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OPINION

Affordable Care Act gives government permission to play the bully

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 28: Anti-Obamacare protesters wear masks of U.S. President Barack Obama and Grim Reaper as they demonstrate in front of the U.S. Supreme Court June 28, 2012 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling on the Affordable Healthcare Act this morning. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)2012 Getty Images

The Affordable Care Act empowers the government to bully, tax and threaten every American, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to fall in line with the Health and Human Services mandate.

We must act now to protect religious institutions and employers who have to make a choice on August 1: violate their faith or pay $36,000 in taxes a year per employee to follow their faith.

There have been, rightfully, widespread calls to completely repeal the HHS mandate because it forces employers to violate core tenants of their faith. The entire HHS mandate needs to go, and the Senate took that vote March 1.

But those efforts were soundly defeated. We cannot defeat the mandate this year, with this Senate. But the enforcement for that mandate is so severe that every member of Congress, regardless of party, should be able to recognize its vicious and brazen disregard for our religious liberties.

'It is unheard of to tax an American for choosing to follow their faith.'

ObamaCare authorizes our government to tax employers to the tune of $100 per day, per employee for failing to comply with the HHS mandate.

That equals an astounding $36,500 per employee, per year. If a religiously-affiliated grade school has 50 employees, they would be taxed $1.8 million per year, every year, just for exercising their constitutionally-protected rights.

There is not a school, university, charity or hospital in my district that could withstand a tax bill like that.

It is unheard of to tax an American for choosing to follow their faith. To impose confiscatory taxes of this level are all the more offensive.

President Obama and members of Congress need to hear from Americans that this tax should not stand. The choice to either violate one’s faith or pay this huge tax is really not a choice at all.

When confronted with the concerns that the HHS mandate will infringe on religious freedom, the president pointed to the same excuse that “we exempted churches, we exempted religious institutions.”

Under the president’s definition, many religious institutions providing health, educational or charitable services will receive no protection. Even Jesus and Mother Teresa would not qualify — let alone the religious charities that have provided relief and services throughout history. Serving the poor fails to qualify as a core teaching, in the president’s eyes.

It is not the government’s business to determine what qualifies as a core tenet of faith or how to practice a religion. The Constitution expressly prohibits this type of infringement, saying, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

That’s why I introduced the Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act of 2012. This bill will block the taxes that will be levied upon those religious institutions and those who have moral or religious objections in the private sector from having to pay for mandates under ObamaCare that violate their religious or moral views.

This is not the first time that a tax in ObamaCare has been targeted for immediate and bipartisan elimination. 

The 1099 provision was one of the most burdensome and frustrating, particularly for shackling our job creators. Soon after its harmful impact came to light, an overwhelming majority in Congress repealed the 1099 tax reporting requirement that would have buried small businesses with paperwork.

In the same way, the issue of religious liberty should be bipartisan. No one, Democrat or Republican alike, should stand for such a harsh attack on religiously-affiliated institutions. Each member’s district has a school, charity, hospital or university that could be affected, even shuttered, by these taxes.

The only way that Congress and the president will know that this tax is unacceptable is if Americans recognize the impact of this tax and speak out against it.

This month, members will be back in their districts meeting with constituents, holding town halls. This is the chance to tell them that religious liberty is not a bargaining chip.