The Secular Coalition for America (SCA), a national group representing non-believers and secularists, has made no bones about its intent to increase its atheistic political power. On Tuesday, the group issued an official comment and press release slamming the efforts of Christian groups that are seeking wider exemptions under the Obama administration's highly-contentious contraceptive mandate.
Rather than defend the religious liberty of organizations that would be forced to violate conscience, the SCA has decided to embrace the Obama administration's initial feelings on the issue. The lobbying group claims that the exemption, in its current, narrow form, already provides adequate cover to religious groups.
"The current religious employer exemption adequately accommodates religious institutions,” SCA Executive Director Edwina Rogers is quoted in the release. "Any additional expansion would effectively be a government endorsement of religion—an idea fundamentally opposed to the core American values protected by the First Amendment."
According to the SCA, the government should not allow any employer, regardless of religious beliefs, to decline contraceptive services that are FDA-approved. This essentially means that some Catholic institutions that do not embrace birth control, if the SCA gets its way, would be forced by the federal government to violate conscience.
The Secular Coalition again would underscore our desire that the Health Resources and Services Administration guidelines include contraceptive services for women without any religious exemption for any and all group health plans and employers. However, the final rule published on February
15, 2012 maintained only a narrow exemption for religious employers with direct religious activities as their function and the Secular Coalition supports this narrow accommodation. The current religious employer exemption adequately accommodates religion; any expansion becomes endorsement.
We are concerned that the current comment period and any subsequent expansion of the religious employer exemption will only serve to further expand the definition of a “religious employer” as defined by the rule. Congress has passed and the Supreme Court has upheld Free Exercise protections for explicitly religious organizations. The final regulations
published in February demonstrate a concerted effort by the Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to abide by those precedents and limit the scope of any exemption in the Affordable Care Act.
According to the press release and the letter, itself, numerous secular collectives signed on, including: American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Atheist Alliance of America, Camp Quest, Council for Secular Humanism, HUUmanists Association, Institute for Humanist Studies and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, among others.
"We are troubled by the insistence of certain religious groups to impose their definition of religious freedom on all Americans," Rogers also said. "The secular character of our government is a core value of our nation that protects all citizens—religious and non-religious."
In contrast to the atheist push, earlier this month, 150 Christian leaders wrote a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius expressing fears over the government's involvement in defining religious groups. In it, they lamented the Obama administration creation of a "two-class religious scheme."
Based on this most recent public comment on behalf of atheist activists, though, secularists seem completely unconcerned about the intermingling of church and state that was highlighted by the aforementioned Christian leaders.