What now, for the fight for religious liberty, post-election? Let me share a few thoughts.
First, we now know that Obamacare is not going away. It’s been upheld by the Supreme Court, and by the voters at the ballot box. Without a majority in the Senate, with President Obama in the White House, there is no hope to overturn or eliminate Obamacare. Therefore, the HHS mandate will stay in effect. It is federal law with no likelihood to overturn.
Remember the so-called “accommodation” to the HHS mandate? This was a set of proposals by the administration last spring; HHS was supposed to set up rules so that insurance companies or third-party administrators did the actual payments for contraceptives, abortion inducing drugs, and sterilization. Seen any progress on that over the past months? I haven’t either. Do you think you’ll see any such thing proposed?
We will see more lawsuits as the year progresses. Many religious organizations have sued, but many, many more have not yet taken action. This is because they cannot yet show any harm done to them by the mandate, because they were given a one-year “safe harbor” exemption from the mandate. That safe harbor runs out in August of 2013. Expect more suits, more news, more protests, as the year progresses.
We have seen only a smattering of lawsuits brought by non-religious organizations–businesses of various sorts. Again, this is at least partly because those businesses have, as of yet, been unable to show harm. The HHS mandate doesn’t take effect until a business must renew it’s insurance policy. As that happens, expect more lawsuits.
August, 2013 will be the watershed. Churches, dioceses, charities, religious communities, hospitals, will all have to decide between some bad options. They can obey the HHS mandate, and violate their faith. They can disobey the HHS mandate, and face steep fines. They can terminate insurance benefits, facing other fines. Many employers are already transitioning to a mostly part-time workforce, to avoid the Obamacare general requirements that employers provide insurance for full-time employers. That’ll help the jobs problem in America!
We also need to remember that this administration has already launched the most serious attacks on religious freedom since the founding. One example is the HHS mandate. Another is the Hosana-Tabor case; the Obama EEOC in Michigan ordered a Lutheran church to rehire a fired minister. They were slapped down by the Supreme Court, 9-0. The Obama department of Justice argued, in HHS mandate cases, that Americans lose their religious freedom when they enter secular business. We will see more, and more severe, attacks over the next few years.
Buckle your seat belts.