Sunday, February 12, 2012
Hartzler: Obama still trampling on Americans' religious freedom
In her weekly report, Fourth District Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler says President Obama, despite his announced accommodation on the contraception controversy is still trampling on Americans' religious freedom.
This has been a big week, fighting for you – the good people of Missouri’s Fourth District – and listening to your concerns. As always, it was a privilege to be here on your behalf, advancing your priorities, and pushing back on onerous policies and regulations that would be harmful to you. The focus of one of my biggest concerns was on an assault to our Constitutional freedoms by the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services Department (HHS).
The original HHS ruling would have required faith-based entities to provide health insurance that covers abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization. This unconstitutional assault had the effect of forcing religious hospitals, schools, and charities to take actions contrary to their religious beliefs. While you may or may not object to this coverage, no government agency should tell an American citizen what kind of product to buy or stipulate what should be in that product. This ruling was an attack on the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to our Constitution and trampled on the rights of individuals and organizations to determine their own health care plans.
Friday, following loud outcries from Americans who don’t want government telling them how to run their lives, the Obama Administration promised an “accommodation” to deal with this egregious affront to the Constitution. It proceeded to announce a revised version of its mandate. Sadly, the new version – like the old – still tramples on Americans’ religious rights. This is a gimmick that still requires people to violate their moral beliefs.
The revised version of this Obama health care takeover component will require insurance companies to bear the costs - which will be passed along to policy holders. Furthermore, this idea continues to infringe on the rights of private business owners with religious objections to these mandates.
Hundreds of Missourians who contacted me should know that I am working to right this wrong. I have co-sponsored H.R. 1179, legislation that would allow individuals and organizations to purchase health insurance plans that do not contain health services contrary to their religious beliefs. Private entities, like religious organizations, should never be forced to provide insurance coverage for medication and procedures that violate their religious beliefs. This HHS mandate is just another example of why the President’s overreaching health care law is unconstitutional and needs to be repealed.
On another front, this week was “Thank a Farmer Week” and I called on President Obama’s Labor Department to withdraw its new regulations restricting the jobs young people can do on American farms. The new rules are ill-conceived and run contrary to common sense as it pertains to growing up on the farm. These new rules would make it very difficult for young men and women to gain the experience with livestock and machinery that today’s farming world demands – and make it difficult for them to learn the skills needed to feed America in future years. These ridiculous rules would, for instance, restrict anyone under 16 from doing such common things as driving a tractor or helping to hook up an implement to a tractor.
As a Missouri farm girl from Cass County I feel confident in saying farm families in Missouri’s Fourth District and elsewhere in rural America do not need federal government bureaucrats telling us what to do. I will continue to call for a rescinding of these ‘Big Government’ rules.
In other action, I sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to inquire about the recent decision to close several USDA offices, including three in Missouri’s Fourth District – in Jefferson City, Buffalo, and Versailles. While we all want more efficient government, I want to ensure the decisions coming out of Washington, D.C. actually save money and that the bureaucracy in Washington is sharing in the burden of cost-cutting measures. The last thing I want is to see Washington trying to balance the budget on the backs of rural America. I will continue to monitor this situation to ensure that doesn't happen.
Finally, I am glad that several individuals and groups from Missouri were able to travel to Washington this week. It is always a blessing for me to get to hear from people I work for and I appreciate them coming. This week, I had good discussions with many Fourth District citizens, including several dairy farmers. We should all be proud that the Fourth District of Missouri has more dairy farms and produces more milk and other dairy products than any other district of the state. I also met with a group from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. I worked closely with these efforts as a teacher at Belton High School, sponsoring a youth leadership group and serving as co-chair of an at-risk program for teens. Parental leadership, community support, and prevention efforts play an important role in encouraging teens to make healthy decisions. I applaud their efforts.
In legislative news, the House continued to pass important budget reform and accountability measures as we seek to change the way Washington works. Bills passed include approval of the presidential line-item veto, the Budget and Accounting Transparency Act, the STOCK Act (to ensure no elected official ever benefits financially from insider information) and the Civilian Property Realignment Act to expedite the sale of unneeded federal property and reduce the deficit.