The Corner

Introducing the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act

In the House of Representatives today, Tennessee congresswoman Diane Black and Wisconsin congressman James Sensenbrenner, two Protestant lawmakers, are introducing the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act, seeking to repeal the fine on faith the Obama administration’s abortion-inducing drug, contraception, and sterilization mandate imposes.  

“The Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act would stop the Obama administration from levying this huge tax on religious employers,” Representative Black says.

“With the HHS mandate, the administration has set up an impossible choice for many religious affiliated institutions: either violate the law and pay a tax, or violate your conscience,” Black says. “This means some of the most respected parochial schools, hospitals, soup kitchens, and universities across our country will have to choose between violating their faith to keep their doors open or paying a potentially devastating tax.”

Some of those schools and other religiously affiliated service organizations are right in Congress’s backyard. “We have nearly 100 schools educating nearly 28,000 kids,” Donald Cardinal Wuerl of Washington, D.C., pointed out in a recent interview. In “the poorest part of the District of Columbia, we have 800 kids who simply need help getting an education.” It’s work that is being “compromised simply because we have a new definition of what constitutes religious liberty,” he told me.

“Never before in our nation’s history has there been a mandate forcing individuals to violate their deeply held religious beliefs or pay a tax,” Black said today. On the religious-liberty front, nothing has changed since the Supreme Court’s health-care ruling, because that decision “leaves intact a serious assault on our religious freedoms — the controversial HHS mandate that requires employers to provide drugs and services in their employee health-care plans regardless of religious objections to those services,” she said.

#more#Black echoed remarks she made at forum at Georgetown University just before Independence Day, calling the president’s health-care legislation “an unprecedented assault on our First Amendment right to religious freedom.”

“Obamacare has handed over an immense regulatory power to the Department of Health and Human Services to control just about every aspect of health care in our country,” Black said at Georgetown. As we have seen, some of that unfettered power is being used to force religious organizations to violate their conscience and to pay for insurance plans that cover contraceptives and also abortion-inducing drugs.”

“The public outcry against the HHS mandate has been undeniable,” Black said, citing protests outside the Department of Health and Human Services and throughout the country, and lawsuits seeking to protect Americans against the coercive mandate. “Whether you’re Catholic or not . . . . we are all threatened by this . . . as people of faith, any of us could be next.

“Despite this outpouring of objection,” she added, “the Obama administration recklessly has continued down that path of placing unjustifiable burdens on . . . religious and moral conscience. Some in the administration have sought to divide our opposition. They want us to believe it is just a Catholic matter, with the bishops, and have even talked about it as a war on women.”

The text of the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act seeks “to exempt employers from any excise tax and certain suits and penalties in the case of a failure of a group health plan to provide coverage to which an employer objects on the basis of religious belief or moral conviction.” 

It is frankly outrageous that it has come to this — that Congress has to work to dismantle what will be crippling fines on faith for indispensible religious organizations. 

It joins bipartisan efforts to protect conscience rights — once itself a bipartisan consensus — most notably lead by Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, who is supporting the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act.

“The rule put forth by the Department of Health and Human Services must not stand,” Speaker of the House John Boehner has said of the HHS Mandate. “The Obama administration must reevaluate this decision and reverse it. If it does not, I believe the United States Congress, acting on behalf of the American people, will.”

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