Democrats Protest Religious Freedom Hearing

Religious leaders told a House panel Thursday the Obama administration was violating basic rights to religious freedom with its policies for requiring that employees of religion-affiliated institutions have access to birth control coverage.

The unity of the religious leaders contrasted with the partisan divide among lawmakers on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, with Democrats saying they had been denied the ability to present witnesses who might support the government stance or speak for the rights of women to reproductive health coverage. They asked why not one of the 10 witnesses at the hearing was a woman.

The issue has sparked a political firestorm for the administration, with Catholics and other religious groups strongly protesting an original Health and Human Services ruling that religion-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities must include free birth control coverage in their employee health plans. The churches themselves were exempted from the requirement.

Obama last Friday modified that policy so that insurance companies, and not the organization affiliated with a church, pay for birth control costs, but that didn't satisfy those testifying at the hearing.

Bishop William E. Lori, representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, compared the ruling to a law that would force all food providers, including kosher delicatessens, to serve pork.

"Does the fact that large majorities in society, even large majorities within the protesting religious community, reject a particular religious belief make it permissible for the government to weigh in on one side of that dispute?" he asked.

Churches played a role in the development of health care and "it is ironic that the religious organizations should have their rights crushed in the name of health care," said Dr. Craig Mitchell, a Baptist minister and head of the ethics department at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The policy has split Catholics, a key constituency for Obama to win a second term in office,

The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, told The Associated Press this week that his group would launch both legislative and court challenges to the health care mandate. Yet there are also some Catholic groups and individuals who have come out in support of the president's approach.

They were not there at Thursday's hearing.

"The chairman is promoting a conspiracy theory that the federal government is conducting a `war' against religion," the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, said of committee chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. "He has also refused to allow a minority witness to testify about the interests of women who want safe and affordable coverage for basic preventive health care, including contraception," Cummings said of Issa.

Cummings added that a number of Catholic groups that have welcomed the administration's efforts to find a compromise, including the Catholic Health Association, and Catholics United, were not present at the hearing.

Issa responded that the committee did accept one Democratic witness, the Rev. Barry Lynn, head of Americans United For Separation of Church and State, but rejected a second person, a third-year student at Georgetown Law School named Sandra Fluke.

Issa said the student did not have the appropriate credentials to testify at a hearing focused on threats to religious freedom and not on a single aspect of the health care law.

Committee Democrats said they were told they could have only one witness, and they chose Fluke, who was prepared to speak of the consequences women face when they are denied contraceptive coverage.

"Where are the women?" House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi asked when the hearing was brought up at a news conference. "The Republican leadership of this Congress thinks it's appropriate to have a hearing on women's health and purposely exclude women from the panel, she said. "I may at some point be moved to explain biology to my colleagues."

On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., was pushing an amendment to a highway spending bill that would allow insurance plans to opt out of the mandate on contraception coverage if they have moral objections. The White House opposes the measure.

Religious leaders are telling a house panel that the Barack Obama administration disregarded basic rights to religious freedom in setting policies for access to birth control insurance for employees of religious institutions.

Democrats on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee protested the hearing, saying they were not allowed to introduce witnesses who might support the administration stance or speak up for the rights of women to reproductive health coverage.

The hearing comes a week after Obama announced a change in a politically charged ruling that health insurance plans offered by religion-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities must include free birth control coverage.

Obama shifted the burden of paying for such coverage to insurance companies.

The religious leaders testifying said the compromise still violated religious freedom.

