The Obama administration is attempting to divide the faith community by issuing a minor amendment to Obamacare's abortion pill mandate. The mandate itself forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception under threat of heavy penalties.
The proposed rule change, announced Friday, violates religious freedom in multiple ways and cannot be accepted by people of faith. Centrally, the rule leaves in place a very tiny exemption that offers full religious freedom only to churches. Everyone else, not only religious nonprofits but religious families in their daily lives and business, are subject to the abortion pill mandate.
Our nation must decide whether to sacrifice religious freedom to the aggressively pro-abortion and anti-pregnancy ideology this mandate advances.
Even the "accommodation" offered to religious nonprofit groups is false. The groups must still pay an insurer or administrator who will provide coverage of abortion pills and other items for their employees. The difference is that now they will do so using an accounting gimmick that pretends abortion pills and other items have no cost. Cost or no cost, this utterly fails to protect the religious freedom of many Americans who want no part in providing such coverage.
All Americans, not just those that the administration chooses, are guaranteed freedom of conscience in their daily lives and work. The administration's accounting gimmick does nothing to protect many faith-based employers or religious families from this unconstitutional mandate.
The government has no business putting religious freedom on the negotiating table or picking and choosing who is allowed to exercise faith. Our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms cannot be trumped by the administration's political agenda.
The administration's mandate is losing in court. On the same day the administration announced its proposed rule change, yet another federal appeals court issued an injunction against the mandate. Eleven out of 14 religious plaintiff groups have secured court orders to block this mandate's attacks on religious freedom.
Alliance Defending Freedom and our associated attorneys represent religious colleges, family business leaders and faith-based companies. Overall, there are more than 110 plaintiffs against this mandate around the country. The only solution is for the administration to obey the Constitution and its legal duty to protect religious freedom for everyone, not just for those it chooses.
It would be foolish for faith leaders to accept the administration's alleged compromise. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. explained, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. America's tradition of religious liberty has always included every American's free exercise of beliefs. It cannot coexist with the suppression of anyone's religious liberty.
Even the rule's freedom for churches is illusory. Churches can respect life and health for themselves, but the mandate makes it illegal for the people in their pews to hear and embrace the church's message and then live it out in their own families, businesses and religious efforts.
Any proposal by the administration that offers immunity to a narrowly defined category instead of all religious believers -- a "divide and conquer" strategy -- must be met with forceful and united opposition. As Benjamin Franklin stated at the signing of our Declaration of Independence, "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
Together, we can preserve our nation's heritage of religious freedom if we stand firm.
Alan Sears is president, CEO, and general counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom, which has filed numerous federal lawsuits against the Obama administration's abortion pill mandate.