A Call To Action-The Supreme Court Rules

06.30.12 | Cecil Van Houten | Comments[22]



One of the important responsibilities Family Life has been entrusted with through the years is to inform the community of faith on issues that are of critical importance to our Judeo-Christian values and the liberties that allow us to practice them. 

As you’ve probably heard reported on Family Life News (www.fln.org/news) and elsewhere, the Obama administration has refused to grant religious institutions an exemption from purchasing health insurance for its employees that covers abortion-inducing drugs, surgical sterilization and contraception.  While many evangelicals do not have an issue with contraception/birth control, the other sections of the mandate are clearly troublesome.  The penalty for not obeying this provision is a punitive fine of $2,000 per employee.  There are many faith-based organizations (including Family Life, the Salvation Army and Christian colleges) that could not morally purchase insurance for its employees to cover abortifacients.  Nor could they afford the fines they would incur. 

This is not an overstatement – indifference or lack of action on the part of God’s people will have serious, negative implications on issues of our freedom of religion and conscience. 

What can you do?  First, be informed of the facts.  There is some alarmist rhetoric being thrown out in the Christian media that is sensationalistic and factually incorrect.  So, learn what is true.  Chuck Colson provides a good summary of the issue on his website here:


You can also find updated information on this short video from the Colson Center:


Second, to learn more about what you can do to support the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and religious liberty, read about and consider signing The Manhattan Declaration here:


Third, pray for our leaders.  Regardless of your personal political views regarding the current administration we are instructed in scripture to uphold our leaders in prayer.  We need to stand firm for the values we believe in but being antagonistic and hostile only raises the noise level while lowering the opportunity for constructive dialogue.  Remember, “A soft answer turns away wrath but grievous words stir up anger.”

We urge you to learn more about the importance and timeliness of this issue and prayerfully consider what action to take.  As one of our Presidents once said, “Do not pray for easy lives.  Pray to be stronger men.”  The time is now.

UPDATE:  2/13/12   On Friday, February 10, the Obama administration announced a 'compromise' proposal regarding its health care mandate requiring religious institutions to provide health care coverage that includes abortion-inducing drugs, surgical sterilization and contraceptives.  Because of the firestorm of controversy when the proposal was originally announced, the administration crafted this 'compromise' which would still provide coverage to employees of religious institutions but at a cost to the health care/insurance industry.  No confirmation that the health care/insurance industry would agree to such a plan; no acknowledgement that the proposal still infringes on religious liberty.  Before the 'compromise' was announced the administration sought the approval of various liberal religious groups (mainstream, evangelical and Catholic) in order to say that the concerns expressed by so many were now adequately addressed.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  From The Christian Post:


UPDATE: 2/15/12  And this, from Focus on the Family President Jim Daly:

It was difficult to click on a website, turn on the TV or venture into the social media space over the weekend without encountering news of President Barack Obama's attempt to blunt criticism that his healthcare plan would force religious groups to violate their deeply held morals and values by paying for contraceptive drugs that could cause abortions.

The administration's self-described "accommodation" has not gone over well with institutions or people of faith. That's because, for us, this is matter of morals, not money. Principles like how we view human life and whether we are truly free to live and practice our religious convictions speak to the very essence of who we are as people and as a society. They are woven through every aspect of our lives. They are not issues for America; they are the ethos of America.

There are many compelling points to be made that the president's revision does not adequately address the concerns of Catholic charities and other religious groups—including evangelical organizations like Focus on the Family.

Under the revised mandate, employers who have "a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan" will not fund these services directly. Instead, the insurance plan will cover these services to all female employees. Still, all insurers must include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write. At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.

Also of concern is that private business owners who provide healthcare services for their employers have no exceptions. A Catholic business owner would have to fund contraception; an evangelical business owner would have to fund possible abortion-inducing drugs. To think you've placated Christian groups by giving them what they want, while denying it to other people, disregards a core tenet of our faith: the needs of others are always to supersede our own.

Then there's the issue that the drugs mandated for coverage by the Obama administration go beyond contraception as most Americans understand it. That is, they don't just prevent the fertilization of a woman's egg. Drugs like Plan B and Ella, which are mandated for coverage, can cause an early abortion by preventing the embryo from attaching to the uterine lining. This is terminating a human life.

