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Executive Overreach: HHS Mandate versus Religious Freedom

Trey Gowdy Transcript: Supreme Court Finds Obama’s Religious Tactics Unconstitutional

Sarah Watching Religious Freedom Constitution

Below is the transcript of a YouTube video most popularly titled “Supreme Court Finds Obama’s Religious Tactics Unconstitutional,” though it can be found under other titles.

Judiciary Committee Hearing

The video is from the February 28, 2012 Judiciary Committee hearing “Executive Overreach: HHS Mandate versus Religious Liberty. “

In addition to the transcript of Trey Gowdy’s scathing remarks of the Obama administration’s pitifully weak case, is a portion of the opening statement from Chairman Lamar Smith.

If you’ve ever watched Trey Gowdy you know he’s a spitfire. His success stems from his superior intellect, reasoning skills, brutal honesty, and desire to uphold the law. And his ability to ask someone a simple question and have them unknowingly betray their own fallacy is quite remarkable.

Obama Infringement On Religious Liberty

This Judiciary Committee hearing was one of several to oppose Obama Administration Overreach and its infringement on religious liberty. In particular, the HHS mandate that required religious organizations’ health insurance contracts to pay for abortion inducing drugs. Obama and his legions attempted to put this in the fine print, but don’t be fooled, they knew exactly what they were doing.

For those of us who care that religious freedom be upheld in the U.S., it is most instructive to read Supreme Court rulings, legal cases, and hearings such as this one.

For those of us who aren’t lawyers, we must educate ourselves on the nuances of Constitutional Law as it pertains to religious freedom (and other liberties) so that we recognize when Democrats are overstepping their bounds—whether in Washington D.C. or our own day-to-day context.

It is extremely instructive to read some of the hearing if not the entire thing—even the Democrat portions. The way the Dems argue the first amendment is totally ridiculous. And the way they defend every corrupt thing that Obama did is appalling.

Nonetheless, in order to fight Satan, we must be able to recognize him. Especially when his schemes include an infringement on religious liberty under the guise of “preventative health service for women.” (give me a break!)

Remember What Jesus Said

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.  19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Matthew 7:15-20

Transcript From Government Publishing Office (GPO)



From Chairman Smith’s Opening Statement (pp. 1-2):

This is a hearing on Executive Overreach: The HHS Mandate Versus Religious Liberty. Religious liberty and freedom of conscience occupy an essential place among our unalienable rights. As James Madison observed, “The religion of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right.”

However, recent Obama administration policy decisions have shown a pattern of open hostility to religious organizations and religious liberty. The Administration has denied Federal grants to religious groups engaged in serving the poor and vulnerable. It has deleted religious organizations from the list of nonprofit employers that qualify for Federal student loan forgiveness programs. And the Administration even argued before the Supreme Court that the Federal Government should determine when a church can fire one of its religious ministers. All nine justices rejected their argument.

The Administration is treating the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion as nothing more than a privilege arbitrarily granted by the government. Nowhere has this been more true than with the Administration’s decision to mandate that religious organizations pay for abortion inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraception that they find morally objectionable. Such a mandate cannot exist within a free society.

The Administration and its supporters have tried to cast this as a women’s health issue to deflect attention away from the mandate’s effect on religious freedom. They assert that religious groups are attempting to deny access to drugs and services to which most people have no objection This assertion is false. Religious institutions do not seek to dictate what their employees can purchase or use. They seek to avoid a mandate that would force them to violate their religious convictions.

Others have pointed to the Administration’s so-called accommodation to argue that the mandate no longer infringes on religion. The accommodation is nothing more than an accounting gimmick. Insurance companies aren’t going to give the mandated drugs and services away for free. Religious employers will still end up paying for them through higher premiums. Moreover, religious employers continue to be obligated to provide their employees with insurance plans that facilitate actions that violate their tenets, and religious organizations that self-insure, such as the Archdiocese of Washington, are required to pay for the mandated drugs and services directly.

The objection to the mandate is not about political party ideology or eliminating women’s access to abortion or contraception. It is about the respect for the religious liberty guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution.

Thomas Jefferson’s bill for establishing religious freedom proclaimed, ‘‘that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.’’ This is exactly what the HHS mandate has done. Religious employers who object to the mandate are compelled to either violate their sincerely held beliefs or be penalized.

