My legislation to protect our First Amendment rights does one thing and one thing alone: It allows an employer to opt out of the current government mandate that forces them to include the morning after pill and contraceptives in their employee’s insurance benefits, if and only if, the employer has a religious objection. The current mandate, which has been highlighted by the Obama administration’s actions, forces employers to include the morning after pill and contraceptives in their insurance benefits even if it violates the employer’s religious beliefs.
Employers should not be forced by the government to do something against their religious beliefs. That violates their First Amendment rights.
My legislation does not authorize employers to ask or know about their employee’s contraceptive use, and it does not authorize employers to fire anyone for that use.
The Catholic Church and other faith-based organizations support my legislation. Under it, employers like St. Vincent De Paul, a Catholic-based charity, would be able to opt out of the mandate. Since the legislation was written with the help of a national legal organization that fights for religious freedoms, I believe it will withstand legal tests.
Ironically, most of the controversy surrounding my legislation revolves around language already in Arizona law for 10 years — language that I did not even introduce. Current law allows a woman who works for a church that has opted out of the mandate to have the medicine paid for if the woman uses it for a purpose other than birth control. The insurance company, not the employer, knows that information. The key is that I didn’t introduce that language in my bill. It is already in law and it will still be in law whether my legislation passes or not.
I am not Catholic, and I do not have a moral objection to the use of contraceptives, but I do respect the right of those religious employers that do.
Since I am a woman, I would never create legislation that takes away women’s rights. Women who work for religious employers will still be able to obtain medication somewhere else. Since Walmart sells it for $9/month, the cost may even be cheaper than the insurance co-pay itself.
If the government wasn’t forcing religious employers to do something against their religious beliefs, I wouldn’t be talking about this issue. But protecting our First Amendment right to freedom of religion is one of the most important things we can do. If we lose that, America’s future is truly lost.
It is unfortunate that some in the media are repeating distortions and untruths brought about by the opposition. I wish they would have called me or the lawyers that wrote it so they could report the truth. I guess that wouldn’t make a juicy story. Thank you to the media that are publishing my side of the story.
House Majority Whip Debbie Lesko is the State Representative for LD 9.