That brings up a point that should be pondered by fair-minded Americans who hold even vastly different views on the sanctity of human life: This mandate elevates contraception and abortion-inducing drugs to the level of preventative healthcare. They are not. Plan B should not be considered equivalent to the polio vaccine. Pregnancy is not a disease. Perhaps the most fundamental flaw in the White House's "accommodation" reasoning—no matter, frankly, what in the end that accommodation turns out to be—is that religious liberties are not something any president has the legal authority to recognize or deny. As Christians, we believe these rights come from God; but you don't need to believe in God to recognize such rights are protected for all citizens by the Constitution.

There is a limit to what government can compel us to do—or not do—particularly in matters of faith and conscience. It is in the best interest of all Americans, of every ideological stripe, that this limit, this line, not be crossed.

This is not about politics. It is about more than one government policy. It is about what's proper—and it is never proper for government to force the people who elected it to violate their consciences.

UPDATE: 2/16/12  Over 500,000 people have signed the Manhattan Declaration so far.  March 2 will be the last day the petition will be accepting signatures before it is sent to the President.  Additionally, the Manhattan Declaration has teamed with the Becket Fund to create a petition—now signed by over 67,000 individuals—that will also be presented to President Obama.

UPDATE: 2/21/12  Earlier today, Florida's Ave Maria University joined the rising tide of lawsuits against the Obama administration's attempt to force contraception, sterilization and abortion drugs into virtually every health insurance policy in America.  Jim Towey, Ave Maria's President and former head of the Bush administration's Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives is determined to stop the administration's assult on religious freedom.  "It is a sad day when an American citizen or organization has no choice but to sue its own government in order to exercise religious liberty rights guaranteed by our nation's Constitution.  Allowing a U.S. President of any political party or religious affiliation to force conformance to his or her religious or secular orthodoxy through executive action is a perilous precedent."

Following the initial reaction to the controversial mandate's announcement, both sides are working to shore up support and solidify their arguments.  Several lawsuits (as noted above) have been filed against the administration.  For its part, the insurance industry has said relatively little in regard to President Obama's 'accomodation' that insurance companies would have to provide contraception coverage at no cost to the consumer.  The trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans has limited its comments to saying it worries about the “precedent” the mandate would set. The concern is that the government could eventually require health plans to cover any number of preventive services – even prescription drugs – without copays or deductibles, under the theory that they save money in the long-term. But nothing is free.  So insurance companies will have to build that cost into their prices for other coverage. Meaning that all of us, up to and including the religious organizations that object to the mandated coverage, will be paying for it.

UPDATE: 2/27/12  Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 28, 2012, there will be a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Obama administration mandate, "Executive Overreach:  The HHS Mandate vs. Religious Liberty" at 2:30 p.m. Among those testifying before the Committee will be Bishop William Lori, Chairman of the Committee For Religious Liberty (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), Asma Uddin of the Becket Fund For Religious Liberty, Jeanne Monihan, Director for Human Dignity, Family Research Council and Dr. Linda Rosenstock, Dean of the UCLA School of Public Health. 

Pray that the Lord will give those testifying the appropriate words to say and that the members of the Committee will seriously consider the weight of the issues at hand.  As of this posting (3:35 pm 2/27) C-SPAN has not determined whether they will broadcast the hearing, either live or by tape-delay.  We'll update our information here as it becomes available.

UPDATE:  3/2/12 

The Senate Judiciary Hearing on Tuesday produced no definitive results but the issue isn't going away, either on Capitol Hill or on the campaign trail.  Despite talk of an "accomodation" measure made by President Obama on February 10, the original final rule remains on the books with the original wording; the so-called "accomodation" is not legally binding.  On Thursday, March 1, the Senate voted on the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2012, an amendment introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that would provide a broad exemption to employers and insurance carriers who oppose specific health services for moral or religious reasons. The Blunt amendment has been attached to a critical highway bill. By a vote of 51-48 the Senate killed the bill.  Family Life will continue to monitor developments in the situation.

