Americans remain a deeply religious people. The vast majority of Americans believe in God or a higher being, and many say that they pray daily. By providing education, health care, and countless social services, religious groups contribute mightily to the health of society. Religious individuals and institutions should be free to exercise their religious belief in private as well as in public.
The ability to work, live, and provide services compatible with one’s beliefs is essential for maintaining a just and free society, yet this freedom has suffered erosion in recent years. America must return to a more reasonable and historically accurate understanding of religious liberty, upholding religious and moral conscience as an invaluable support for healthy republican government and human flourishing. This requires that government respect the role of religious institutions and refrain from establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
The American Founders believed that strong religious congregations and vibrant faith communities were essential to ordered liberty. As a result, Americans have long enjoyed the fullest religious liberty in the world and have reaped the benefits of a flourishing civil society rooted in that religious freedom. Policymakers must restore a strong and stable society of individual and political self-government in which the people can give religious and faith-based institutions a central place in our civic and public life.
Protect the right of conscience of patients, parents, and employers. The right of Americans to live and work in accordance with their deeply held beliefs is increasingly under assault, especially from burdensome government policies. For example, many provisions of Obamacare weaken family choice of coverage, undermine parental participation in minor children’s health care decisions, and undercut family values in health care. The law’s anti-conscience mandate forces countless religious organizations, family businesses, and other employers to provide health plans that include coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization—regardless of their religious or moral objections.
Policymakers should enact permanent protections for the rights of conscience of individuals, families, employers, and insurance issuers to keep them from being forced to offer, provide, or pay for coverage that violates their deeply held beliefs. To truly protect religious liberty and freedom more generally, Obamacare must be repealed. Health care reform must move to a patient-centered, market-based system that provides coverage choices that are consistent with providers’ and patients’ moral and religious beliefs.
Ryan T. Anderson, “Protecting Religious Liberty in the Marriage Debate,” The Heritage Foundation, The Foundry, September 19, 2013, http://blog.heritage.org/2013/09/19/protecting-religious-liberty-in-the-marriage-debate/.
Ryan T. Anderson, “Yes, Threats to Religious Liberty Happen Here,” Heritage Foundation Commentary, July 31, 2013, http://www.heritage.org/research/commentary/2013/7/yes-threats-to-religious-liberty-happen-here-old.
Patrick F. Fagan, “Why Religion Matters Even More: The Impact of Religious Practice on Social Stability,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1992, December 18, 2006, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2006/12/why-religion-matters-even-more-the-impact-of-religious-practice-on-social-stability.
The Heritage Foundation, “Let Religious Freedom Ring: Stop the Assault on Our First Freedom,” Heritage Foundation Factsheet No. 106, June 19, 2012,
The Heritage Foundation, “Religious Practice and Family Stability,” Heritage Foundation Family Facts Brief No. 33, http://www.familyfacts.org/briefs/33/religious-practice-and-family-stability.
The Heritage Foundation, “For the Common Good: How Religion Encourages Civic Engagement,” Heritage Foundation Family Facts Brief No. 19,
Jennifer A. Marshall, “Understanding American Liberty,” The Heritage Foundation, December 19, 2012, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2012/12/understanding-american-liberty.
Jennifer A. Marshall, “Why Does Religious Freedom Matter?” Heritage Foundation Understanding America Series Report, December 2010, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/12/why-does-religious-freedom-matter.
Jennifer A. Marshall, “Religious Liberty in America: An Idea Worth Sharing Through Public Diplomacy,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2230, January 15, 2009, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2009/01/religious-liberty-in-america-an-idea-worth-sharing-through-public-diplomacy.
Ryan Messmore, “Religious Freedom Is Not Just for Churches,” Heritage Foundation WebMemo No. 3383, October 4, 2011, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/10/religious-freedom-and-liberty-is-not-just-for-churches.
Thomas M. Messner, “From Culture Wars to Conscience Wars: Emerging Threats to Conscience,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2543, April 13, 2011, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/04/from-culture-wars-to-conscience-wars-emerging-threats-to-conscience.
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