Keeping his promise to provide religious liberty protections for employers, President Trump has announced a bold move to offer an Obamacare exemption to Christian businesses and nonprofits – religious organizations can now choose to opt out of providing insurance coverage for medicine and services they are opposed to based on their religious beliefs.
The new regulations, effective immediately, now exempt those employers who “sincerely held religious beliefs” or “moral convictions” causing them to object to certain medications or surgical procedures including birth control pills, sterilization, and emergency contraception. The president said he is a firm believer in religious freedom, and that “we will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore.”
Although the Affordable Care Act provided religious exemptions to houses of worship, other types of religious employers such as charities, Christian colleges, and non-profits have had to struggle in court to preserve their freedoms.
Millions Affected by Changes to the Affordable Care Act
The new changes could affect approximately 55 million women who currently receive birth control under their insurance policies with no co-payments. Critics are calling the move a step back for women’s rights, but others argue the coverage was unconstitutional.
Before Trump’s changes, the Affordable Care Act mandated the coverage of contraceptives. Now, some of those insured will lose the contraceptive benefits under their insurance plans and are crying foul. In fact, though just issued a mere week ago, there is already the threat of lawsuits from several states.
Attorney generals in both California and Massachusetts, have already filed lawsuits to block Trump’s new rules saying that the changes violate the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from taking any action that is considered to be “respecting an establishment of religion.”
Christians Win with Trump’s Executive Order
Christian Americans are showing great support for President Trump’s announcement on this executive order concerning religious liberties, indicating that the new rules are a “landmark day for religious liberties”
“The contraceptive mandate was an unlawful overreach, forcing a choice between obedience to God and compliance with the regulatory state,” said Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
As expected, the new order was well received by Christian and conservative groups including the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Roman Catholic nuns known best for their resistance to the mandate from the Obama Administration.
“The new rule is a victory for common sense,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel and representative of the Little Sisters of the Poor, “The previous administration pursued a needless and divisive culture war … It should be easy for the courts to finalize this issue now that the government admits it broke the law.”
Tennessee Republican Representative Diane Black indicated she believed the new rules concerning contraceptives were “a resounding victory for true-believing Americans.” She added that she suspects that it will finally put an end to the “persecution of ordinary Americans who for years have been seeking only the freedom to live in accordance with their faith, free from government interference.”
Critics Lose Their Minds
While many Christians are celebrating the president’s decision, others fear the denial of insurance coverage for contraception for women sends a “sweeping guidance on religious freedom” that could erode civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Richard B. Katskee will challenge the new rules in court. He feels that by changing the rules, the government has put an unacceptable burden on female employees who want or need to receive free contraceptive coverage.
“Religious freedom is the right to believe and worship as you see fit,” Said Katskee “It’s never the right to use government to impose costs, burdens or harms on other people. You can’t use the government to make other people pay the price for your religious beliefs or practices.”
There is little doubt President Trump helped make strides in the right direction, but the fight for restoring religious freedom in America is far from over. Republicans have recently approved a budget plan that effectively continues funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.
If the Trump administration truly wants to stand up for the First Amendment, this would be a noble follow-up.
~ 1776 Christian