Religious Groups Seek Protection from Obamacare Under the First Amendment

By: Marianela Toledo FloridaWatchdog.org | Posted: November 7, 2013 3:55 AM
Obamacare and Religion

Credit: American Life League

For some religious groups, Obamacare is all about the First Amendment.

Defending their freedom of religion has unified Catholics, Baptists and Christian Scientists, among others, with one goal -- opting out of some provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Miami's Cary Vaujin says she doesn’t have any use for conventional medicine or insurance plans.

Prayer has been her doctor since she joined the Church of Christ, Scientist in 1998 in her native Cuba. Since then, she hasn’t set foot in a hospital and doesn’t plan to start now.

“I came to this country because I didn’t like that they (the Cuban government) imposed arbitrary things on me,” said Vaujin, a student of Christian Science. “But this situation reminds me of that. Why should I have to pay a fine for not having done anything wrong?”

Vaujin came to the United States in 2002, she said, seeking to escape the dictatorship and oppression of her homeland.

But with the new health-care law, anyone not signed up by March 31 will be subject to a fine, about $95 a year. Penalties vary if children are involved.

“Christian Science forbids you to go to a doctor, but gives you the tools to heal through prayer, said Vaujin. “That’s what I’ve done since I became a Christian Scientist. Why should I be fined for it?”

Some groups, such as the Amish, some Mennonite sects and Native Americans were lucky to be on the government’s website list of exempted groups. But many others were not.

When Vaujin has a health problem that doesn’t respond to her own prayers, she calls a prayer practitioner, a person specializing in helping others overcome health problems through prayer.

But for practical reasons, the national health-care plan doesn’t cover prayer practitioners or Christian Science nurses. Even if their services were included in the plan, regulating such practices would prove difficult and the church itself would likely protest any degree of government interference.

“We plan to continue pursuing this in 2015, and are also investigating high-deductible options that could be paired with Health Savings Accounts and would cover Christian Science care and treatment. We will continue to provide updates as we know more information,” reads the Christian Science website.

Christian Scientists aren’t alone in the fight. In September the Catholic Archdiocese in Washington, D.C., filed a lawsuit against the government asking for protection under the First Amendment. The announcement came weeks after officials at Health and Human Services ruled Catholic institutions will have to pay for insurance coverage for abortions, sterilization and birth control, things that go against the principles of Catholic faith.

In a letter dated Sept. 26, church leaders put their dissatisfaction in writing and sent a letter to Congress with the intent of “Preserving religious freedom and the right of conscience for all who take part in our health care system.” In particular, the letter questioned the government’s classification and coverage of “preventative services” such as birth control, the “morning-after” pill and sterilization.

More than six dozen lawsuits have been filed against the national health-care plan by hundreds of for-profit and nonprofit religious organizations asserting Americans’ right to religious freedom.

A similar lawsuit was filed Oct. 11 by the Southern Baptist Convention, a group that provides insurance to employees of religious faiths, claiming the contraception coverage requirement violates the organization’s beliefs.

Looking to move mountains

Friday, a U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit overturned the requirement for contraception coverage for private companies. In the ruling, Judge Janice Rogers Brown wrote, “They can either abide by the sacred tenets of their faith and pay a penalty of over $14 million and cripple the companies they have spent a lifetime building, or they become complicit in a grave moral wrong.”

The lawsuit was filed by Ohio business owners who, for religious reasons, oppose the requirement to provide their employees health insurance that covers birth control.

Contact Marianela Toledo en Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org twitter @mtoledoreporter

Tags: News, Politics

Comments (5)

Paula Smith
4:54PM NOV 26TH 2013
Marianela Toledo states, "Some groups, such as the Amish, some Mennonite sects and Native Americans were lucky to be on the government’s website list of exempted groups."

No, these groups were not "lucky." Their religions forbid them to purchase insurance. Christian Scientists, by contrast, are not forbidden to purchase insurance. (see christianscience.com/member-resources/for-churches/committee-on-publication/us-federal-office/health-care-reform/insurance ) In fact, the CS church has been lobbying for the ACA to require insurers to pay for its prayer treatments.

Ms. Toledo seems passionate, but not well-informed about this topic.
Hayden Buuckley
3:37PM NOV 7TH 2013
thank you for writing this im going to write a speech on obama care for an 8th grade project im (home schooled)
David Dunn
1:40PM NOV 7TH 2013
Objecting to ACA’s provisions because it allegedly offends one's religious beliefs is a bogus argument. Neither is it a Hobson's choice as the DC Court of Appeals bogusly ruled.

In the faith-healing scenario the assumption is that faith will heal. But when it doesn't, and the practitioner has to go to a doctor, then that cost falls on me. Health insurance is to pay for expenses incurred due to falling victim to life forms that attack the human body.

Objecting to paying for preventive care medicines whether one uses it or not because it offends one's religious beliefs is hypocritical. Those who object to abortions because their belief system calls it killing haven’t challenged the use of their tax dollars in military actions that result in collateral damage.

Neither have they challenged the requirement that they pay into Social Security for their employees who might use that money to buy preventative medicines, which allegedly offends the plaintiff's beliefs.

They might as well sue the government asking for a check-off box that they can mark to indicate what programs they don't want their tax dollars being used for.

The ACA doesn’t violate First Amendment religious freedom rights. Corporate owners don’t have the right to impose their First Amendment rights on employees.

Let faith healers pay for the sickness and diseases that fall upon those whom they prayed for. Let anti-abortionists pay for the cost of raising a child through adulthood.
Bruce Smith
1:36PM NOV 7TH 2013
I would like to correct a statement in this article. Christian Scientists are NOT forbidden from seeking medical treatment, or any other form of aid they opt to chose.
The rights of the individual are left unrestricted within the "rules" of The Church of Christ, Scientist. It's members may pursue any course of aid they feel will benefit them.
Ideally, prayer is the choice for those who study & practice tge Science of Christ, discovered by Mary Baker Eddy in the mid 19th century. It is efficacious, safe, & Christian.
8:32AM NOV 7TH 2013
I think we should do away with the personal mandate. But if we do, then we should allow hospitals or doctors to require payment up front before any care is given. After all, if they shouldn't be forced to chip in to our health care system and buy health insurance for themselves or their family, the rest of us shouldn't be forced to chip in to pay when they use it and can't pay for it.

As for the Catholic Church, if they don't want to abide by the rules every other business has to abide by, then they shouldn't be in business. Besides, it's discrimination and anti freedom of religion to tell an employee what is morally right or wrong for them.

Leave a Comment on This Story

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.