to participate in a government-run health care plan that violates their values.

    Who are we talking about? Who will be affected by the HHS mandate? Mr. Speaker, to date, 61 cases and over 200 plaintiffs have filed suit against the Federal Government to preserve their First Amendment right of freedom of religion. One of the nonprofit lawsuits was filed by Louisiana College, a private Baptist college in Pineville, Louisiana just outside of my district.

    Offering degrees in art, music, science, nursing, social work and teaching, this central Louisiana school has over 70 programs of study, has a student enrollment of about 1,500 students, and a faculty/student ratio of 13-1.

    The HHS mandate requires that Louisiana College provide employee health insurance covering abortion-inducing drugs and counseling on the use of such drugs. This, Mr. Speaker, is a violation of Louisiana College's belief that all life is sacred, including the life of the unborn.

    Who else? Hobby Lobby is another example of a well-known business throughout the country--we have 11 stores in Louisiana--employing more than 2,000 people in 41 States. The business practice of Hobby Lobby mirrors their religious principles. Their hours of operation are family friendly, and they are closed on Sundays. Employee pay is important.

    Well, what is the anecdote to this problem created by ObamaCare and the rules rolled out of this administration? I'm going to just quickly touch on them, and then yield back to my good friend from Nebraska.

    Section 3 provides much needed protections to ensure that the Federal Government cannot force individuals, charities and businesses to buy plans for their employees that provide or facilitate coverage of items or services to which they have a deeply held moral or religious objection.

    Section four provides much needed protections to ensure that any government agency that receives Federal funds cannot force pro-life health care entities to be complicit in abortion or discriminate against them because they are pro-life.

    Section 5 of the Conscience Rights Act amends title II of the Public Health Service Act. It includes a private right of action for victims who have been discriminated against. You see, at this time, Mr. Speaker, people who are discriminated against, or coerced or forced in some way by this mandate don't have access to courts. This opens up a private right of action so that those of us who may object through our conscience will have our day in court.

    Just in conclusion I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, that ObamaCare has provided many, many problems and really no solutions. But there are even unintended consequences, and that is forcing people of conscience to have to make that decision on whether to end providing certain care for their employees or for their--really to their patients--or suffer large fines, or just give up on health care coverage at all for their employees.

    I think it's time that this country comes together and decides, let's make health care attractive and affordable and protect life, and protect those who want to protect life, and not have this top-down, bureaucratic, coercive system that's now in law that will require many of us to do many things against our conscience. That is simply un- American.

    With that, I thank the gentleman for his time today.

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