Friday, February 10, 2012

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Abbott, Eleven State Attorneys General Pledge to Fight Obama Administration’s Mandate Requiring Religious Organizations to Offer Insurance Coverage for Contraception Services For Their Employees

AUSTIN — Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Attorneys General from eleven other states sent a letter today to the Obama Administration calling on them to rethink their Obamacare mandate that will force religious-based hospitals, clinics and service organizations to offer insurance covering contraceptive products and services which violate their religious beliefs.

“The more we learn about Obamacare, the more unconstitutional it becomes. This mandate is a stunning trampling of freedom of religion by forcing religious-based hospitals and clinics to act contrary to their religious doctrine. These mandates force religious organizations and hospitals to subsidize products and moral judgments that clearly violate their beliefs,” Attorney General Abbott said.

Media links
The letter from the 12 attorneys general

Full text of the letter:

February 10, 2012

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius The Honorable Timothy Geithner
Secretary Secretary
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services U.S. Department of the Treasury
200 Independence Avenue, S.W. 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201 Washington, D.C. 20220

The Honorable Hilda Solis
Secretary
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210

Dear Secretaries Sebelius, Geithner, and Solis:

As Attorneys General of our respective states, we are writing to express our strong opposition to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring religious employers that provide health insurance coverage to their employees to include coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, and related services. Should this unconstitutional mandate be promulgated, we are prepared to vigorously oppose it in court.

The proposed regulations would compel religious affiliated organizations, hospitals, universities, and social service entities to subsidize contraceptive products and services which clearly violate their religious beliefs. We are deeply troubled by the unprecedented coercion of organizations and individuals to act contrary to their religious beliefs. The only viable alternative for these employers is to penalize their employees by ceasing the provision of health insurance altogether. The choice for such organizations essentially becomes: provide and subsidize activity in contravention with core religious beliefs, eliminate employer-provided health coverage, or withdraw from public ministry.

The proposed mandate provides an insufficiently narrow exemption which would fail to include religious affiliated organizations who do not “primarily employ persons who share their religious tenets” and do not have “the inculcation of religious values” as their primary operational purpose. Such an exemption ignores the fact that many such organizations only exist and provide public ministry pursuant to a duty and sense of purpose derived from their religious beliefs. To obtain the exemption, a religious organization would have to subject itself to the equivalent of a government “religious audit” to determine whether the organization’s activities are sufficiently religious to be excluded from the regulation’s requirements. Even then, a great number of entities previously exempt from government regulations that run contrary to their religious beliefs would fail to qualify.

Not only is the proposed contraceptive coverage mandate for religious employers bad policy, it is unconstitutional. It conflicts with the most basic elements of the freedoms of religion, speech, and association, as provided under the First Amendment. It would compel religious organizations to act, subsidize products, and affirmatively promote a message in contravention with their religious principles, with the sole alternative being to cease activities of incalculable value to their employees, constituents, and, indeed, society as a whole.

We strongly oppose the unconstitutional approach taken by the proposed contraceptive coverage mandate. We believe it represents an impermissible violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment virtually unparalleled in American history.

Accordingly, we urge you in the strongest way possible to refrain from promulgating the proposed regulations.

Sincerely,

Jon Bruning
Attorney General of Nebraska

Greg Abbott
Attorney General of Texas

Alan Wilson
Attorney General of South Carolina

Luther Strange
Attorney General of Alabama

Pam Bondi
Attorney General of Florida

James Caldwell
Attorney General of Louisiana

William Schneider
Attorney General of Maine

Wayne Stenehjem
Atorney General of North Dakota

Mike DeWine
Attorney General of Ohio

Scott Pruitt
Attorney General of Oklahoma

Marty J. Jackley
Attorney General of South Dakota

John W. Suthers
Attorney General of Colorado