Mr. Speaker, twenty years ago this month, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed into law on a wave of overwhelming bipartisan support. We gather today to celebrate passage of the law, which reaffirmed one of the core principles on which our nation was founded by prohibiting government from burdening the free exercise of religion without a compelling state interest. To this day, the law has remained a testament to religious liberty and has played a critical role in protecting our fundamental First Amendment rights.
But the same bipartisan spirit that championed the rights of the individual and carried the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law two decades ago is under assault today. The premise behind the Religious Freedom Restoration Act could not be more clear: Congress shall not pass laws that get in the way of Americans from exercising their religious beliefs and conscience rights.
Yet under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, commonly known as Obamacare, Americans are being forced to act in direct opposition to their religious and moral beliefs in order to comply with the law. Under the Department of Health and Human Services interpretation of Obamacare, nearly all employers will be required to cover, through their health insurance plans, abortion drugs, sterilization and contraception, even if such a provision goes against these moral and religious beliefs.
This is wrong; it is un-American. The mandate from the administration and subsequent inadequate efforts to rectify it clearly fly in the face of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that we honor today.
As the HHS mandate continues to be fought in the courts, I have been deeply disappointed by the administration's refusal to provide a reasonable exception to the rule. I have urged, and will continue to urge, an exception that protects the conscience rights of all Americans.
I ask my colleagues to join me in that fight. I am one of the original cosponsors of H.R. 940, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, legislation that aims to ensure that no employer would be punished for refusing coverage for procedures or drugs that violate the employer's beliefs.
So as we take time today to celebrate the achievements of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, we also must be aware of the need to continue to be vigilant.
We must reaffirm the guiding principles of the United States of America and the rights to religious freedom guaranteed under the First Amendment.
It was the right thing to do 20 years ago. It is the right thing to do today.