Congressman introduces Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act

From the CNS comes this:

New proposal would remove mandate’s penalties for religious employers

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Saying that the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 28 decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act “leaves intact a grave assault to religious freedoms,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., announced July 10 that he would introduce the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act. The bill, which has 57 co-sponsors, would allow employers who have religious or moral objections to covering certain preventive services mandated by the health reform law to decline to provide them through their health insurance plans without facing taxes, penalties or enforcement actions for their noncompliance. The Supreme Court ruled June 28 that it was constitutional for Congress to require individuals to purchase health insurance under its authority to tax. Sensenbrenner said the health reform law “gives the federal government the tools to tax religiously affiliated schools, hospitals, universities and soup kitchens right out of existence” by imposing penalties of up to $100 per employee per day on employers who fail to provide services mandated by the Department of Health and Human Services, [taxes!] which include sterilizations and contraceptives, including some abortion-causing drugs. A religious institution with 50 employees, for example, could face penalties of up to $36,500 per employee per year, or more than $1.8 million per year, he said. “Obviously, if these taxes are levied and they are enforced, there will be no religious-affiliated institutions left in this country,” said Sensenbrenner, former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

I don’t think that the USCCB has yet commented on the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act.

I am concerned that if this is the way that Pres. Obama’s attack on the Church is fended off, this bill could be repealed, leaving Catholic and other employers exposed once again.

A better solution is to do a legislation-ectomy, excise the cause of the problem, instead of just putting a band-aid over the suppurating wound.

Don’t get me wrong. I think this should pass and the fight should go on. But I would want to see the fight go on, and not lose steam thereby.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Phil_NL says:

    Well, it’s at least sending a message, and that’s also something. Don’t forget that, just as the repeal of Obamacare by the house, a measure like this would be dead on arrival in the Senate, let alone the White House. There are no firends of freedom of religion in that place for now.

    The only way to make real progress is simply to have Romney elected (Obama will never budge, and the corporation of POTUS is a necessary, though not sufficient condition), along with a big shock-and-awe result in the Senate. That will actually be the hardest, as a Republican majority there isn’t enough; also half a dozen (at least) D’s need to be so scared of the voters that they will join the vote for repeal. And given the fact that a lot of those D’s wouldn’t be facing the voters again for another 4 or 6 years, and that – as with abortion – almost the entire Democratic Party seems to be beholded to the radical left on these matters, that’s easier said then done.

    Even if the voters trash Obamacare, expect a lot of bandaid measures the coming years (such as defunding and executive orders), as a full repeal might take at least till 2015. And don’t kid yourself, as long as there isn’t a full repeal, all conscience clauses will be repealed themselves next time the D’s are in control.

  2. Faith says:

    Working for Romney to get elected is a waste of time. After all, Obama just copied Romney’s insurance plan for Mass. I can’t believe that Romney, with a straight face, says that he’d repeal Obamacare.
    Obamacare and Romneycare both need everyone to pay to keep the insurance affordable. What the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act says, if I understand it correctly, is that everyone has to have insurance as the govt. wants, however, one can choose to have private insurance also.
    It’s like everyone has to pay for public education, but one can choose to go to private school, too.
    What do you think?

  3. Facta Non Verba says:

    I agree with Phil. To really address this problem, we need a change in the office of the president as well as a change in the majority of the US Senate. Romney will be able to dismantle many parts of Obamacare on day 1, via executive orders, but a full repeal will need a bill passed by congress. Romney understands the concept of federalism: what is good for one particular state is not necessarily good for the entire nation. (Many aspects of federalism remind me of the Catholic social justice concept of subsidiarity.)

  4. Phil_NL says:


    There is an argument to be made for that, especially since the uninsured can be a massive drain on hospital budgets, and one cannot let people die or come to grave harm if it’s preventable, so the doctors in question cannot in conscience not treat those cases that present themselves. Yet someone has to pay, which means that an obligatory insurance may be the lesser evil. In fact, what you describe is pretty much like the situation here in the Netherlands.

    Which also brings me to the big difference between my country and the US: we have a constitution full of meaningless mumbo-jumbo, you have a constitution that actually limits the government. Or ought to; the argument that the Supreme Court used is beyond rediculous. As it stands now, US congress could force everyone to do or buy everything as long as they label it a tax. That alone is more than enough to want a full repeal, even if there weren’t grave religious freedom problems. Romney is probably enough of a go-with-the-flow type to do just that, Obama certainly won’t – and the primaries are over; those two are the only choices for the next 4 years.

