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December 18 2013

Judge: HHS Mandate Violates Religious Liberty

Charlotte Hays

Score one for the First Amendment, our historic guarantor of religious liberty.

The decision of a Federal District Court judge in Brooklyn yesterday is being celebrated by those who care about religious freedom. The judge ruled that the so-called HHS contraception mandate—which would force employers to provide coverage for contraception and abortafacients, regardless of their religious beliefs—is unconstitutional.   

The New York Time (sorry, subscription required) reported:

The ruling found that the regulation violated the religious freedom of the four nonprofit groups — two high schools and two health care systems — that are affiliated with the [Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York] but employ people of any faith. Under the Affordable Care Act, the nonprofit groups were required to provide the contraceptive coverage, authorize a third party to voluntarily pay for and provide the coverage, or pay steep fines.

The ruling, by Brian M. Cogan of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, found that forcing the groups to authorize a third party to provide contraceptive care still violated their religious beliefs even if they were not financially support contraception. Churches are already exempt from the mandate to provide contraceptive care.

As much as we rejoice in this victory for one of our bedrock freedoms, we should not forget for a moment that Democrats, desperate to hang onto their jobs in the face of having foisted upon the country the most disastrous piece of legislation in our history, will also seize upon this ruling to raise money and unnecesarily scare people. They will use it to promote their favorite fairy tale: that the Republican Party gives a hoot about their birth control.

After all, as Jonathan Tobin of the Commentary blog points out, the fight to preserve religious liberty gave the Obama campaign a pretext for saying that the GOP is hostile to the interests of women:

The Obama administration’s effort to force religious organizations and employers to pay for services that violate their beliefs largely provided the basis for the presidential reelection campaign’s faux “war on women” talking point.

As such, it must be considered a success as it turned a debate on the constitutionality of the ObamaCare mandate forcing all employers to pay for contraception and abortion drugs into one about the supposed indifference to the rights of women on the part of conservatives.

Tobin acknowledges yesterday’s victory, however:

But the legal battle over the fate of the Health and Human Services Department mandate in the courts is not going quite so well for the president. …

The left’s attempt to force employers to violate their religious principles is disturbing on the face of it. But it is also disturbing because it conflates not paying for something (i.e., not purchasing health insurance policies that cover procedures the employer regards as morally unacceptable) with prohibiting something.

That this illogical argument has a vast following doesn’t speak well for our educational system. But logic—so old-hat, so Schoalstic—in public argument seems to be a thing of the past.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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