Family Research Council

Obama Administration Curbs Religious Freedom

By Chris Gacek Senior Fellow for Regulatory Policy


During President Barack Obama's first term, his Administration has taken numerous actions that some religious believers detrimental to their religious liberties and disrespectful towards their rights of conscience. Here are a few examples:

Appointment of LGBT advocate: September 16, 2009 - The Obama Administration appointed Chai Feldblum, a lesbian and gay activist, to be a commissioner on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. When questioned regarding a Christian employer's right to hire an employee of his choice, Feldblum stated: "Gays win; Christians lose." Similarly, Feldblum, when questioned about how she would decide when religious liberty and homosexual "rights" conflict, said she would have "a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win."[1]

FRC President is disinvited: February 25, 2010 - Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, was disinvited to address the National Prayer Luncheon at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C. An ordained minister and Marine Corps veteran, Mr. Perkins had planned to give a devotional, non-political message. Mr. Perkins was told that his statements in opposition to the Obama Administration's efforts to repeal the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military were grounds for revocation of the invitation.[2]

Revision of HHS conscience protection rules: February 18, 2011 - The Obama Administration revised conscience protection rules the Bush Administration had promulgated to enforce existing conscience laws. Provisions in the Bush rules allowed workers a broad ability to object to performing and participating in abortion and other medical procedures. These provisions were eliminated by the Obama version of the rule. The new rule did maintain the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights to receive complaints, but removed the requirement that federally funded entities certify compliance with non-discrimination laws.[3]

Refusal to defend DOMA: February 23, 2011 - The Obama Administration announced its refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) against constitutional challenges. The statute defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.[4]

Administration lawyers would actually come to attack the statute in court filings and oral arguments.[5]

Walter Reed Medical Center Bans Bibles September 14, 2011 - The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is the leading medical institution for the U.S. armed forces. Walter Reed authorities issued an internal guidance document stating that "No religious items (i.e., Bibles, reading materials and/or facts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit."[6] The policy was revoked later after a political firestorm erupted.

HHS ceases to fund human trafficking programs, for political reasons: October 2011 - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) received notification from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that funding for their program aiding victims of human trafficking would cease. According to the National Catholic Register, the decision fell to political appointees at HHS, who decided not to continue the USCCB grant due to its opposition to the Obama Administration's stances on the provision of family planning services and the HHS mandate in the new health care law.[7]

Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC: January 11, 2012 - The United States Supreme Court rebuked the Obama Administration in a 9-0 decision issued in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC. The case centered on an employment discrimination claim at a Lutheran school. The Administration had argued that employment discrimination laws trumped the First Amendment's religious freedom protections-even concerning the choice of ministers. The Court rejected this extreme position observing, " We cannot accept the remarkable view that the Religion Clauses have nothing to say about a religious organization's freedom to select its own ministers."[8]

HHS Contraception Mandate: January 20, 2012 - Health and Human Services' Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that pursuant to Obamacare employers would be required to provide sterilizations and contraceptives, including some that can cause abortions, with no co-pays. Churches would not be covered by the mandate.[9] However, religious employers including universities and colleges, religious hospitals, and soup kitchens would fall under the requirement. Private employers religiously opposed to the provision of contraceptives would not be exempted either.[10]

The Army censors Catholic chaplains in worship service: January 29, 2012 - The Army censors a letter from the Catholic Archbishop for the military services that was to be read by Catholic chaplains to their Army parishioners. The letter rejected the Obama Administration's Health and Human Service Contraceptive mandate.[11]

Decorated General withdraws from speaking at West Point: February 8, 2012 - Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (USA-ret.), a highly decorated combat veteran and anti-terrorism expert, voluntarily withdrew from speaking at an upcoming prayer breakfast at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point . A phalanx of atheists and Islamists had launched a campaign to bar Gen. Boykin, a conservative Christian speaker and writer, from speaking at the event. In an interview with OneNewsNow, Gen. Boykin stated the pressure on the Academy, which the Obama Administration did not resist, was overpowering.[12]

Chris Gacek, Ph.D., is the Senior Fellow for Regulatory Affairs at Family Research Council.

[1] Jacob Wolf, "Change Watch: Chai Feldblum, Commissioner, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission," FRC Blog, November 17, 2009, accessed June 20, 2012,

[2] Jennifer Wishon, "Tony Perkins 'Disinvited' to National Prayer Luncheon," CBN News, February 25, 2010, accessed June 20, 2012,

[3] Steven Ertelt, "Obama Admin Weakens Protections for Pro-Life Medical Workers,", February 18, 2011, accessed June 20, 2012,

[4] "Letter from the Attorney General to Congress on Litigation Involving the Defense of Marriage Act," The United States Department of Justice, February 23, 2011, accessed June 20, 2012,

[5] Ed Whelan, "Obama Violates Commitment to Have Executive Branch Enforce DOMA," National Review Online, March 29, 2012, accessed June 20, 2012,

[6] Liz Farmer, "Walter Reed accidentally bans Bibles," Washington Examiner, December 18, 2011, accessed June 20, 2012,

[7] Pete Winn, "HHS Withholds Grant from U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Apparently Because Church Opposes Abortion," CNS News, October 24, 2011, accessed June 20, 2012,

[8] Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School, Petitioner v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et al., 565 U.S. 1 (2012).

[9] Robert Pear, "Obama Reaffirms Insurers Must Cover Contraception," New York Times, January 20, 2012, accessed June 20, 2012,

[10] "Six facts about HHS mandate," Catholic New World, February 12, 2012, accessed June 20, 2012

[11] Kathryn Jean Lopez, "Army Silenced Chaplains Last Sunday," National Review Online, February 3, 2012, accessed June 20, 2012,

[12] Chad Groenig, "Boykin relieves pressure on West Point,", January 31, 2012, accessed June 20, 2012,

Meet The Author
Chris Gacek Senior Fellow for Regulatory Policy

Dr. Chris Gacek is the Senior Fellow, Regulatory Affairs at Family Research Council. Dr. Gacek received a Bachelors of Science in economics from the Wharton School, University of (Full Bio)

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