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GOP Candidates Oppose HHS Mandate

Presidential candidates weigh in on religious freedom.


| Posted 2/7/12 at 1:55 PM

Shutterstock/Illustration by Melissa Hartog

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum encouraged Catholic groups across the U.S. to disobey a federal mandate requiring them to buy health-insurance plans that violate Church teaching.

Santorum was asked on a Feb. 1 talk show what advice he would give to Catholic hospitals, schools, adoption agencies and other charities struggling with the mandate.

“Civil disobedience,” he responded. “This will not stand.”

The GOP contender spoke as a guest on political commentator Hugh Hewitt’s radio show and said that his strong concern about “the government taking over health care” is a primary reason he decided to run for president.

Santorum said that the mandate, which was issued under the authority of the 2010 health-care overhaul, should come as no surprise.

“If you’re going to give people secular power, then they’re going to use it in a secular fashion,” he said, adding that those who had embraced the health-care legislation had permitted the problem to develop.

Turning to the government to provide “a right to health care” gives the government power to “tell you how to exercise that right,” he explained.

He reiterated that “government isn’t the answer to the social ills,” but that families, communities, charities and individuals of faith should instead fill this role.

Santorum said he believes the mandate will eventually come before the Supreme Court, where he does not think the administration’s argument will prevail.

He pointed to the Jan. 11 Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC ruling, in which the Supreme Court justices unanimously upheld the “ministerial exception” that allows religious organizations to make employment decisions without interference from the government.

Legal experts have said that the decision may have far-reaching consequences because it rejects the narrow definition of religion that has been utilized by the current administration.

Santorum described the ruling as “a 9-0 decision that said the Obama administration can’t roll over people of faith when it comes to hiring.”

He added that despite that ruling the “radical, secular government” continues to downplay the importance of the First Amendment.

In continuing the battle for religious freedom, Santorum urged Catholic organizations to “fight” the mandate through both court cases and civil disobedience, adding that they should “go to war with the federal government over this one.”

Previous Feb. 3 story below.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has pledged to overturn the HHS contraception mandate that he says takes “particular aim” at Catholics.

“I stand with the Catholic bishops and all religious organizations in their strenuous objection to this liberty- and conscience-stifling regulation,” Romney wrote in a Feb. 3 Washington Examiner column titled “President Obama vs. Religious Liberty.”

If elected president, the former Massachusetts governor said, he would eliminate the mandate “on day one.”

“Such rules don’t belong in the America that I believe in.”

The mandate, announced on Jan. 20, requires employers to provide insurance coverage for FDA-approved sterilization procedures and contraceptive drugs, including some abortifacient drugs. The Department of Health and Human Services classified the procedures and drugs as “preventive care.”

The religious exemption for the mandate would not cover most Catholic hospitals, universities and charitable organizations, despite Catholic teaching that the use of these procedures and drugs is sinful and objectively immoral.

Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said that religious liberty is “facing the most serious assault in generations” from “liberalism itself.”

He charged that the rule is “taking particular aim at Roman Catholics.”

“The Obama administration is forcing religious institutions to choose between violating their conscience or dropping health-care coverage for their employees, effectively destroying their ability to carry on their work.”

Romney incorporated his pledge against the mandate into his general position against the 2010 health-care legislation, which opponents call “Obamacare.” He said he is committed to overturning it “root and branch” and will issue an executive order telling his secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a waiver from its requirements to all U.S. states.

However, his column’s dominant focus remained religious liberty.

Romney charged that devotion to religious freedom “goes out the window” for “the agenda of the left wing of the Democratic Party.” He linked the mandate to abortion on demand and opposition to abstinence education.

“They would force Catholics and others who have beliefs rooted in their faith to sacrifice the teachings of their faith to the mandate of federal bureaucrats,” Romney said.

He also criticized the Obama administration’s 12-month extension for religious groups to comply with the mandate, calling it “a clumsy attempt to push this matter past this year’s presidential election.”

“The America I believe in is governed by the U.S. Constitution, and I will not hesitate to use the powers of the presidency to protect religious liberty,” Romney stated.

All four leading Republican presidential candidates have opposed the mandate.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a convert to Catholicism, charged that the mandate is part of a “war against Christianity.” During his campaign in Florida, ahead of the state primary, he pledged to overturn all “anti-religious” federal policies on his first day in office.

At a Jan. 31 campaign stop in Colorado, Catholic and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said the mandate makes people act against their faith.

“Barack Obama and Kathleen Sebelius said, ‘Too bad. If it goes against what you believe, then you believe the wrong things,’” Santorum said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “This is just the tip of the iceberg of what we can expect.”

In an October statement on his website, Texas Congressman Ron Paul said the mandate “violates the conscience of millions of pro-life Americans.” He said he views the “regulatory overstep” as “payback to Planned Parenthood and big pharmaceutical companies for their support of Obamacare.”

Added Feb. 14:

Romney reaffirmed his commitment to faith, life and marriage and vowed to uphold American values at a conference in the nation’s capital.

“The presidency is more than a public office,” he said. “It is a sacred trust.”

Romney addressed a crowd gathered at Marriott Wardman Park on Feb. 10 for the Conservative Political Action Conference. He later beat out his GOP competitors to win the conference’s straw poll.

After losing three state races to Rick Santorum on Feb. 7, Romney has been recovering momentum with a recent victory in Maine.

During his remarks at the summit, the former governor of Massachusetts described how his grandfather came to America “for a chance at religious liberty and economic opportunity,” said that faith and family are the values that “have shaped my life.”

He said that his record during his years in office illustrate his continuing commitment to these values.

Romney explained that he vetoed a bill that would have allowed for “cloning and embryo farming,” as well as one that would have given young girls access to abortion-inducing drugs.

He also said that he worked to promote abstinence education in public schools and recalled how he fought to defend marriage when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex “marriage.”

“I pushed for a stay of the decision, fought for a marriage amendment to our constitution, and successfully prohibited out-of-state couples from coming to our state to get married and then go home,” he explained.

He added that he supported the Catholic Church’s conscience rights by defending Catholic adoption programs that placed children only in homes with both a mother and a father.

Romney said that these same values would shape his policy decisions as president of the United States.

He said that he would use the first day of his presidency to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits federal funding of international groups that promote or perform abortions.

He noted that he would also cut federal funding of Planned Parenthood, as well as the United Nations Population Fund, which supports China’s coercive one-child policy.

The GOP hopeful said that as president, he would work to preserve the Defense of Marriage Act and to promote a federal amendment defining marriage as being between one man and one woman.

He vowed to overturn the health-care overhaul promoted by the current administration and to “reverse every single Obama regulation that attacks our religious liberty and threatens innocent life.”

Romney emphasized the importance of the 2012 election, which he described as “a defining moment” and “a battle for the soul of America. I believe this is a moment that demands we return to our basic values and first principles.”