UPDATE: 3/20/12

On Friday, March 16, the Department of Health and Human Services released additional details regarding its so-called "compromise" on the abortion-drug mandate.  The administration stated they would solicit public comment for several options to create a new "insurance mandate" and provide a potential safe harbor rule for certain student health plans.  The fact is many religious groups will not qualify for the safe harbor even for their employee health plans so their student health plans will begin to dispense the offending drugs and services beginning this August. 

To date, the President has failed to live up to a promise he made in a speech at Notre Dame in 2009 to craft a "sensible conscience clause".  This issue remains 'in play'; several lawsuits are pending in federal court.  The Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments on March 26.  We will provide daily updates on the progress of the case.

UPDATE: 3/27/12

The U.S. Supreme Court opened three days of arguments yesterday on the fate of the health care overhaul law.  The justices seemed skeptical of the government's contention that they must wait until 2014 to decide on the legality of the law. 

Today the focus is on small businesses and the impact the overhaul law would have on them.  Is the proposed requirement that most people carry health care insurance or pay a penalty constitutional?  The arguments include the issues of religious liberty and rights of conscience as we've discussed previously; can religious institutions be forced to provide health care insurance for employees that may violate their beliefs and the principles upon which their organizations are founded? 

The arguments will continue tomorrow.  We'll update more information then.

UPDATE: 3/30/12

On Wednesday the Supreme Court concluded three days of oral arguments regarding the constitutionality of the administration's health law.  Among the questions to be answered are, if one part of the law is judged unconstitutional, should other parts of the law survive?  What will be the major impact if the law is thrown out on health-care companies, businesses and non-profit/religious institutions?  Many people of faith are concerned about the mandate portion of the law but at this point no one really knows what the ultimate result will be if the law is upheld or if it (or portions of it) are ruled unconstitutional.  One thing everyone seems to agree on - it's going to be a mess.

And while the SCOTUS is not a political body per-se, the balance between conservative members, liberal members and 'swing vote' members makes predicting a decision nearly impossible.  The conservatives seemed skeptical of the constitutionality of the mandate and inferred they may throw out the entire law if that one part is rejected.

Another factor is the inevitable political impact a decision either way will make.  If upheld, the Democratic party and administration will tout the victory as a major legislative accomplishment.  If it is not upheld, Republicans and conservatives will use it as another example of government over-reach and indifference toward religious/personal liberties.   And of course there are other major issues the country is struggling with as we move closer to the November elections; the economy, jobs, social inequality, our military involvement around the world; all these will factor in when people are exercising their right to vote.

The court is set to announce its opinion sometime in June.  So while the issue is not at as inflammatory a point as it was two months ago, it is still a serious concern for followers of Christ and all people of faith (and those of no faith as well).  The decision made by these nine men and women has the potential to either affirm or challenge the basic constitutional principles of liberty and conscience which all Americans should seek to protect. 

UPDATE:  6/29/12:

Waiting until the end of June to render its decision, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday on the health care mandate.  The central part of the legislation, the individual mandate will stand as constitutional.  However it will stand as a tax; as a commerce regulation it failed.

The question remains whether or not the court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, has found a way to balance federal authority while at the same time respecting the separation of powers.  Or is the decision wrong in that it validates the mandate by defining it as a tax, something which Congress has the power to regulate.  To quote Roberts in his opinion, "The mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition -- not owning health insurance -- that triggers a tax -- the required payment to IRS."

While a short-term loss to conservatives and those who opposed the mandate (27 states sued the federal government and there are still 23 lawsuits filed by conservative and evangelical institutions), the decision is not a complete victory for its advocates.  The entire health care package was touted as a commerce issue, not a tax.  Since Judge Roberts has declared it a tax, the President and those in favor of the package will have no choice but to promote it as a tax, presumably the largest tax increase in U.S. history.

For now, given the Court's decision, the mandate will stand as law and the lawsuits filed against the federal government will most likely proceed.  The implementation of the law will take the states, the insurance and health-care industries, Medicare and Medicaid months to sort out and, no doubt, more lawsuits will be triggered.  In that sense, the Court's decision was not definitive; it has merely set the stage for the next set of lawsuits and divisive rhetoric that will continue through the presidential election.

