Chuck Schumer and other Democrats may have inadvertently given a gift to the Catholic Church in its enormous battle with Obama over new rules that require religious schools and hospitals to cover co-pay free contraception or face steep fines.
According to a report from Elise Viebeck of The Hill, almost all of the over 30 lawsuits Catholic groups filed against the Obama Administration yesterday referred to a 1993 law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which Congress passed to allow the use of peyote in American Indian religious observances.
Schumer, then a member of the House, introduced the bill in Congress, while Ted Kennedy sponsored it in the Senate.
The law states, “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”
In other words, the legislation introduces a test, in which the government has to prove that there is not a another option for achieving their intended result other than impinging on the practice of religion.
So while the law may be general and doesn’t specifically single-out Catholic institutions, it could be shown in court that it is a substantial burden to them.
From the report:
Because of the law, courts now have to apply certain standards to federal actions that might inadvertently infringe on religious liberty. In one sense, laws under scrutiny must aim to achieve a “compelling” government interest. In another sense, they must be designed in a way that burdens religion as little as possible.
The second claim might be hard for the administration to meet when regulators could have taken many other steps — like expanding Medicaid — to provide better access to birth control, DeGirolami said.
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