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Virginians must speak up early in January in defense of our most cherished freedom. Our forefathers considered it so vital it was listed first in our Bill of Rights: freedom of conscience.
On Feb. 12, 2012, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a rule requiring all health plans to include contraceptives that cause abortions, including those that act from 72 hours to a week after sex, without a co-pay; birth control, even for minors without parental consent; and sterilization services--all of which violate Catholic teaching.
Catholic individuals and business owners find themselves facing a moral dilemma. Either they follow their conscience or they ignore their religious beliefs and accept the federal proposal.
However, this isn't a debate about Catholic doctrine, but rather the constitutional right of any religious body, its institutions, and all its faithful to follow the tenets of faith without government interference.
Thomas Jefferson, writing in 1809 to Methodists in Connecticut, stated, "No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority. It has not left religion of its citizens under the power of our public functionaries."
Businesses that fail to comply with the HHS mandate can face heavy fines, up to $100 a day per worker; $2,000 per worker per year, and lawsuits.
The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the basis for the First Amendment, provides that "no man shall be molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or beliefs."
Contact your Virginia legislators and ask them to support bills now before them to ensure the rights of conscience of Virginia residents related to the purchase of health insurance.