We will continue to update this blog as the situation evolves.  For now, we suggest praying for wisdom in how to proceed as we face a divided government and a divided electorate.


Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 02.09.12 Robin commented

Birth control pills are used for other reasons than to prevent conception. A low dose can regulate a woman and still leave her able to conceive Sometimes it really is about health. Personally I'm surprised that there are insurances that don't cover it because every plan I've ever been under covered it! Idk

on 02.09.12 Ginger commented

I don't think the issue with most religious institutions is birth control pills. It's the abortifacients, which prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus = abortion.
But, ultimately the government has no place in requiring religious institutions to provide insurance coverage for these or any other drugs or procedures which may be in opposition to the way they see Scripture, be it birth control pills, sterilization surgery or abortifacients. (what's next? Coverage for sex-change operations?)
If one applies for a position in an organization that does not offer the insurance coverage they desire, that person has the right to purchase supplemental insurance, pay out of pocket, or find another job.

on 02.10.12 Chris Michals commented

Our founding fathers fought a shooting war for this exact reason - freedom from government oppression and government dictation of religious beliefs. This is a major breach of separation of church and state. This administration has a history of unconstitutional and offensive policies and it is time for it to end. This behavior of this government is an abomination to a free society. Go back and read the Declaration of Independence and you will see every single thing that this administration has done is the same thing the British did to us 240 years ago. Go read it, it's obvious most have not.

on 02.10.12 Richard commented

This is going to lead to civil disobedience. No doubt. The government has done nothing but try and put Christians in a box. That won't work. Every other group has their "rights" and entitlement but when a Christian does the same thing we're called intolerant. I don't think any of the Republicans would make a great president but no matter who they pick, I will vote for them. Obama has to GO!

on 02.10.12 Brenda commented

I will continue to fight the good fight. I agree with Rich; these important issues will lead to civil disobedience. Like Daniel, Jeremiah, and Paul/Saul, we will obey the king of the land, but we cannot compromise the Word of our Almighty God. It's the world view or the Word of God. We cannot be inactive, we simply must be willing to be-the voice of Truth. Silence is consent.
This government administration is a dictatorship full of chronic- blatant acts of treason. Any inactive church body or individual USA citizen who continues to remain passive;... is directly giving their consent to such unacceptable government abominations like this forced insurance issue.
Romans 8:34
34 Who is there to condemn [us]? Will Christ Jesus (the Messiah), Who died, or rather Who was raised from the dead, Who is at the right hand of God actually pleading as He intercedes for us?
(Amplified Bible)

on 02.10.12 Christie commented

I heard today that the government came to a compromise that would not force Christian groups to provide birth control but I didn't hear anything about the morning after pill or sterilization. So is this enough or is it still an issue?

on 02.11.12 Steve commented

Christie, No, this is still a huge issue because it goes to the issue of our Constitutional rights to freedom of religion. The government has no business mandating what religious institutions must provide for their employees. Shifting the financial cost to insurance companies still leaves a Christian organization with a moral issue. And what about the morning after pill? Everyone is focused on contraception but nothing has been said about that. Again, the government should not stick its nose in faith issues. Then what will be next?

on 02.13.12 Ed commented

It's no wonder there is so much dissent in this country. Mixing politics and religion is the worst thing that could have ever happened in our history. We don't really have separation of church and state. When Christians are willing to compromise or look the other way they are violating God's laws. God help us.

on 02.14.12 Michelle commented

I hope this doesn't just go away as an issue. When the next big news thing comes up everybody forgets the last thing and moves on. This is too important for Christians no matter what denomination they belong to. I signed the Manhatan Declaration and I hope many others will too.

