In a new video from the Catholic Association, Kelly Ayotte, the pro-life woman in the Senate, provides a crucial counter-narrative to the parade of women at the Democratic Convention. As the women of the House, Kathleen Sebelius, and Mrs. Obama celebrated supposed advances of women’s freedom under President Obama last night, Ayotte, the freshman senator from New Hampshire, highlights the unprecedented setback to all of us and freedom itself under this administration, focusing on the HHS mandate and the practical effects of its erosion of religious liberty.
“On August 1 of this year, the nature of religious freedom in America dramatically shifted,” Ayotte says in the video message. “On that day, the controversial Department of Health and Human Services Mandate, which requires many employers to violate their deeply held religious and moral beliefs, went into effect. And on that day we went from being a nation that preserves and protects religious liberty as a fundamental right to one where regulators in Washington now decide who is eligible for conscience rights and on what terms.”
This is the implementation deadline that led the Newland family of Denver to seek the temporary court injunction they were granted on July 27.
In the video, Senator Ayotte clears up some confusion, confusion that the Obama administration depends on to keep people from realizing just how radically it’s changed the state of religious liberty in America. She says:
Let’s be clear: The mandate that went into effect on August 1st was the original mandate proposed by the Obama administration. The mandate many of the president’s supporters objected to as an affront to religious liberty. It requires employers to provide and pay for services they strongly object to on conscience grounds. The mandate offers no relief whatsoever for business men and women who cannot in good conscience pay for these services, rather it tells them that they must check their religious rights at the office door, putting them in a position of having to choose between earning a living or their First Amendment rights. And while some nonprofit charities may qualify for a one-year temporary safe harbor, our government is now sending them this message: You have one year left to run your charities and institutions with religious integrity. Your religious freedom is on borrowed time.
Wheaton College president Philip Ryken told me that the so-called safe harbor is the most insulting aspect of the mandate. The administration doesn’t want to compromise, it simply wants Americans with objections to come to terms with the policy, because in the end it is the belief of the administration that a mandate requiring coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception is simply what’s best. And religious folks with hang-ups about these things don’t know what’s best for women and need to be forced to get with the times.
“This is not a nation where our rights are on loan from the government,” Senator Ayotte says, in another counter-narrative point to some of what we’re seeing at the Democratic Convention, where it is understood that “Government is the only thing that we all belong to.”
This is not a nation where only temporary refuge from the iron hand of the government should be tolerated. The First Amendment to our Constitution starts with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Religious freedom was written into the fabric of America by our Founding Fathers. It has been a cherished and protected fundamental right for over 200 years.
“The HHS mandate issued by the Obama administration is an unprecedented assault on religious liberty and conscience rights,” Ayotte emphasizes. “This mandate destroyed a long-standing, bipartisan consensus on conscience rights. There has been no accommodation, only a string of broken promises.”
She issues a challenge, that takes up a theme from Paul Ryan’s speech last week:
Ronald Reagan once said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” The duty is ours today to ensure that the freedom of religion exists for all tomorrow. I know America is up to that challenge.
You can watch Ayotte’s message here. If only every American who sat through any of last night in Charlotte heard it, too. You can do your part by passing it along through e-mail and your various social-media homes.