The Federal Government does not have the power to dictate what health services religious groups must provide. The HHS mandate is a clear violation of religious freedom and a direct attack on the personally held views of many Americans. It is an erosion of religious freedoms. If allowed to stand, the HHS mandate will set a dangerous precedent for future Administrations that seek to impose their political views on churches and religious institutions.

Trey Gowdy (pp. 77-78)

Mr. GOWDY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

It strikes me that there are three overarching questions: Number one, can government force citizens to accept certain religious beliefs; number two, can government prevent citizens from holding certain religious beliefs; and thirdly, Mr. Chairman, can government decide which religious beliefs are acceptable and which are not? And I find it instructive that in what is supposed to be a legal hearing on the free exercise of religion, the Democrats offer a healthcare professional as their witness.

And then I thought some more about it, and I thought, Mr. Chairman, well, of course they did because Supreme Court law is not on their side. When a State decided to tell a church you have to pledge allegiance to the flag, the church objected, and the Supreme Court said, you are right, you don’t have to. And when a State decided to tell a religious organization, you must display a license tag that has a certain phrase on it, the church objected, and the Supreme Court said, you are right, you don’t have to. And when the State exercised what is a pretty compelling interest in having an educated citizenry and said, you must send your students to school to a certain age, a religious organization objected, and the Supreme Court said, you are right, you don’t have to. And whether it is animal sacrifice, or whether it is working on Saturdays, or whether, Heaven forbid, it is deciding who your ministers are, and the Supreme Court ruled 9 to 0.

Mr. Chairman, can you find me another case in this fragmented state of jurisprudence that we are in, a 9-to-nothing case, that this Administration overstepped its bounds because it tried to tell a church who it can hire, fire, and retain as a minister?

This is a legal issue, and the Administration will prevail if it can prove two things: number one, that there is a compelling State interest in providing free contraceptive care to the contrary of people’s religious beliefs. And you sit there and think, well, it is important, just like fighting obesity and stopping smoking and all the other things that I couldn’t get Dr. Rosenstock to answer for me. It is important. Is it compelling? Well, how can it be compelling when you grandfather out so many entities and when you have so many exceptions?

But just give them that, Mr. Chairman. Give them the compelling interest part for sake of argument. Is it the least restrictive means?

Mr. Chairman, if our colleagues on the other side of the aisle want to create within the penumbra of the Fourth Amendment a constitutional right to free contraception, let them pass a bill, but do not make that man do it when it violates his religious beliefs.

So I would ask this to the two legal experts, because I am not. But you don’t have to be one to look at Supreme Court law and see if you can protect a group’s right to practice animal sacrifice in Florida, but you can’t stand up for the Catholic Church’s beliefs on when life begins.

So I would ask my two legal experts this: Does it meet the compelling interest test, and is there a least restrictive means of accomplishing this goal even assuming arguendo that it does? Ms. Monahan?

Ms. MONAHAN. Just to clarify, I am not a legal expert, so I defer to our legal expert over here

Mr. GOWDY. All right, Ms. Uddin.

Mrs. UDDIN. To answer your question in a nutshell, I mean, it is completely unconstitutional, and it does not satisfy the compelling government interests or the least intrusive means test.

Mr. GOWDY. And tell us in the 45 seconds I have remaining why it doesn’t meet the compelling interest test.

Mrs. UDDIN. Well, I mean, you have to understand what has constituted compelling government interest in the past. It is something like national security or preventing crimes, and if you really think about the standard, it is something that is used in the context of the equal protection clause when we determine when racial discrimination is allowed and when it is not. And when that standard is met, racial discrimination is, in fact, allowed.

So if you think about it that way, you understand just how extreme or how strict the standard is. And absolutely you can say that here in this situation, the stated government interest is an increase in the access to contraception, and when applied to religious organizations, that is only a marginal increase in access to contraception, which absolutely we can all agree does not rise to the level of a compelling government interest.

Mr. GOWDY. Well, I am out of time, so I won’t have a chance to ask you if the President can make people stop smoking because that is in the overall health benefit of all of us, or whether they can make diabetics diet so all of our costs go down. I will have to save that for another hearing, and hopefully the Democrats will invite a legal expert instead of a healthcare professional, Mr. Chairman, if we have another hearing.

Mr. FRANKS. Well, Mr. Gowdy can be the Chairman’s lawyer anytime.

(Mr. Franks is Trent Franks (R-AZ), Chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee, who was at this point chairing the hearing.)

Read all of the hearing here. (and have air sickness bags ready for the Democrat portions).

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