WASHINGTON — A leaked document suggests the Trump administration is about to protect the rights of religious people who didn't want to be forced to provide coverage of abortion-causing contraceptives and devices.
Groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns, fought the federal government in court for years to escape the Obamacare mandates that would either force them to provide this coverage or face millions of dollars in punitive fines.
A draft copy of the new regulation supposedly coming soon from Health & Human Services would protect the religious liberty of such Americans. It would ensure they'd be free of punishment for following their beliefs.
Extent of Hostility Toward Religious Beliefs was Astounding
Reaction has been swift from religious rights and pro-life groups.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins stated, "While this apparent leaked document is a draft, it is a very positive sign to see the federal government work to cease its hostility toward Christians and those who object to the Obama-era health care mandates. This draft regulation shows that (HHS) Secretary Tom Price and President Trump intend to make good on their pledge to vigorously protect and promote American's First Freedom.
Perkins continued, "As many Americans of faith have experienced, the extent of the Obama administration's hostility toward their beliefs was astounding. From President Obama's dismissal of people of faith as Americans 'clinging' to their religion, to threatening millions in crushing fines against charities like the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Obama administration made clear they believed people of faith had no place in the public square and that religious beliefs or moral convictions were irrelevant to the health care they provide."
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), agrees and made a similar statement to the Baptist Press.
"The hostile attitude toward tens of millions of law-abiding Americans seen in previous years is tragic, as is the audacity of a state that believes it can annex the human conscience," he said.
Respect for Conscience Rights Finally in Sight
"In a free country such as ours, nuns should be able to serve the poor without oppressive government mandates forcing them to violate their faith," stated Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor with the Catholic Association.
"After six years of lawsuits provoked by unnecessary government coercion and threats of crippling fines, respect for the conscience rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious objectors is finally in sight," Ferguson added. "This leaked final rule would be the beginning of a common-sense solution, that balances government interests with respect for the rights of people of faith."
March for Life President Jeanne Mancini says the document is a source of hope for pro-life organizations who refuse to violate their conscience.
"Today's draft of the HHS Interim rule signals hope for the full reinstatement of our right to conscience protection. Having gone to court over this issue ourselves, the March for Life knows firsthand how oppressive the Obama-era mandate is, forcing groups like ours and religious orders like Little Sisters of the Poor to cover conscience-violating drugs. We thank both HHS Secretary Tom Price and President Donald Trump for continuing to prioritize the protection of conscience for every American, and look forward to this administration fulfilling one if its most central and integral promises," Mancini said.
"The Taking of Human Life is the Antithesis of Health Care"
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser has been a top advisor to the Trump campaign and Trump administration on pro-life issues.
Dannenfelser commented, "This interim rule, if issued as written, is an important step in acknowledging the importance of conscience rights for all Americans. The taking of human life is the antithesis of health care. No one, including religious orders like the Little Sisters of the Poor, or groups like Susan B. Anthony List should be forced to be complicit in the provision of abortion-inducing drugs and devices."
"Righting This Wrong"
Perkins added, "Respecting the freedom of Americans to follow their deeply held beliefs is a long-held American tradition and grounded firmly in the Constitution. The draft regulation would continue the process of righting this wrong and restoring Americans' full First Amendment rights. The freedom to live out faith in all areas of society without government punishment or intimidation is fundamental to making America great again."
Dannenfelser concluded, "The pending interim rule is a welcome sign that the Trump Administration is continuing their work to protect the conscience rights of all Americans. We thank President Trump for taking the necessary steps to follow through on one of his core promises to voters of faith and conscience."