Jul 13, 2016

We Are Free Only If We Respect Each Others’ Beliefs

“Don’t force somebody deeply and morally opposed to something to fund it, support it, or perform it… Mutual respect is necessary for a free society, and only with that respect can America live in the liberty we have so long enjoyed.”

Washington, D.C. – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) spoke on the House floor today on the Conscience Protection Act, which preserves the basic right of the American people top live their lives according to their conscience without fear of reprisal.

Full remarks are below, or watch online here.

“I thank the gentlelady for yielding. Before I begin, I do want to thank Congressman John Fleming (LA-04), and I want to thank Congresswoman Diane Black (TN-06). You know, before we come here as Members of Congress we have occupations before. John Fleming happens to be a doctor. Diane Black started out as a nurse and is still a nurse. Her decades of experience—especially within this issue—is what drives her and her work to make it here today.

“Now, Madame Speaker, I want to be explicitly clear to remove any confusion about what this legislation is and why we are voting on it today. This bill is not about abortion. Now, I am profoundly pro-life, and I don’t hide it. But this bill isn’t about that. It’s about respecting people with different opinions and letting them live their lives without the fear of punishment.

“Now, I’m not asking people to change their closely held beliefs today. Madame Speaker, after all, every law on the books governing abortion before this bill will remain exactly the same after this bill is passed. The message is more fundamental: Don’t force those who are deeply and morally opposed to something to fund it, support it, or perform it.

“We all know America is unlike any other place. You know in America we have Amish farmers, modern artists, stock market analysts, teachers, oil rig workers. We have the left and the right, Republican and Democrat, and every single one is just as American as the other.

“It’s not easy to make this crazy experiment called America work. But we do because we respect that people may live in ways that we don’t approve and have opinions that we can’t stand, and they are still our neighbors. This mutual respect is the lifeblood of a free society.

“Now, there are millions of people in this country—a majority in fact—who are pro-life. That belief is intimately tied to our love of others and respect for human dignity. But many pro-life Americans face a choice no person should face: Do they violate their conscience or violate the law? Do they do something they think is wrong, or do they lose their jobs?

“A nurse in New York was told she had to participate in an abortion even though she objected. Her supervisor told her if she didn’t, she could be fired and even lose her nursing license. Now, in my home state of California, a mandate forces pro-life individuals and churches to pay for insurance plans covering the procedure, even if it violates their deeply held beliefs. Now, that mandate flies directly in the face of the Weldon Amendment that protects conscience rights, something this Congress has approved time and again for decades. 

“This mandate was challenged at the Department of Health and Human Services. They rejected the complaint. So I met with Secretary Burwell and many of our colleagues to ask how could this happen. How could a state force people to violate their beliefs? And I would tell you during that meeting, and the members that were there too, we don’t have an answer to our question.

“But Madame Speaker, why is this even a debate? Why would this Administration want to force someone to violate their conscience? As President Obama himself said early in his Presidency, and I quote, “Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion.” I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. 

Voting for this bill isn’t voting against abortion. It’s voting against compulsion. It’s voting to reaffirm that mutual respect is necessary for a free society, and only with that respect can America live in the liberty we have so long enjoyed.

“I yield back.”

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