Religious Rights Groups Blast HHS Mandate 'Fix'

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WASHINGTON - Within minutes of the Obama administration announcing an opt-out for religious nonprofits that object to the HHS mandate, several religious rights groups began to blast it.

Most said the proposal was neither a fix nor did it really allow opting out.

"We are extremely disappointed with today's announcement," said Kyle Duncan at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, one of the main public-interest law firms fighting the mandate. "HHS waited nearly a year and then gave us a proposed rule that still burdens religious liberty." Complete statement.

"The government has no business putting religious freedom on the negotiating table, or picking and choosing who is allowed to exercise faith," said Matt Bowman of Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal ministry also involved in numerous legal battles against the mandate. "The administration must immediately abandon the idea that it has the power to withhold or dispense our fundamental freedoms to whomever it chooses. The mandate is losing in court. The only acceptable solution is for the administration to obey the Constitution and its legal duty to protect religious freedom." Complete statement.

"This narrow policy revision would only protect a small segment of organizations purchasing health care and would still leave scores of groups and individuals at risk in having their religious freedoms and beliefs trampled and crushed," Rev. Patrick Mahoney, with the Christian Defense Coalition, said. "It continues to show that this administration is clueless when it comes to understanding the First Amendment with respect to religious freedom for all Americans and ensuring that everyone is protected from having their core beliefs and conscience trampled by the government." Complete statement

"The proposal does not expand religious freedom to all organizations and does nothing to change the current policy that forces religious entities to pay for insurance plans that include abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations and contraception," said Anna Higgins, with the Family Research Council's Center for Human Dignity.  "The mandate continues to force religious non-profit institutions as well as companies guided by a well-articulated and longtime moral code, such as Hobby Lobby, to violate their faith, threatening serious fines in the millions of dollars if they refuse to comply." Complete statement.

"...We at Priests for Life remind the Administration that religious liberty does not just belong to religious groups and individuals; it belongs to all Americans," Father Frank Pavone, with Priests for Life, said. "Objections to contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs aren't based just on dogmas and Bibles, but on adverse health consequences and the fact that human beings, no matter how small, should not be killed.  We see only one acceptable change regarding the mandate: rescind it completely." Complete statement.

"There must be no religious 'test' by the government as to who, and what type of entities, are entitled to a conscience," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, with the Susan B. Anthony List, which pushes for electing pro-life women lawmakers. "Government policy under our constitution, history and statutory law has recognized the right of citizens to be free from government compulsion of conscience on such fundamental matters." /sba-list-blasts-so-called-hhs-mandate-policy-"update"'>Complete statement.  

"In 80 pages of legalese and gobbledygook, this administration fails to recognize the constitutionally protected freedom of conscience that all Americans-not just religious organizations as defined by the IRS-are guaranteed in their personal lives and in the workplace," Paul Rondeau, with the American Life League, said. "The tragic lessons of history teach us that when one right can be infringed, all rights are at risk." Complete statement

One group defending the HHS mandate "fix" is Catholics United, which tends to side with the Obama administration in most public controversies.

"This is a victory not only for the Obama Administration, but for the Catholic Church," Catholics United Executive Director James Salt said. "The divisive right-wing myth that religious liberty is somehow attacked has been thoroughly debunked, and today's ruling is just another nail in that coffin." Complete statement.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.