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Perspective: Protecting religious liberty

Perspective: Protecting religious liberty

April 12th, 2014 by U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemekyer, R-Mo. in News

While it is no secret that I have serious concerns about the president's health care law, one of the most profound is the Administration's attempt to infringe upon the religious liberty of Americans, like you.

The most striking example of this came in March when the U.S. Supreme Court began to hear oral arguments from the national retailers, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, which oppose, on religious ground, provisions of the president's health care law mandating contraceptive coverage. It is my belief the federal government should not be in the business of establishing a list of covered medical services that infringe on the conscience rights of organizations purchasing health insurance for employees.

Further, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which is implementing the contraceptive mandate is putting the livelihoods of millions of American at risk by requiring firms like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties to decide between paying crippling fines that could force them out of business versus dropping health care coverage for all their employees. It is a choice the government should not require them to make.

In light of these circumstances, I felt compelled recently to re-introduce the Religious Liberty Protection Act that would block HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from forcing employers and health insurers with religious or moral opposition to provide coverage of sterilization and contraceptive services. My bill, a version of which I introduced in the last Congress, would prohibit HHS Secretary Sebelius to implement or enforce any provision of the final rule that was published last summer. The final rule requires an individual to provide coverage of contraceptive services to which the individual is opposed on the basis of religious belief.

I also am a proud co-sponsor of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, which would include a full exemption from the Administration's HHS mandate and conscience protection for individuals and health care entities that refuse to provide, pay for, or refer patients to abortion providers due to their beliefs. Last Congress, the House of Representatives passed this legislation and it is my hope that happens again. There also is another bill, the Respect of Conscience Rights Act, which would amend the president's health care law to permit a health plan to decline coverage of specific items and services that are contrary to the religious beliefs of the sponsor of the plan without penalty.

The landmark decision in this case will likely be announced by the Supreme Court this summer and it obviously will have significant ramifications both for employers, workers, and for the religious liberties that this country was built on more than 200 years ago. In the meantime, I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to protect the religious freedom that our Founding Fathers fought so mightily to include in our Constitution.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., represents the state's 3rd District, which includes Jefferson City. His local office can be reached at 573-635-7232.

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