February 29, 2012

Manchin Statement Supporting Religious Liberty

Manchin to vote for ‘Respect Rights of Conscience Act’

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) issued the following statement announcing that he will vote in favor of a Senate measure to protect religious liberty. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) offered the amendment to the transportation bill.
“When I was Governor of West Virginia, we achieved a commonsense balance between women’s access to medical care and free expression of religion. As this debate moves forward, I would hope that the President and this Congress look to West Virginia as a model,” Senator Manchin said. “While I would have preferred that both sides would have come together around a solution like we had in West Virginia, I am voting in favor of this measure to protect the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Well-intentioned people on both sides of this issue can respectfully disagree, but for me this comes down to our religious liberties. I truly believe that we must safeguard Americans’ right to exercise their sincerely held religious views, and I support this measure to protect that freedom of conscience.”
Background on provisions to protect women’s health:

  • The Blunt conscience amendment would not impact existing state laws. A West Virginia law enacted in 2005 by then-Gov. Manchin protects women’s access to contraceptive services while guaranteeing religious freedom for employers or institutions that object to such services. (H.B. 3138 http://www.legis.state.wv.us/Bill_Status/bills_text.cfm?billdoc=HB3138%20eng.htm&yr=2005&sesstype=RS&i=3138)
  • West Virginia law also protects access and requires coverage for primary and preventative obstetrical and gynecological services, immunizations, mental health care, cervical cancer screenings, colorectal screenings, mammograms, mastectomies, and prostate cancer screenings. 

  • If an employer has a religious or moral objection to a type of coverage, the Blunt conscience measure affords them the same rights that they had before the Affordable Care Act to negotiate a plan with a health insurance company that meets their needs.

  • The Blunt conscience amendment provides a legal remedy (called a private right of action) for employers and individuals who believe their First Amendment rights have been violated by the government. The federal courts are well equipped to identify false or illegitimate claims.