Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

July 14, 2014

DAN COATS: Rights of conscience must be safeguarded

Religious freedom at core of government

The Supreme Court recently issued a ruling that marked an important development in the ongoing national debate on religious freedom.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled the contraception coverage mandate, imposed by the Obama administration under the Affordable Care Act, violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act for family-owned and other closely held companies like Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties.

These two companies are owned by individuals who have faith-based objections to paying for contraceptives that can terminate a pregnancy. For example, the owners of Hobby Lobby are not opposed to most forms of birth control but oppose the four that terminate a successful pregnancy.

The Supreme Court’s ruling means employers like Hobby Lobby and Grote Industries, a family-run auto lighting company in Madison, Indiana, will not be forced to take actions contrary to their moral and religious beliefs.

I applaud this ruling because freedom of religion is a core American principle guaranteed by the First Amendment. Through this decision, the court affirmed the Obama administration cannot pick and choose when to adhere to the law. But while this ruling is a welcome step, religious freedom remains under attack across our country.

Because the court’s ruling applies only to a narrow group — companies such as Hobby Lobby — most faith-based organizations, charities, hospitals and educational institutions are still required to facilitate insurance coverage that includes contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, despite their religious beliefs and moral objections.

Requiring these faith-based institutions and businesses to betray the fundamental tenets of their beliefs is, I believe, unconstitutional, and the administration’s so-called “accommodation” is far from adequate in advancing this fundamental breach of the First Amendment to our Constitution. Those impacted by this mandate are a large and diverse group that includes Indiana-based institutions like Grace College in Winona Lake and the University of Notre Dame in South Bend.

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