Kentucky’s senior senator, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell stood up in the U.S. Senate yesterday, and gave a passionate speech in defense of the Blunt Amendment, which would have protected First Amendment religious freedom against the onslaught of the Obama administration’s decision to force a mandate on healthcare providers
The Senate, in a mostly partisan 51-48 vote later yesterday, narrowly defeated an amendment proposed by Missouri Republican Roy Blunt that would have exempted employers like Catholic hospitals, universities and charities from an Obama healthcare provision that requires most employers to offer free insurance coverage for women's contraceptives and “morning after” abortion pills.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in my Senate career defending the First Amendment,” said McConnell. “Most of that time, I’ve focused on the part that deals with free speech. But recent actions by the Obama Administration related to the President’s health care law have prompted many of us here, and many across the country, to stand up in defense of another freedom that’s covered in the First Amendment, and that’s religious freedom.”
McConnell went on to chide Senate Democrats for engaging in a “campaign of distraction,” as a way of obscuring the larger issue of defending the First Amendment. “The first amendment couldn’t be clearer on this point: the government can neither establish religion, nor can it prevent its free exercise. And if the free exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment means anything, it means that it is not within the power of the federal government to tell anybody what to believe, or to punish them for practicing those beliefs,” he continued.
“Some of the proponents of this mandate have also said they’re willing to offer a so-called compromise that would respect what they call the ‘core mission’ of religious institutions,” said McConnell. “But here’s the catch: they want to be the ones to tell these religious institutions what their core mission is. This isn’t a compromise, it’s another government takeover. Only this time it isn’t the banks or the car companies, it’s religion.”
Sen. McConnell read into to Senate record a letter he received from the Catholic Archbishop of Louisville, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz:
‘The federal government, which claims to be of, by, and for the people, has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people—the Catholic population—and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful. In so ruling, the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens.’
He also read a letter from the President of the University of the Cumberlands, Jim Taylor:
‘The intrusion of the administration into the right of the free exercise of religion is disappointing. The choice to interfere with religious hospitals, charities and schools with a mandate violating their religious views is disconcerting and will, in all probability, be totally counterproductive, further polarizing this nation.’
Calling upon his colleagues to support the Blunt Amendment, McConnell said, “If there’s one good thing about this debate, it’s that it has given all of us an opportunity to reaffirm what we believe as Americans. It gives us an opportunity to stand together and to say, this is what we’re all about. This is what makes America unique, and this is what makes it great.”
The Senator’s speech yesterday was a continuation of the tone he set back on February 8, when he remarked: “Make no mistake: the Obama Administration’s decision to force religious hospitals, charities, and schools to comply with a mandate that violates their religious views is abhorrent to the foundational principles of our nation. No one in the United States of America should ever be compelled by their government to choose between violating their religious beliefs or be penalized for refusing. Yet that’s precisely what this mandate would do.”
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