on 02.23.12 Christie M. commented

I am a Pharmacy Technician who refuses to sell the Plan B pill because of my moral and very personal conviction on this issue. At this time the law protects me, but with this new law, I believe that I will be unprotected on this issue, and will be forced into a "civil disobedience" situation, because I fear God more than man!
I want to tell you a little story...there was a girl who grew up in a small town and married her high school sweetheart. He was from a large family with several siblings, and she had two sisters. The girl loved children...in fact worked with children for a time, before moving onto a new job. During the early years of the couples marriage, her husband had cancer.....
‎....thankfully the cancer was caught in time....but much to their dissmay...there would be no children. Oh how he struggled, because he knew his sweetheart loved children and imagine being the only one out of your siblings unable to father a child...and she, although very thankful that her husbands life was spared....still would see mother's with their children...and mourn that she would never carry a child in her womb...nor give birth...or raise a child. she knew that she was missing something very special. What would there children have looked like....would they have had a girl, a boy or both? Would the child sing like mom, or be strong like dad? Have his hands, or her eye's? oh...the years have passed and they are settled in their life, but every now and again, they both talk about how their lives would have been if they had children. How there are no traditions to pass on....how when they are old...there will be no children to visit.

Why do I tell this story...because it is a story of my life, my husbands life. I tell it because I do not want to be forced into selling a medication over the counter that can potentially abort life...and it is sold like beer or cigs, just show your id. No, I say, no. I have cried over this because of my moral convictions and because of my love of life...of children, of the child I can never carry. It has caused me great anquish, and I have had to pray, God please don't allow anyone to come in tonight while I am here, that want's that pill. So you see, when you think it is a victory for "women" when laws are passed about contreceptives or abortion for that matter....remember...there are women on the other side who's hearts are pierced very deeply....just remember and think about this. Please just think about it.. Christie, the woman on the other side.
I posted this on FB just wanted to share with your readers on here. God bless.

on 02.24.12 Nancy commented

This is not a faith issue that they are trying to address, it is a welfare issue. There are too many people in the U.S. that do not have health care coverage and are going without needed medical attention. I know the argument of Separation of Church and State has been made, but that can also be used to refute the claim for exemption. If other organizations have to purchase plans that allow coverage of contraceptions, abortions, Plan B, Ella, etc., then religious organizations should not be given preferential treatment by being exempt from the fines for not complying. If religious organizations are exempt, then any business that is owned by someone that is Christian should also be exempt. We all know that will not happen.
I don't believe this is an attempt to take away any rights of anyone, I think it is an attempt to solve a very serious problem we have. If this is a "core tenet of our faith: the needs of others are always to supersede our own" then we need to remember the reason for the mandate in the first place - people are in need.
I also do not think it is fair to blame one party as often as it gets blamed or one person for that matter. Many Christian Groups support anything done by political leaders that are Pro-Life, no matter what their views are on other issues. They can be avid supporters of the Death Penalty, even signing orders and executing multiple criminals, yet they are recieve the highest praises and backing from Christian Groups because the profess to their Pro-Life stance. If we are going to take stands, then lets be consistent. A life is a life, and God is the giver and taker of life - not man. We do not decide when a life begins and when a life ends, He does. So if we are to have creditibility and influence, we should pray a lot more and think a little bit about what we are saying to the world. Right now it looks like we are saying that we don't care who has to do without insurance as long as we don't have to include coverage for abortions and Plan B but it's okay to kill an adult if he committed a crime if I feel like signing the form. I don't really believe it is as simple as that statement, but others who don't believe might see it that way and I know it can be twisted quite easily to appear that way. I do not in any way support abortion or Plan B - they are morally wrong and scar very deeply (this I say from personal experience) and our voices on this need to be heard, I am just not sure this is the right way. I have typed this several times and each time I discarded I have been compelled to write it again. So please accept my thoughts in loving criticism from a sistrer in Christ. Let us put aside any and all political bias and pray to Lord for guidance for us and our leaders to do what is right in His eyes and to let the world see His glory.

