Obama's Putting All His Regs in One Basket...
Time doesn't heal all wounds--at least where religious liberty is concerned. While the calendar changes, the opposition to the President's abortion mandate does not. So far, no amount of HHS tweaks or "compromises" can make up for the fact that this administration's policy--ordering organizations to pay for pills that violate their beliefs--may be the greatest attack on America's First Freedom ever.
In the brief time since HHS posted the rules, the mandate has generated more public comments--147,000--than any government regulation in history! Compared to the 4,600 comments on pre-existing conditions and insurance, the mandate is drawing 30 times the response! It just goes to show, says the Sunlight Foundation, "how motivated the foes and champions of the contraceptive provision are."
And speaking of foes, the mandate found a few powerful ones in a joint letter signed by 13 state attorneys general. Led by Alabama's Luther Strange, the group (which includes Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia) called on HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to adopt "broader religious exemptions" to the mandate that would protect anyone who objects to the order on moral grounds. "Whatever we personally may think about contraception and abortion-inducing drugs," Strange wrote, "we can all agree that the government should not be in the business of forcing people to violate their religious convictions."
Among other things, the group complains about the narrowness of the exemptions (only a handful of non-church organizations are even eligible). "They allow a limited few religious nonprofits, such as houses of worship, to avoid the 'HHS mandate' altogether...The proposed regulations provide no exception to the HHS mandate for for-profit business owners who object on conscience grounds."
Like FRC, these leaders also see through the President's "accommodation" to let a third-party pay for the pills. Unfortunately, the cost-shifting doesn't change anything. There's a slight adjustment in how the accounting is done for the drugs or services that violate people's consciences--but in the end, the President's "compromise" is just a bookkeeping gimmick that hides the coverage in the plan.
"We all know that insurance companies do not provide anything for free," the attorneys general point out. "The employers are still going to be paying for those services through increased premiums or otherwise--even if the insurance company technically covers those products through a separate 'free' policy." What's more, they write, there is absolutely no protection for businesses like Hobby Lobby whose owners have just as many First Amendment rights as the rest of us.
And if the administration won't protect them, Congress must. It's time for the GOP to take the reins on this broad consensus and attach Rep. Diane Black's Health Care Conscience Rights Act to a must-pass piece of legislation. You can help. Add your voice to the tens of thousands of Americans who are fighting the administration's mandate on the HHS website. Click here to post your comments!
Reince and Repeat?
It took a House and Senate override to do it, but Kentucky can finally celebrate the enactment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The bill, whose sponsor was a state Democrat, cruised to the simple majority it needed to overturn Governor Steve Beshear's veto. Under the law, men and women of faith can no longer be threatened for acting out their conscience on issues of moral principle. In the end, Gov. Beshear, who was under intense pressure from the Left, caved to the false argument that Christians would use the law to somehow discriminate against homosexuals.
In fact, the exact opposite is true! This law was necessary--not because homosexuals were vulnerable to harassment--but because Christians are. As we've seen in small businesses and faith-based groups across the country, the Left's totalitarian tactics continue to trump Americans' First Amendment rights. Everyone from wedding cake bakers to high school teachers should be free to express their beliefs without fear of retribution. Fortunately, 17 states agree and have moved to give their people the religious protections they deserve.
Meanwhile, the Bluegrass State had plenty of other reasons to cheer before the session adjourned. Lawmakers also passed tighter bans on human sex trafficking and child pornography--and still had time to stop the expansion of gambling and support Christian Medi-Share ministries. So when the Republican National Committee says the GOP needs to replicate the success conservatives have had in the states, I couldn't agree more.
Of course, what RNC Chair Reince Priebus doesn't acknowledge is that a big source of that success is rooted in the same pro-life, pro-family issues the GOP would like to ignore. If state leaders have "campaigned and governed in a manner that is inclusive and appealing," it's because the social conservative movement is more far more popular with the American people than the RNC gives it credit for. Much of what these states are accomplishing--heartbeat bills, fetal pain bills, informed consent laws, bans on telemed abortions, rebukes of same-sex "marriage" and civil unions, ObamaCare abortion opt-outs, sex selection bans--are driven by an agenda the national Republican Party has tossed aside. If the states "point the way forward," as the RNC's report suggests, then it's because they aren't afraid to govern by the values their party is supposed to represent.
Record STIs Lead to Real-Life Con$equence$
Liberals want to get the government out of their bedroom--but they sure don't mind asking it to pay for what happens there! That's the problem with the "privacy" argument. Democrats are more than happy to ignore what goes on behind closed doors--but they can no longer ignore the costs it incurs. Promiscuity and homosexuality are wrecking havoc on our country's physical health--and the latest reports suggest that it's doing just as much damage to our fiscal health. According to the new numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control, America is dealing with an explosion of sexually transmitted infections--and one of the biggest risks may be to U.S. taxpayers.
In the latest statistics available, there were 19,700,000 new STIs reported in 2008--the last year for which numbers are available. Based on the CDC's estimates, that brings the total number of STIs in the U.S. to just over 110 million--most of the new cases crop up in young men and women aged 15-25. The epidemic is all the more shocking when you consider that every 20 million cases cost the American health care system an additional $16 billion in direct medical costs.
Of course, this administration--which proudly zeroed out abstinence education (and any program that mentions it)--has only perpetuated the problem. The President would rather teach kids to manage the risks (with unreliable birth control) than avoid them altogether--driving Americans to pay for the real-world consequences of the "just do it" mentality. If people want to know how someone else's promiscuity or homosexual behavior affects them, look no further than the tab for STIs. America's sexual appetite isn't just harmful to individuals but society as a whole. Can we stop this epidemic? We can, but it would require a new focus on an old approach: saving sex for marriage.
For Scouts, Some Austin-tacious Support
The heart of Texas is still the heart of Scouting! Gov. Rick Perry (R) and hundreds of supporters of the Boy Scouts proved it yesterday in Austin, where they joined our friends at Texas Values to call for saving the ban on "open and avowed" homosexuality in BSA troops. "There is this very vocal, very litigious minority of Americans willing to legally attack anybody who dares utter a phrase or even a name that they don't agree with," said the Governor. "In a twisting of logic, they insist on silencing the religious in the cause of tolerance. Now I ask you, where is the tolerance in that?"
I agree, which is why FRC has been helping lead a nationwide coalition to support the Scouts' current policy. To help explain why and equip you to stand with the Scouts, we've produced an five-page, full-color pamphlet that you can download--for free--by going to our BSA website, frc.org/bsa. You can distribute the pamphlet in your churches, to Scout leaders and at Scout events, and to friends and family concerned with keeping the BSA "morally straight" for our boys and young men. Also check out the resources on OnMyHonor.net.
** Early this morning, I had the privilege of joining our good friend Dr. Bill Bennett on his "Morning in America Show" for a conversation on marriage. Check out the audio here.
*** For a front-row seat to this week's marriage arguments, get an in-depth look from FRC's staffers who were inside the courtroom, check out Ken Klukowski's two latest columns, "Prop 8 Case: Roberts as Swing Vote Again?" for Breitbart and "Court, Let the Voters Decide on Marriage" for CNN.com. Also, FRC's other legal expert, Dr. Chris Gacek, joined the fray in U.S. News and World Report with his piece, "The Supreme Court Can't Unilaterally Change the Definition of Marriage."
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.