The Trump Administration has taken decisive action to scale back one of the most anti-Christian abuses of Barack Obama’s Presidency. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be expanding the religious exemptions to the contraceptive and abortion drug mandate.The mandate was one of the anti-life features of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), most commonly referred to as Obamacare. The ACA expressly authorized the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to determine the essential benefits to be included in health insurance plans issued in the private marketplace.
Former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius subsequently released a dictate that all health insurance policies include “free” coverage of any and all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This included abortifacient drugs like Ella and Plan B, which have the capability to destroy a developing human embryo. Health insurance companies were required to cover these “emergency contraceptive” drugs and devices without co-pays or deductibles. The abortion drug edict provided an exemption for churches and houses of worship. However, it did not exclude other religious institutions and organizations. As a result, Christian ministries were being compelled to pay premiums for health insurance policies underwriting abortifacient drugs in violation of their religious conscience rights.
The oppressive and inane nature of the HHS mandate was best illustrated by its nonsensical impact on the Little Sister of the Poor religious order of nuns. Attorneys for the Obama Administration repeatedly argued in federal court that the Little Sisters were required to offer “free” contraceptive coverage to the nuns in their order, despite the fact that these sisters take a life-long spiritual vow of chastity.The Trump Administration is now issuing new rules expanding the exemption from the contraceptive mandate to all non-profit religious organizations and ministries, including religious educational institutions. The new rules will also explicitly exclude closely-held corporations, such as family-owned businesses, whose owners hold religious objections to the use and lethal effect of abortion drugs.
The U.S. Supreme Court had already established that family-type businesses could not be forced to comply with the abortion drug edict in a high-profile case involving the craft store chain Hobby Lobby. Owner David Green and his family were strongly opposed to paying for drugs and devices that would destroy the life of a preborn child in its earliest stages of development. Under the extortionist penalties imposed by the HHS mandate, the Green family and their business would have been required to pay a fine of $1.3 million each day for failure to comply with the mandate. David Green made clear that they would shut the business down before they would yield to the demand that they violate their deeply-held religious beliefs.
Missouri U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, who has been an outspoken advocate for the Little Sisters of the Poor and other conscience-based organizations, cheered the action by the Trump Administration. “No act of government should ever force Americans to compromise their faith.””These new rules will allow groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor to focus on their core missions without the fear that they’ll face huge government fines or lengthy legal battles. I commend President Trump for following through on his promise to restore and protect the religious freedom and conscience rights of all Americans.”In related action, the U.S. Justice Department released new guidelines regarding the treatment of religious freedom by federal agencies. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a guidance containing 20 “key principles” that spell out the religious liberties of individuals and organizations as they relate to regulations and policies of the federal government.
“Religious freedom is not merely a right to worship in a sacred place,” Sessions wrote in his memo. “Except in the narrowest of circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law. Therefore…religious observance should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity, including employment, contracting, and programming.”Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, applauded the new stance announced by the Justice Department. “Federal government agencies have now been put on notice: you will not only respect the freedom of every American to believe according to their faith, but also to live according to those beliefs.”
“President Trump is demonstrating his commitment to undoing the anti-faith policies of the previous administration and restoring American’s First Freedom–religious liberty. These concrete steps will once again erect a bulwark of protection around our First Amendment rights.” President Trump had promised earlier this year to address the continuing threats by government to the free exercise of religion. In a press conference in the Rose Garden that included members of the Little Sisters of the Poor, Trump declared that “we will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied, or silenced anymore. We are ending the attacks on religious liberty.”