Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Kay Bailey Hutchinson Responds to Constituent Letter about Obama Assault on Religious Liberty of Catholics

Dear Friend:
     Thank you for contacting me about protecting religious freedom and individual rights of conscience.  I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

     Like you, I am outraged and concerned about recently issued federal regulations that would deprive Americans of important aspects of constitutionally protected religious freedom.  I support legislation that would restore and protect these important, constitutionally guaranteed rights.

     All three branches of the federal government -- the Supreme Court, Congress, and a succession of presidents -- have recognized that individuals should not be required to engage in certain activities that conflict with their religious beliefs or moral convictions.  For instance, the 1973 Church Amendment provides that individuals and health care entities receiving federal health care funds may not be required to perform abortions or sterilization procedures if the procedures conflict with their personal or religious beliefs.  The amendment also prohibits federal grantees from discriminating against employees who decline to participate in services that they find morally objectionable.

     The Obama administration, however, recently issued a final regulation (under the sweeping health care law enacted in 2010) that requires organizations to include a wide range of free, FDA-approved contraceptive and sterilization services under the private-insurance coverage plans offered to their workers.  This regulation, which is to take effect in August 2013, requires faith-based organizations, universities, and other non-profits to do so, even in direct conflict with religious beliefs or moral principles.

     Two Senate bills have been introduced that seek to reverse the new regulation and reinforce freedom of religion and rights of conscience.  Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced S. 1467, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011, which would amend the 2010 health care law to permit a health plan to decline coverage, without any penalty, of specific services that are contrary to the religious beliefs of the sponsor.  I support the thrust of this legislation, which is currently being reviewed by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, on which I do not serve.

     I have cosponsored Senator Marco Rubio's (R-FL) bill, S. 2043, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012.  It is a more narrowly focused approach that would prohibit the federal government from penalizing an organization or an individual for choosing not to provide contraceptive or sterilization services as part of its health insurance plan.

     Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind as these bills are considered by the Senate.  I appreciate hearing from you.  Please do not hesitate to contact me again about any issue that is important to you.

Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator

284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510
202-224-5922 (tel)
202-224-0776 (fax)

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