“Obamacare” blamed for war on religion

The Colorado Statesman

Conservative activists were told on Oct. 4 that liberals have waged a war on religious freedom that has been promulgated by President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The message came during a session of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Colorado event held at the Crowne Plaza Denver International Airport earlier this month. Titled, “Keeping the Faith: The Left’s War on Religious Freedom,” local and national conservative stalwarts made the case for repealing so-called “Obamacare” in the name of religious freedom.

Speaking on the panel was Daniel Garza, executive director of the LIBRE Initiative, Bruce Hausknecht, a judicial analyst for CitizenLink, Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Mike Norton, a local attorney who represents the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Norton recently made headlines after a federal judge in August ruled in favor of one of his clients, Denver-based Hercules Industries, Inc., that the Catholic owners do not have to comply with a mandate in Obamacare that private employers provide employees with insurance coverage for birth control.

Attorneys for the Obama administration are appealing the case, and Norton expects it to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Former U.S. attorney Norton called Obama’s health care law the “greatest threat to religious freedom of our time,” citing a provision in the law that birth control be made available to women at no out-of-pocket cost. He said it is not a contraception mandate, but an “abortion pill” requirement.

“They must think we’re stupid,” said Norton, who is the husband of former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. “Who is paying for this coverage? It’s you and me. It doesn’t really matter whether the employer pays it or the insurance companies pay for it…”

“What right does the government have to run roughshod over the conscience and religious convictions of every American, including business owners?” he continued. “And what right does the government have to decide what is faith and who are the faithful?”

Hausknecht agreed with Norton’s premise, suggesting that the federal government is violating the U.S. Constitution in terms of freedom of religion. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Obamacare, but not on arguments based in religious liberty.

“In a world in which the government believes that the First Amendment, religious freedoms, don’t apply to religious organizations, non-profits and for-profit businesses, health care providers, and anyone outside the four walls of the church, we are all at risk,” said Hausknecht, whose organization advocates for family values rooted in religious beliefs.

Land also believes that the issue is a constitutional question. But through his work as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, he views the question through an evangelical lens.

“We are losing religious freedom in this country… [because of] the current administration’s attacks on religious freedom and family values,” said Land.

Garza equated the debate to the controversy surrounding Chick-fil-A, the national restaurant chain that found itself in hot water recently over its president’s opposition to gay marriage. The mayors of several cities, including Thomas Menino of Boston and Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, threatened to ban future Chick-fil-A restaurants from opening in their cities.

“There was government using the floor of economic coercion to, in a sense, stifle what is freedom of expression and freedom of religion,” said Garza, whose organization, the LIBRE Initiative, advocates for economic freedom and prosperity, with a focus on the Latino community.

“[Government] wants to get [business] to conform to what the government’s agenda is, not one that includes the pursuit of happiness,” he said.

Peter@coloradostatesman.com