The special order, "Conscience and Religious Freedom" organized by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R- Neb.), addressed threats to religious liberty posed by the Affordable Care Act, particularly the controversial HHS mandate, which requires employers – including religious charities, hospitals, and schools – to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and some early abortion drugs.
Fortenberry explained that the opposition to this mandate "is not about politics. It's not about partisanship. It's about principle."
"Americans who cannot in good conscience comply with this mandate will now be subject to ruinous fines if they do not obey – simply for exercising their First Amendment rights, exercising their religious freedom, exercising the deeper philosophical principle of the rights of conscience as rightly exercised by reasonable persons doing what they believe to be right, what they believe to be good, what they believe to be just."
"We have lost our collective sense of respect for divergent views," he warned, commenting on the shift in views leading to the mandate. "We have lost our sense that the government must protect that sacred right of conscience and not coerce her citizens into doing something that they fundamentally believe is unjust or wrong."
He said that while "the HHS mandate is arguably a small component of the 2010 health care law, it does bring us face-to-face with a stark new reality here in Washington that we fervently hope will not become the new normal in America."
Fortenberry noted that the mandate "is also a form of discrimination" and that it "primarily targets people in faith communities, the very people who have been the backstop of compassionate care for the poor, the vulnerable, and the marginalized in our society today."