Clinging to the Constitution and the Fight for First Amendment Rights


Clinging to the Constitution and the Fight for First Amendment Rights

By Rep. Mike Kelly

In 2008, then-Senator Obama apologized for saying that people from small towns in Pennsylvania “get bitter” and “cling to guns or religion” when faced with tough economic conditions.

He explained, “People feel like Washington’s not listening to them, and as a consequence, they find that they can only rely on the traditions and the things that have been important to them for generation after generation. Faith. Family. Traditions like hunting. And they get frustrated.”

They get so frustrated, sometimes, that they not only cling to their faith, they cling to that other great American tradition, the U.S. Constitution.

This week, 12 lawsuits were filed on behalf of 43 separate Catholic institutions claiming that the contraceptive mandate in President Obama’s signature health care law violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom.

The contraceptive mandate requires that all employers, regardless of their moral objections, provide abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraceptives to their employees. It has been widely panned by Republicans, Democrats, and a diversity of religious leaders as an unprecedented attack by the federal government on religious liberty in America.

If the contraceptive mandate is not overruled or if its religious exemption is not broadened, thousands of religious employers who run hospitals, charities, colleges, nondenominational organizations, and small, family-owned businesses will be forced to violate their conscience and comply with the mandate, pay cripplingly high noncompliance fees, or close their doors and cut off the vital services they provide to communities across the nation.

As the nation awaits the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding the constitutionality of the health care law’s individual mandate, this week’s filings add fuel to an increasingly fervent movement that’s taken afoot in America.

A majority of Americans do not like the new health care law in general, and 50 percent of Americans believe the federal government should provide a broader religious exemption to the contraceptive mandate than is currently provided, according to recent polls.

Yet despite the widespread public outcry against the mandate and the law’s overall unpopularity, President Obama refuses to listen. And when Washington doesn’t listen, as then-Senator Obama noted in 2008, people become bitter and, well, clingy.

What President Obama got wrong in his apology was his assertion that our faith, our commitment to family, and even our hunting traditions were ultimately a bad thing, something we Pennsylvanians cling to because it’s what we can “only rely on” when all else, i.e. the government, fails.

I can’t think of anything further from the truth.

Having spent my entire life in the type of small town Mr. Obama spoke of, I know the faith and traditions of my fellow Pennsylvanians are not motivated by our frustration, they are inspired by our convictions and belief in our Creator, our nation, and the guiding principles set forth in our Constitution.

If small town Pennsylvanians were to ever become embittered, it wouldn’t be because of the traditions we rely on, it would be because those traditions were threatened, as President Obama’s contraceptive mandate so undeniable does.

This mandate infringes upon the Constitutional and conscience rights of all Americans who, despite their moral opposition to abortion in any form, will soon be forced to either provide or accept health insurance coverage for procedures that go against everything they believe is right and just.

That’s unconstitutional, it’s un-American, and it’s become a rallying cry for all Americans who seek to protect their unalienable rights to life and liberty.

The fight song of the University of Notre Dame, which is my alma mater and a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed this week, includes the following lines:

What though the odds be great or small

Old Notre Dame will win over all,

While her loyal sons are marching

Onward to victory.

Whether victory will be met in the courts or at the end of the campaign trail, we must cling to the hope that this unconstitutional mandate will be stopped and our religious freedoms restored. In the spirit of the great American traditions of faith, family, the U.S. Constitution, and, dare I say, Notre Dame football, Onward to victory.