Lawmakers attempt to shield religious organizations from HHS mandate tax

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Republican congressmen will introduce the most recent attempt to take on the Obama administration’s contraception mandate on Tuesday evening.

The Religious Freedom Tax Repeal Act of 2012 seeks to prevent a punitive tax from being levied on religious institutions that do not comply with the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate that employer-provided health care plans include contraception coverage.

“What this legislation will do is repeal 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 insurance under the Affordable Health Care Act — also known as Obamacare — that violate their religious or moral views,” Wisconsin Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner, the legislation’s primary sponsor, explained at a Tuesday press conference.

“We’ve had an awful lot of debate on this subject since Obamacare was passed and since [Health and Human Services] Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius announced her mandates sometime in the fall of last year,” he continued. “What has not been discussed is the tax that is imposed upon those that fail to comply with that mandate, either through religious objections or moral grounds.”

The tax penalties are not pocket change. The Congressional Research Service reported in February that religious institutions that do not comply with the mandate would be hit with a $100 per day per employee fine — up to $36,000 per employee annually.

According to Sensenbrenner, religious employers with hundreds of employees could be fined millions of dollars each year.

“Obviously, if these taxes are levied and they are enforced, there will be no religious-affiliated institutions left in this country,” he said.

The bill’s primary co-sponsor, Tennessee Republican Rep. Diane Black, added that the tax represents a terrible dilemma for religious institutions.

“With the HHS mandate, the administration has set up an impossible choice for many religious affiliated institutions: Either violate the law and pay a tax, or violate your conscience,” Black added, according to National Review. “This means some of the most respected parochial schools, hospitals, soup kitchens and universities across our country will have to choose between violating their faith to keep their doors open or paying a potentially devastating tax.”

Update: Upon introduction, a little before 6:00 pm Tuesday, the bill had 57 original co-sponsors.

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