(Photo: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
A Tuesday letter signed by 88 religious, pro-life and conservative leaders asks House Republican leaders to include religious freedom protections in the bill that will fund the government for the rest of 2013. The letter was announced at a press conference at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tenn.
Speaking for the signers, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins explained that they want a resolution to their religious freedom concerns, not simply a vote on another bill that will not be voted on in the Senate or signed by President Barack Obama.
The letter was announced the same day that the Health Care Conscience Rights Act was introduced in the House of Representatives. The HCCRA would provide a religious exemption from the administration's birth control mandate for anyone who objects to the mandate based upon their religious beliefs, and provide conscience protection for any individual or health care entity that objects to providing, paying for or referring patients for abortion services based upon their beliefs.
The letter signers support the HCCRA, but are asking Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to include its language in this month's funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, or C.R., so that it will have a better chance of becoming law. The HCCRA will likely not be voted on in the Senate or signed by the president. But since the C.R. is necessary to fund the government, it will likely become law.
"Our message to the Republican leadership is, we are not interested in another vote on this issue that addresses our concern. We want a resolution on this government assault on this first freedom. The House leadership should reconsider its decision to not place this language on the continuing resolution," Perkins said.
Radio talk show host Janet Parshall also spoke at the press conference. She expressed concern that the government is moving from protecting religious freedom to only protecting freedom of worship.
"When it becomes freedom of worship, rather than a freedom of religion, what the government is telling us in so many terms is you can believe what you want to believe as long as it's in the four walls of your church or your home, but, sorry, you can't take it out to the public square," Parshall said.
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and executive editor for The Christian Post, echoed Parshall's concerns.
"Freedom of religion," Land said, "leaves citizens of faith free to bring their religious convictions to bear in every arena of life, and to use those convictions to critique injustice ... The church is now faced with a stark choice in America. Is it going to be the confessing church, or is it going to be the lapdog church?"