In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced this bill to protect religious freedom by expanding the religious conscience exemption under Obamacare:
“Six years later, Obamacare continues to violate the religious freedom of many of my constituents by forcing them to buy health insurance against their faith or otherwise face a penalty. “The EACH Act simply broadens the religious exemption to ensure those who rely solely on a religious method of healing, like Christian Scientists, are not forced to purchase health insurance when these services violate their religious beliefs. This change is necessary to protect the religious liberties that every member of Congress swore to uphold.”
Americans United, which advocates for separation of church and state, opposes this bill, arguing that it’s a way for members of certain religious groups to “have their cake and eat it too”:
“[U]nder the EACH Act, Christian Scientists can refuse to purchase health insurance, yet still obtain certain medical care including routine dental, vision, and hearing services, midwifery services and vaccinations… [t]he insurance mandate, therefore, isn’t actually a religious burden on these individuals, as these individuals don’t object to insurance itself.”
Rita Swan, President of Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty (CHILD), and a former Christian Scientist whose son died from spinal meningitis after 12 days of prayer treatment by a Christian Scientist practitioner, has also argued against this bill. Ms. Swan contends that children could be harmed if their parents are exempt from purchasing health insurance.
There are 21 bipartisan cosponsors of this bill, including 18 Republicans and three Democrats.
The Christian Science Church, whose members would be affected by this bill’s passage, has lobbied aggressively in favor of this bill. Actor Val Kilmer, who is a committed Christian Scientist, supports this bill, and visited Capitol Hill to lobby for a previous version of this bill in 2013.
Of Note: Currently, Obamacare provides for a religious conscience exemption to the individual mandate. Implementing regulations issued by the Administration have thus far allowed individuals to qualify for this exemption if they are members of a religion already recognized by the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, the SSA excludes many religious organizations that provide health, education, and charitable services, and therefore their members are currently ineligible for the individual mandate exemption.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStock / baona)