Congress is back home this month, creating a calm before the storm set to hit in September when the House and Senate will once again have to reach a budget deal to avert a government shutdown. Your representatives should be hitting their district streets right now looking to hear from you and soliciting input for the upcoming fight. For people of faith, nothing is more important right now than ensuring that religious freedoms are protected in any "must pass" legislation, such as a Continuing Resolution ("CR") or omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2014.
The spending battles offer the best, and likely only, opportunity to protect religious freedom this year since the spending bills must pass the House and Senate to prevent a government shutdown after September 30. Religious freedom protections must be added to such a bill in the House to force the Senate to act.
The Obama administration finalized its regulations in June without any change to the narrow exemption for "houses of worship," an exemption that does not include religious non-profits or businesses who object to healthcare coverage of contraception or abortion inducing drugs. Without real conscience protections added to must-pass legislation, hundreds and thousands of these religious charities, hospitals, universities and private individuals will still be forced to cover these benefits or face steep fines.
The U.S. Constitution does not guarantee a person freedom of religion only at one's house of worship. Why should Americans only be free to practice their religion at church, but not, as Jesus taught, to live out their faith in their daily lives? Without conscience protections, businesses such as Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood, Inc., and Autocam Corp., and religious non-profits like Belmont Abbey College, Wheaton College, Eternal Word Television Network are threatened. Even with some legal victories in the courts, other plaintiffs have not faired as well. Congress should work to protect the First Amendment and not leave it to the courts.
We need you to urge your Member of Congress to personally ask House Leadership (Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy) to insert conscience protection legislation into any must pass legislation or the final "CR."
Our religious freedoms are essential to our democracy, and we urge you to act now.
For more background information, click here to download a copy of FRC Action's one-page summary of the Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate.