Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude

Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State
Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?
US House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (16 February, 2012)

Testimony of Craig Mitchell, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Ethics, Chair of the Ethics Department
Associate Director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary


[PDFile]  I come before you today to express my concerns not as a religious leader, but as an American. My father served for twenty years in the United States Air Force. My step father served for twenty years in the United States Air Force also. I served for twelve years as a USAF officer, and attained the rank of major in the reserves. I swore my brother in when he became an active duty second lieutenant. So with all of this, I have a very strong view of what it means to be an American. I do not object to this mandate upon health care only because it is not consistent with my faith. No, I object to this mandate because it is not good for America.

To be an American means that we stand for the constitution of the U.S. The more that we find out about this health care bill, the more that we find our constitution has been violated. I and many others swore to defend this constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Yet our elected officials have created this health care nightmare that requires every citizen to buy medical insurance, whether they want it or not. It is as if the commerce clause did not even exist.

To be an American means that we stand for religious freedom. This mandate is contrary to everything that I and every other person who wore the uniform stands for regardless of what their faith was. This is true of people who had no faith. It is inconceivable to me and to many others that such a bald faced attempt to step on the constitution of this great country was even proposed. It is for this reason that I travelled to be here today to make my objections known.

I am a Southern Baptist minister and a professor of Christian ethics. As such, I know that Baptists have stood at the forefront of religious liberty. This goes all the way to Isaac Backus, Hezekiah Smith and others who pushed for freedom of religion. When Thomas Jefferson talked about a wall of separation between church and state, he was opposing persecution of people for their beliefs, but that is exactly what this mandate does. This mandate, in the name of health care, seems designed to offend those who have religiously informed moral sensibilities. Simply put, this mandate forces people to violate their consciences. A government that will force its citizens to violate their consciences has stepped over a critical boundary. If the purpose of government is to serve its people, then this rule is wrong. The arguments used to defend this mandate are no different from the old argument that says "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

It is the church that was responsible for the creation of hospitals. The church was also responsible for much of the development of healthcare. With this kind of history, it is ironic that the religious organizations should have their rights crushed in the name of health care. If this is allowed to stand then there is nothing that the U.S. government cannot compel its citizens to do. Explain to me how all of this is consistent with the American ideal.

On Friday, the president made some changes to the mandate by having insurance companies pay for the contraceptives and abortions. As an economist, I know that a tax liability on either the buyer or seller of a good will still be felt by the other. Consequently the requirement for insurance companies to pay for this mandate will still be paid by their customers. In other words, this solution does not in any significant way dodge the religious liberty problems associated with this mandate, because those in the religious institutions will still have to foot at least part of the bill. As such, my religious freedoms are still being violated. If the president is allowed to have his way, I and every other American will have no recourse to address egregious act.

As an economist, I also know that when the tax incidence is on the supplier that the cost of the good or service increases. The president's health care bill was sold with the idea that it would cut costs. We are finding thus far that it is becoming far more expensive than it was originally planned to be. This latest wrinkle only adds to the costs. In effect, it adds insult to injury, especially when you consider that most religious institutions are self- insured.

In conclusion, this rule is wrong not just for religious conservatives, it is wrong for all Americans, because it takes away the freedom of the citizens while emboldening the federal government to do whatever it wants. It is wrong because it violates the constitution. It is wrong because it violates religious liberty. It is wrong because it forces people to violate their consciences. It is wrong because it is more expensive. This ruling is just plain wrong for America