By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Congresswoman Martha Roby (R) from Montgomery released a statement about her questioning of President Barack H. Obama’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on the subject of protecting religious liberty.
Rep. Roby asked Sec. Sebelius how the administration’s mandate that employers provide all manner of birth control methods would impact Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), a Catholic television and radio network in Alabama. Rep Roby asked Secretary Sebelius why EWTN (a religious employer) was not exempt from HHS’s mandate in the first place.
Secretary Sebelius blamed the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) for recommending contraception and abortifacients among their recommended services essential to women. The IOM’s report to HHS contains no mention of the impact of the mandate on religious liberties or constitutionality rights.
Rep. Roby’s asked Sec. Sebelius why HHS did not exempt religious organizations like EWTN at the beginning of the process.
Sec. Sebelius said that several states already have a contraceptive mandate and provided an exemption for a narrow group of religious employers. The Obama religious exemption is narrower than any of the states.
The Obama administration is claiming that it has acquired vast new powers from the Patient Protection and Affordability Act (commonly called Obamacare). Using new powers to set minimum coverage in what sort of health insurance plans individuals and employers may purchase the administration has ordered that every health care plan sold in the country include extensive contraception coverage. Sec. Sebelius’s HHS has defined that as free contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilizations and has strictly limited the religious exemption to just houses of worship. Church owned or affiliated hospitals, book stores, radio stations, TV networks, schools, etc. have no religious liberty according to the Obama administration, which prefers to use the term ‘freedom of worship’ rather than the broader term, ‘freedom of religion.’
U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R) from South Carolina asked Sec. Sebelius if she had obtained a legal opinion on the constitutionality of the contraception mandate and respecting religious freedom. The Secretary admitted that no such opinion was ever prepared and that instead she relied on discussions with the HHS general counsel for all of her legal advice.
EWTN has sued the Obama administration on the grounds that the narrow religious exemption is a violation of their constitutional rights. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has concurred with the religious broadcaster’s legal opinion and has joined in that lawsuit. Alabama has already joined 25 other states in a separate lawsuit challenging Obamacare on the grounds that the individual mandate to purchase health insurance is an unconstitutional expansion of federal power. That case has already been heard by the United States Supreme Court and a ruling is expected next month. Conservative critics of the President’s massive Healthcare industry takeover hope that the Supreme Court will rule the entire package unconstitutional.
The likely bRepublican Presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, has promised to repeal Obamacare if he is elected President in the November 6th Presidential election.
Governor Robert Bentley has said that Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid would require the state of Alabama to pay Medicaid benefits for another 700,000 Alabama residents. Medicaid in its present form is costing the state $603 million a year.
Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District and is seeking her second term in the United States Congress.