Liberty-Crushing HHS Mandate Takes Effect August 1

Tomorrow, the government’s liberty-crushing mandate that has elicited widespread outcry and led a federal judge to grant a preliminary injunction against the rule for a for-profit business will officially take effect.

On August 1, Obamacare’s preventive health services mandate will be implemented, and with it the Health and Human Services (HHS) anti-conscience mandate. After Wednesday, nearly all employers will be forced, at the beginning of their next health plan year, to pay for coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization—regardless of moral or religious objections.

Despite the false assurances of the Obama Administration and supporters of the mandate, few employers will ultimately escape the rule’s coercive requirements.

The offensively narrow religious exemption included in the mandate effectively covers only formal houses of worship, leaving countless organizations—from schools and hospitals to soup kitchens—completely unprotected. Insinuating that faith should remain behind closed doors, not influencing or motivating the care for others, this mandate assaults the right to the free exercise of religion.

Among the many employers who do not meet the Administration’s narrow religious exemption, some may be able to get a one-year reprieve from the HHS mandate under the Administration’s “temporary safe-harbor” provision. Non-profit religious employers are eligible for the safe harbor only if they meet the Administration’s four-part test.

Even then, the temporary safe harbor only delays the inevitable, merely giving religious employers an extra 12 months to silence their consciences and get in line with the government’s mandate. Many religious employers and all for-profit employers will not qualify for the safe harbor and will be subject to the HHS mandate as of August 1, 2012.

The bottom line: Tomorrow, the stifling effects of the Administration’s attack on religious liberty will begin to be felt, with for-profit businesses and non-exempt religious organizations as the first of many casualties.

For the many non-exempt employers, August 1 signals the beginning of a season of impossible decisions. After tomorrow, at the renewal of their health plan years, the HHS mandate will force employers into an untenable choice: violate their deeply held beliefs or forfeit the provision of health insurance altogether and risk steep fines.

Who are these victims of Obamacare’s trampling on faith? Family business owners who are producing jobs and growing the economy, Catholic social organizations that provide invaluable services to their communities, and evangelical colleges and universities educating the next generation, to name just a few.

Over the past year, the Obama Administration has forfeited numerous opportunities to protect the religious liberty of employers, refusing to rescind the mandate or expand its offensively narrow religious exemption. Instead, the Obama Administration has promised an unworkable, insufficient “accommodation” that neither has the force of law nor addresses the mandate’s underlying assault on liberty.

For these reasons and more, almost 60 organizations have joined more than 20 lawsuits against the HHS mandate, seeking from U.S. courts the protection of a constitutional freedom that the Obama Administration refuses to afford. If last week’s victory on behalf of a Colorado family-owned business is any indication, the Administration’s refusal to protect religious liberty will continue to have as much appeal in federal court as it does among the American people.

Unfortunately, the HHS mandate is only an early warning sign of how one-size-fits-all health care requirement will trample on religious liberty as well as individual liberty. August 1 will only be the beginning of Obamacare’s rules that undermine constitutional freedoms.

It should be a warning sign to Americans that one of the first parts of Obamacare to be implemented will force employers with religious and moral convictions to violate their consciences.

To truly save employers from the coercive HHS mandate and others like it, the answer is to repeal Obamacare and replace it with health care reform that reduces costs, increases access, and leaves personal health care decisions where they belong—in the hands of the American people.

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