The Obama Administration’s mandate that religious employers provide contraception, abortifacients and sterilization for their employees is a monumental attack on religious liberty: never before has our government chosen to force American citizens to violate their consciences so directly.
Yet while Alliance Defending Freedom successfully makes the case that this law violates employers’ religious freedom, the potentially devastating impacts of this mandate on others should not be ignored. For because of this mandate, Christian ministries that refuse to compromise their faith will be forced to curtail their services to those in need, forcing them to choose between debilitating fines or abandoning aid to the poor and needy altogether.
Sure, the Obama administration has provided an “exemption.” But the so-called “exception” has four requirements that an organization wishing to claim its protections must satisfy. Among others, the organization seeking an exemption must “primarily serve persons who share its religious tenets.”
In other words, Christian ministries must do 1 of 2 things to satisfy the Obama Administration’s demands. Either sacrifice your convictions about sexual ethics or stop serving non-Christians.
Christian ministries feed millions of hungry people all over the world and here at home every day. They provide clean water and medicine, they build homes, schools, and orphanages, and provide the supplies and staff to run them. They also work to stop child sex trafficking and provide disaster relief all over the world. And they don’t turn away the Muslim mother of a hungry child or the Hindu refugee. It’s that last part that makes them ineligible for any grace from the HHS mandate. Because they serve persons of other faiths, HHS demands that they must sacrifice tenets of their own faith.
Why would the federal government have any interest in limiting the faiths of those that a Christian ministry can serve? What possible connection is there between such a ministry’s employee insurance policies and the faith of those served in a Catholic soup kitchen?
None. The Hindu refugee is not interested or affected by the contraception policies of the aid mission in her town. So why would the government care?
It might be that the HHS Mandate really has two aims, the first of which is to establish the primacy of “sexual freedom” over religious liberty in the pecking order of constitutional protections. Alliance Defending Freedom and our allies are working to ensure that this does not happen. And the second aim may be to force resistant religious ministries into the prayer closet and out of the public square. Sadly, such an intention to water down the impact of communities of faith would be in keeping with previous steps the administration has taken to water down America’s stand for freedom of religion abroad to a more private and cloistered “freedom of worship.”
Consider the enormity of what the HHS Mandate asks of Christian ministries. Demanding that Catholics and others begin providing, without charge, birth control, abortifacients, and sterilizations to their employees is no small matter. The administration surely also knows that forcing the Catholic Church to sacrifice 2,000 years of teaching is not likely. Yet, on its face, the administration’s argument that this mandate is necessary because it will expand access to contraception hinges upon the success of that effort.
If religious employers do not succumb and violate their conscience, then their employees gain no increased “access” to contraceptives and abortifacients from them. Previous polls of Christian medical professionals have shown that over 90% would sacrifice their medical practices altogether before they would violate their conscience and perform or assist in abortions. Not only are government-compelled violations of conscience immoral and unconstitutional, but they will also fail to produce the “access” claimed.
Surely the administration realizes that Christian ministries will not violate their conscience so easily. So the administration gave them an alternative. Step away from the public square. Stop serving those of other faiths and adopt a confined faith that does not serve your neighbor. Do this, and you can keep your convictions inviolate.
It is unclear how many Christian ministries, if any, will make this choice and deny aid to those of other faiths in order to meet the government’s demands. But if they do, it will be the hungry and thirsty, the stranger and the imprisoned, who suffer from the HHS mandate as the government demands that the church retreat from the public square.