    And as for keeping insurance affordable: who is to gaurantee that’s even possible? If every American would gain 10 years of life due to a specific procedure that costs 1 million dollars, it’s clear that no insurance can cover that and remain affordable. Real life examples may be a less drastic, but they are getting closer and closer to the situation I just described every year. (in fact, complete replacement of organs seems theoretically possible even based on adult stem cells, and I wouldn’t be surprised that, as soon as it moves from theoretical possibility to treatment, the 1M dollar example example would become reality)

  5. Papabile says:

    Quite frankly, I really don’t think the House Republicans will really care what the USCCB thinks on this. Rightly or wrongly, many of them feel like the USCCB threw them under the bus when they criticized the Ryan Budget as not fulfilling Catholic requirements on USCCB letterhead.

    In many respects, the House R’s felt like they had gone above and beyond for the Bishops considering the criticism they had received from the Conference in the past.

    In any case, this bill was concurrently referred to the three committee’s of jurisdiction, under a time limitation to be determined by the Speaker. This tells me that they might well move the bill.

    Additionally, the 67 cosponsors is a who’s who of the Republican Study Committee (RSC).

    Doing this through the tax code provides some tactical and political advantages for House Republicans, because they will then have a mandatory offset that must be included under budget rules. Likely, they will offset costs associated with the repeal through Democrats favorite programs — forcing them to vote NO.

    This is just political. It’s DOA in the Senate.

  6. David Zampino says:

    I used to live in Congressman Sensenbrenner’s district, and he’s a friend of my Spiritual Director. He’s a good man; a traditional Anglican, who, in addition to his in Judiciary, has done yeoman’s service for the Pro-Life movement. I agree with Fr. Z. that more than this is necessary — but it’s a good start.

  7. Papabile says:

    @David Zampino

    Please do not misunderstand me, Sensenbrenner IS a good man, and hopefully this can get some traction in the Senate if the Senate R’s could use this to force a few amendment votes. But until we get past the election, this is simply political.

    I have the highest respect for Sensenbrenner and many of the cosponsors. Having worked as a House R staffer for over a decade, I know many of them. Many of them cosponsored this bill, and I am sure Sensenbrenner sponsored it, out of excellent intentions. I am sure they really want to see it passed.

    However, knowing what has happened with the Conference and how the House R’s felt like they were targeted for the Ryan Budget after going to the mat for the Bishops during the health care fight, I doubt there’s much impetus to move it for them.

  8. Sissy says:

    Even if the bill is DOA in the Senate, I think it’s a worthwhile effort from a political standpoint. There are many Democrats who will not want to be on record as voting against a “freedom of religion” bill, yet might be forced by their leadership to do so. Since returning large Republican majorities to both houses of Congress if our best bet for repeal of Obamatax any small political advantage that furthers that cause is worth the attempt, in my opinion.

    Faith, this bill specifically addresses the birth control mandate, not the mandate to carry insurance. It doesn’t do the whole job, but is, rather, an important part of the multi-front attempt to roll back Obamatax.

  9. wmeyer says:

    Truly, the extent of the damage done since 2000 is such that we really need a super-majority in both houses, as well as a president determined to put things right.

    When I hear Republicans talk of “fixing” Obamacare, I shudder. It’s the wrong approach. Repeal it. And while they’re at it, they need to repeal most of what was done in the last 50 years, with respect to medical legislation. Pretty much everything since the Thalidomide scandal. Then broke the system with their meddling, and they will only make it worse in adding more of the same.

    Read some recent legislation. Not O’care, which is largely incomprehensible to the uninitiated. Pick something short. Observe that much, perhaps most, current legislation contains alterations to other established law. The plethora of little tweaks, referring to other acts, and rewording parts of sentences, makes it all but impossible to fully understand what is being done. You will drown in the cross-references, and lose the forest while surrounded by trees.

    Read this article for an excellent summary of our current problems.

  10. JARay says:

    This sounds like a good idea to me.
    I am no lawyer. I fear the lawyers are the scourge of humanity.

  11. JohnRoss says:

    I spoke with the USCCB’s head of government relations, and they oppose this bill because they don’t want to admit it’s a tax for legal reasons.

  12. Phil_NL says:

    ‘legal reasons’ are no reasons at all for the bishops to oppose (or support) any legislation. Even if their position makes sense from a political point of view. The bishops should only pronounce judgements if there is a direct moral reason. Not if their lawyers think it’s bad tactics. That’s prudential judgement, not a matter of faith. Why on earth pick a fight you shouldn’t? All you do is increase the list of people who think you’re irrelevant or stupid. Memo to the USCCB: you’re not supposed to be a political lobbying organisation.

    So with all due respect, the bishops and their conferences – and that goes worldwide – need to learn when to speak and when to shut up. They get that wrong way too often.

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