College of the Ozarks Standing Up For Religious Freedom
On September 17, 2012, the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, College of the Ozarks sought to enforce its Constitutional rights by suing those federal agencies (Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, Department of the Treasury) tasked with implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“ObamaCare”).
Here are the College’s concerns, which will be brought before a federal court.
The College believes that the Contraceptive Mandate contained in the Affordable Health Care Act violates its sincerely-held religious beliefs by requiring that the College’s health insurance plan contain coverage or access to coverage for elective abortion services, certain FDA-approved abortifacient drugs, and related education and counseling. The Mandate exposes the College to substantial fines for the exercise of its religious beliefs. This violates the College’s rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Mandate’s requirements compel the College to operate in a manner contrary to its religious beliefs, thus violating the guarantee of free speech as set out in the First Amendment.
The College’s compliance with its sincerely-held religious beliefs is the exercise of religion within the meaning of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The Mandate, narrowly-crafted religious employer exemption, and “safe harbor” make it impossible for the College to comply with its religious beliefs. The enforcement of these provisions violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
The Act also violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause that prohibits the establishment of any national religion, excessive government entanglement with religion, and the preference by the government of one religion over another. The Act creates a tiered exemption of more religious and less religious organizations. The former are exempt from the Mandate and the latter are not. This is an impermissible distinction in violation of the Establishment Clause.
The actions of the government have resulted in legal challenge. The government, in response, has issued a series of modifications and interpretations of the Act designed to bolster the argument that the courts do not have jurisdiction to review, because the government is not done coming up with a way to address the concerns that have been raised. In essence, the government’s actions are designed to prevent judicial review and scrutiny of the Act’s illegal provisions.
Time has run out for the College and the thousands of religious institutions that find themselves caught in the untenable position of having to choose between their religious beliefs and compliance with laws that interfere with the basic tenets upon which this country was formed.
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BILL OF RIGHTS
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
*The Bill of Rights, ratified December 15, 1791, comprise the first ten amendments of the U. S. Constitution.