contraception, HHS Mandate

On the Wrong Side of Civil Liberties

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There appears to be a growing amount of support for the Government in the legal battles that employers across the nation are bringing up concerning the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that as part of the Affordable Care Act those employers provide ready and free access to contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has come out in support of the Government against Catholic groups in Wyoming seeking exemption from the mandate. The ACLU argues that the Government is making it possible for these groups to easily file for exemption with a two-page form. But the issue is not the simplicity of filing for an exemption, it is the requirement that these groups, with their Catholic roots and views against contraceptives and abortions, must file for the exemption. These groups, as any religious entity in the nation protected by the First Amendment, should be free to choose whether they are exempt from the law without filing the necessary paperwork. The groups in Wyoming have already been recognized as Catholic-based, and are clearly religious organizations. The HHS mandate does provide exemption for certain religious groups, namely established churches or places of worship. However, the requirements for claiming an exemption based on religious beliefs is not well established, and some employers which are clearly rooted in a set of deeply held religious beliefs are finding it difficult to claim the exemption. This support for the government by the ACLU will only make it more difficult for employers who wish to claim exemption based on the religious ideals by which the business is run to exercise their First Amendment right to freedom of religion and opt-out of the mandate which would otherwise require them to violate those religious ideals. It may be possible for an employer or religious group to claim an exemption by filing paperwork, but by requiring paperwork to be filed, the Government is only making it more difficult to obtain the exemption. If the Government was serious about protecting the Constitutional rights of all citizens of the United States, the exemptions to the HHS mandate would be nothing more than opting-out of it on the basis of religious belief. The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to freely practice religion in the United States, but when that freedom is hampered by unnecessary paperwork, the rights of those employers are violated, and it is in those situations that the ACLU should be siding with the employers whose civil liberties are violated, not the Government who is doing the violating.

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