Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R) is the author of a new bill designed to bar the federal government from punishing employers who fail to provide contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
The Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act is co-sponsored by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn) and would erase the taxes employers face if they choose not to cover certain healthcare benefits because those benefits conflict with their moral or religious beliefs. Predictably Sensenbrenner offered a “sky-is-falling” rationale for the bill. “If these taxes are levied and they are enforced, there will be no religious-affiliated institutions left in this country,” he said at a press conference Tuesday.
“Religious-affiliated institutions have been one of the ways that there has been diversity provided in education, in healthcare, and in various types of social services,” Sensenbrenner said. “I donít think they should be taxed out of business, and neither do my co-sponsors.”
Under the health care law churches and houses of worship are exempt from the coverage mandate entirely. Religious-affiliated institutions like Catholic hospitals and schools don’t have to pay for the coverage through their own plans. Instead their employees can get contraception directly from the insurer, and still without a co-pay.
Republicans argue that the mandate violates the religious freedom of people who object to birth control, and have voiced support for the Catholic and other religious groups litigating to eradicate the mandate on those grounds. The Catholic Association, which calls itself a “faithful Catholic voice” in the public arena, has vowed to “fully engage the Catholic grassroots” in support of the bill and given the talking points used to introduce it, we can be all but certain it was given to the bishops for their approval first.
Photo from brains the head via flickr.