February 1st, 2012
06:55 AM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Sen. Marco Rubio has introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012, bringing to the Senate the ever growing charge that President Barack Obama and his administration are violating the rights of religious Americans.
The bill looks to repeal health care reform mandates that “violates religious liberties and conscience rights of faith-based institutions,” Rubio said in a news release.
The main concern from religious organizations has been the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to finalize plans that would require church-affiliated organizations to offer private health care that would include contraceptives.
“The Obama Administration’s obsession with forcing mandates on the American people has now reached a new low by violating the conscience rights and religious liberties of our people,” said Rubio, a Florida Republican.
Religious organizations have until August 1, 2013 to comply with the decision – a year longer than most other employers.
According the Catholic League, this decision means religious organizations would basically be paying for contraceptives even if they do not use them.
“What’s at stake is the First Amendment right to religious liberty, and nothing goes to the heart of this civil liberty more than conscience rights,” said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League.
But while Rubio and Donohue may charge a violation of liberties, presidential hopefuls have been much harder on the president’s relationship with religion. According to some of the Republican presidential hopefuls, Obama, a Christian, is waging a “war on religion.”
Following the aforementioned HHS decision, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said “the Obama administration is engaged in a war against religion.”
At a campaign event in Jacksonville, Florida, Gingrich continued by calling the decision “a direct violation of freedom and religion - an example of the increasingly dictatorial attitude of this administration.”
Before Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the presidential nomination process, he regularly said the president was engaging in a war on religion. In one ad, he promised to “end Obama’s war on religion” and to “fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney said in response to the criticism that the decision was made after “very careful consideration” of the way the rule would affect religious organizations.
"I think it's fair to say that while there are those who take issue with the decision, millions of American women will have access to preventive services, as they should, appropriately, through the health care reform bill,” Carney said.
Carney also said that the administration will “work with religious group during a transitional period to discuss their concerns.”
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.