on 02.25.12 Christie M. commented

For me, this is much more than a political issue. Since I am a Pharmacy Technician I fill all kinds of birth control that are written by Physicians, so I am not against birth control and since most birth control do not allow the egg to be released from the ovary, I have absolutely no problem with that. Perscriptions that come from the Dr. and then approved by an RPH are out of my hands, since I am not licensed, they make the decision to dispense these medications, not me. But, with the Plan B pill, you can purchase it a register at the pharmacy with a license, and that is a different story. I have to take part in the dispensing. Also, if you are under the age of 17, and are on Welfare, you can come in and get the perscription written by the RPH, and filled. No parents are informed, and no Physician needs to be consulted. Now just imagine a parents horror if their child has some adverse reaction to this medication, and they didn't even know the child took it. This medication can, if an egg has been fertilized, abort the baby. Now since I believe life begins at conception, this is where I have a problem. I am concerned that in this law there will be no way for me to refuse to sell this very powerful medication I might add, that we at the pharmacy have even seen to be abused at times. They must also somehow protect those of us who can't in good conscience, sell this medication. This is in no way a political issue for me, but a very personal issue. I pray they can find a reasonalbe solution to this law, but I don't have much hope of that, and this is why I speak out against it. I believe women, and men who believe like me should not have to fear being put in this position. So hence, the delema.

on 02.27.12 Roger commented

The situation is only the latest in the assult on religious freedoms by our government. I know there are many sides to an issue and I don't think it should all be reduced down to politics. It's more than that. At some point decent Americans who aren't even Christians should be standing up for the rights of others because some day it will be their liberty that is threatened. Get past the politics, Republican or Democrat or Christian or nonChristian. This issue is bigger and it will affect everyone eventually. I don't think many care about birth control, even most Catholics don't obey the church teaching on that. But even if people of a faith don't follow their teaching that doesn't mean you shouldn't still stand up for the standards. How many Christians are seriously overweight and in poor health and the Bible says gluttony is a sin but we just ignore that one. Doesn't make sense. the principle is what matters.

on 02.28.12 steve commented

yo wat up homie's look i agree with roger, it will effect all of us eventually

on 02.29.12 Gene commented

This a Prayer request! This is another example of the Federal Government forgetting the Constitution and God at the same time!

on 03.02.12 Bonnie commented

I haven't heard much about this in the past few days but I still believe we need to be praying. The problem we have as Christians is when something is a big emergency everyone gets involved but as soon as it isn't front page news people forget about it. We have to be diligent to stay informed and do what the Lord leads us to do by not just saying we think it is wrong but putting action to our words.

on 03.08.12 Deborah commented

Thank you Family Life for this wonderful civil discussion on what is so difficult to discuss. Lord, please remind our country's leaders that our Constitution exists for a reason. We cannot go around it even if doing so provides for the poor, the sick, the needy. There are ways to do that keeping our Constitution in tact. Again, Thank you Family Life!

on 03.09.12 Dan commented

Cecil, thank you for keeping on this. I know that proclaiming our faith and maintaining boundaries between the government and our religious freedoms is becoming more perilous every day. Our congregation is praying that this will be overturned ultimately but we realize that this is only one battle among many that will come. God bless Family Life Network for keeping us informed and giving us ways to put our faith into action. Dan

on 03.11.12 Marcus commented

I think the whole direction the government is going is very wrong but here's what bothers me. Why are so many Christians making this about Obama? The problems are not just Republican or Democrat, it's the federal government that's the problem. If we keep making this about one person or political party we're missing the point. I voted for John McCain in 2008 but right now I have zero confidence in any of the Republican candidates. I don't want four more years of Obama but I don't believe any Republican will be able or willing to stop the way things are going.

on 03.21.12 Allison commented

At first I thought this was an over reaction to the Obama care thing. Every bill or law has parts of it that someone doesn't like. But the more I've read and your updates, I think we need to take it very seriously. I signed the Manhattan Document and our prayer groups at church are praying hard over this. God bless you for telling the truth.

on 03.30.12 dennis commented

Thank you FLN for staying on top of this. I pray that the Supreme Court will seek Godly wisdom and that the people who will be effected by this won't be hurt too bad.

on 09.09.13 Larry commented

You may think this is a religious issue, or just a moral issue, but our morals come from religion anyway. This administration seems to think both morals and religion are not required in a society. President Oboma has said that this is no longer a Christion nation. How so? Just because he says so? Ultimately, this is a racial issue. More blacks are killing their babies than any other group. It seems that he wants this to continue so he can make it a larger issue later. We need to hold firm, and take this issue completely out of Government. Write your representatives and Senators to always vote NO.