HHS mandate: The more things change, the more they stay the same
Pro-life and other religious groups are blasting the so-called "compromise" that the administration has proposed on the contraceptive mandate.
As Heritage blog points out, it changes nothing:
The document is not even final. It is merely an update to the Obama Administration's "advance notice of proposed rulemaking," further sketching out its accommodation first released last March.
Even if today's suggestions were adopted into law, the narrow exemption would cover only formal houses of worship and their integrated auxiliaries. It would fail to encompass many employers-and certainly all individuals-with moral or religious objections to complying with the mandate.
The latest proposal fails to protect businesses such as Tyndale House, the nation's largest Bible publisher; or Hercules Industries, a family-owned and operated HVAC company; or Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts retailer-all of which seek to operate according to deeply held religious and moral beliefs.
In fact, the Administration explicitly states that it does "not propose that the definition of eligible organization extend to for-profit secular employers."
Even for organizations that qualify for the accommodation, the government would still require material cooperation by employers and unnecessarily entangle them in providing services to which they hold moral or religious objections.
As the Alliance Defending Freedom rightly noted last summer, the Administration's idea of accommodation "creates a federally imposed religious caste system." The same holds true for today's announcement. Again, only the precious few who are deemed religious enough by the Administration would be afforded true protection of their religious freedom and ability to live and act in accordance with their beliefs.
For everyone else, the Administration is clear: Get over your deeply held beliefs and get in line with the HHS mandate. The alternative is devastating fines to the tune of up to $100 per day per employee for offering non-compliant health plans.
There are currently 50 or so lawsuits challenging the mandate. These will go forward and one or more will almost certainly end up being reviewed by the Supreme Court. It is at that point we will see whether we still have a First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom or not.
If Obama gets to name another liberal judge before a case winds its way through the lower courts, all bets are off and an adverse decision becomes more likely.