Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-I-Lewiston, today sent a letter to Western New York's congressional delegation urging them to support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179/S. 1467). Ceretto remarked that the measure would ensure that those who participate in the health care system retain the right to provide, purchase or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.
The letter is in response to a decision last week by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement a narrow religious exemption for affiliated religious institutions such as hospitals and universities under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The policy change would require Catholic and other religious institutions to abandon their doctrines on reproductive issues or face catastrophic fines.
"As a Catholic and a lawmaker, I am deeply concerned by the new coverage mandate put forth by HHS and its effect on religious schools, hospitals and nonprofit groups," Ceretto said. "I fear that, if religious exemption clauses are not expanded for employers, we will be forcing religious institutions to carry out procedures and promote policies, which run counter to their constitutionally protected beliefs or face severe fines that could lead to the closure of thousands of health care-provider facilities.
"Moreover, it is troubling to me that the Obama administration is using health care as a stalking horse to push a secular, anti-religious agenda into the homes, schools and hospitals of individuals who vehemently disagree with these policies based on their own beliefs and convictions," Ceretto said.
"We must prevent the federal government from violating the First Amendment rights of Western New Yorkers under the guise of expanding health care to all Americans," he added. "I strongly urge our local congressional delegation to take up this fight in Congress and expand the religious exemption clause within PPACA today."