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  • by Anonymous on Feb 22, 2012 at 01:23 PM
    Why is it that Republican Christians shouldn't have to pay for birth control and abortions, but I, also a Christian should have to pay for wars and the death penalty? That's extremely hypocritical and it's a massive double standard. Why are Republicans not fighting for my religious freedom to be upheld?
  • by Eyes Wide Open on Feb 17, 2012 at 10:54 AM
    Obama has demanded that insurance companies give away birth control at no cost. In a free world capitalist society, such as America, when a company has a product that is highly popular they are allowed to make a profit from their product. If no one wanted it, the company would not produce the product. But now, because Obama has demanded that birth control be given away at no cost, who is going to pay the pharmaceutical companies who make the drug? Who is going to pay the employees at these companies? Who is going to pay the truck drivers who deliver the drug? If the pharmaceutical companies are not compensated for their work they will stop making the drug! Does anyone wonder WHY the first thing the liberals have demanded be given away at no cost is birth control?? Why not demand that water is given away at no cost, isn't water more important to life than any drug?? What happens when Obama demands resturants give away food at no cost? Will the quality of food be decreased? The answer is YES!!! This is just the beginning of his socialist policies!! You liberal followers of Obama should be very cautious of the power he is TAKING as President because there will be a Republican in the White House sooner or later, and they will be able to assume the same power!
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Feb 17, 2012 at 05:22 AM
    So that are still spinning this story out there that its just contraceptives. Well, its forced healthcare, forced abortive drugs and slaps the catholic and christian churches in the face. You are already supporting abortion...yeah, Planned Parenthood, but the government denies it even if they got caught. Just like the denied ACORN was wrong doing, on video, with transcripts, in multiple supporters of this, you are being played like suckers.
    • reply
      by lefty liberal on Feb 17, 2012 at 05:57 AM in reply to Obama Snake Oil Co
      Republicans, get your big government out of my bedroom now.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Feb 17, 2012 at 07:44 AM in reply to lefty liberal
        Then quit asking us to pay for your party's mistakes. Oops, my bad, you guys aren't asking, you just take and tell us where it went later (if you feel like it).
      • reply
        by Eyes Wide Open on Feb 17, 2012 at 10:35 AM in reply to lefty liberal
        You mean liberal Democrats, get your big government out of my bedroom!
  • by Backwoods Yahoos on Feb 17, 2012 at 02:54 AM
    Talk about Bait and Switch...the REpublicans are losing the election this year based on the economy, now they are distracting everyone with Religious Freedom. Why are people soooo gullible?
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 17, 2012 at 03:04 AM in reply to Backwoods Yahoos
      You have a point, chronic high gasoline prices, unemployment over 8% for three years in a row, high foreclosures, high grocery problems, open homosexuality in the military, these are some issues we should be focusing on.
  • by Big Brother Location: Alamance on Feb 17, 2012 at 01:58 AM
    The only true religion is The State. The State is everything. All subjects are to worship The State. Without The State there is nothing, only chaos. The State provides all your needs, even in death. The State knows what's best for its subjects. That's all for now. I'll re-read Marx and Orwell and come up with some more later. But in the meantime, keep voting the way you have to ensure continued life for The State.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 16, 2012 at 07:51 PM
    • reply
      by Eyes Wide Open on Feb 17, 2012 at 03:11 PM in reply to
      The Republicans are MORE THAN HAPPY to talk about the economy, all day everyday. The only children who refuse to talk about the problems they have created are the Democrats! How many times has Obama called himself "unpatriotic" for running up the national debt???
  • by Good old Days Location: enc on Feb 16, 2012 at 06:29 PM
    Remember the "good old days" when the pill was seen as an advancement in women's health and Bob Dole did commercials for Viagra?
  • by More hypocracy Location: enc on Feb 16, 2012 at 06:20 PM
    In April of 2005, Huckabee signed into law-passed by the Republicans in his state-a requirement that employers provide contraceptives in their insurance policies. They exempted churches, but not other church organizations-the EXACT, SAME position that Obama is now being criticized for by the GOP! These laws exist in 26 states-some of which do not even allow exemptions at all! This did not become an issue until 1. Romney was leading and the TP wants Santorum and 2. The economy reports were favorable. In fact, this "hit the fan" the same week that the unemployment figures were released. This is so obvious and so shabby that it just further makes the GOP look like uneducated and uninformed crazies. Anti-contraception? How are the evengelicals who have preached against the Catholic church going to explain this to their congregations? If you think it won't matter-wrong! Ministers who have back Santorum are already getting back-lash from their members who do not support Catholicism. War on religion? The only war will be the one the Republicans start between different denominations.
    • reply
      by Eyes Wide Open on Feb 17, 2012 at 03:26 PM in reply to More hypocracy
      Just keep telling lies!!! What the liberal media is intentionally leaving out is the fact that these previous laws ONLY required employers to include birth control IF...IF...IF...IF...IF they chose, ON THIER OWN, to offer preventative care!! " The original Obama regulation, released in January, went further than any state by requiring that women receive contraceptive benefits without co-pays or deductibles, as required for all preventive care under the healthcare law." from: That's right, the Obama law WENT FURTHER THAN ANY STATE!!!!! So it would appear that you are not talking about the same thing, you just keep repeating liberal lies!!!! If you took anytime at all to research what the liberal media tells you, then you would find, own your own, that they LIE!!!!
  • by NOW Location: ENC on Feb 16, 2012 at 05:13 PM
    Not one woman! The committee looks like the jury during the Salem witch trials! One Republican said to give women and aspirin and tell them to hold it between their knees. How much more degrading to women do the Republicans intend to be? Women are a majority or voters in this country-and we vote! Remember this in November!
    • reply
      by Later. on Feb 16, 2012 at 06:03 PM in reply to NOW
      I would think more men would want rubbers or more birth control than the majority of women.,Would'nt you?
    • reply
      by Eyes Wide Open on Feb 17, 2012 at 11:08 AM in reply to NOW
      If you had a brain you would not be offended by a comment claiming women should keep their legs closed as a form of birth control. Is your arguement that you should be allowed to sleep with whoever, whenever and not have to pay for your own birth control? If so, go to your local health department because they give away condoms at no cost to you! Here is something for you to remember in November, over $5 Trillion increase in the national debt!!!!
  • by Where are the women??? on Feb 16, 2012 at 04:18 PM
    Where are the women? When asked to have women witness and testify...the GOP brought out Aunt Bea from Mayberry, and Granny from The Beverly Hillbillies.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 16, 2012 at 05:59 PM in reply to Where are the women???
      OH horse puckey!
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