Poll: Americans Support Religious Exemption for HHS Mandate

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 5, 2012   |   12:57PM   |   Washington, DC

A new Rasmussen Reports poll shows Americans narrowly support allowing businesses and religious organizations to opt out of the controversial HHS mandate that compels them to pay for birth control and drugs that may cause abortions.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 46% of Likely U.S. Voters feel that if providing such coverage violates the deeply held beliefs of a church, religious organization or business owner, they should be allowed to opt out of providing coverage for contraceptives.

On the flip side, 41 percent of voters disagree and oppose anyone being allowed to opt out for religious reasons. Twelve percent (12%) are undecided.

“Most voters who rarely or never attend religious services oppose a religious exemption. Those who regularly attend services are strongly in favor of an opting-out provision,” Rasmussen reports. “Male voters by a 48% to 39% margin believe opting-out should be allowed. Female voters are evenly divided. Most voters under 40 oppose letting a church, religious organization or business owner opt of the contraceptive mandate because of religious beliefs. Most voters 40 and over support opting-out.”

Not surprisingly, there’s a wide partisan gap on this issue. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of Republicans believe opting-out of the contraceptive requirement should be allowed on religious grounds, but 62% of Democrats disagree. Voters not affiliated with either party essentially break even on the issue.

In early February, just after the administration’s mandate was announced, 39% of voters agreed that the government should require a church or religious organization to provide contraceptives for women even if it violates their deeply held beliefs. But 50% opposed such a requirement that runs contrary to strong beliefs. That survey, however, did not include “business owners” which Rasmussen Reports added to the question following the federal appeals court ruling last month that halted enforcement of the mandate against a Missouri business that opposed the mandate.

“Voters tend to agree with the federal government setting standards for health insurance coverage but strongly believe individuals should have the right to choose reduced coverage if it saves them money,” Rasmussen said.

Seventy-three percent (73%) of Evangelical Christian voters and 58% of Catholics believe churches, religious organizations and business owners should be able to opt out of the contraceptive mandate if it violates their deeply held beliefs. Other Protestants are almost evenly divided. Fifty-six percent (56%) of other voters oppose allowing an opt-out for religious reasons.

In the appeals court case, the order, issued by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, puts the HHS mandate on hold pending the outcome of the appeals process, prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from requiring the business owner, who contends the mandate violates his constitutionally-protected religious beliefs, to comply with the mandate which requires employers to purchase health insurance for their employees that includes coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a pro-life legal organization that focuses on constitutional law, represents Frank R. O’Brien and O’Brien Industrial Holdings, LLC — a holding company based in St. Louis, Missouri, which operates a number of businesses that explore, mine, and process refractory and ceramic raw materials.

The lawsuit, which was filed in March 2012, marked the first legal challenge to the HHS mandate from a private business owner and his company. Until the suit was filed, only religious organizations or institutions brought lawsuits challenging the mandate.

In addition to the O’Brien case, the ACLJ has filed two other direct challenges to the HHS mandate and filed amicus briefs backing other challenges in more than a dozen cases.

The Supreme Court has ordered a federal appeals court to take a new look at the controversial Obamacare law and whether it unconstitutionally forces taxpayers to fund abortions and birth control, violating religious freedoms. The high court is ultimately expected to resolve the debate over the HHS mandate.

On the Friday before Thanksgiving, a federal district court judge in Chicago issued a preliminary injunction requested by the religious publisher Tyndale House in its challenge to the mandate. HHS has denied Tyndale House’s request for an exemption, saying that it didn’t meet the government’s definition of a “religious employer” because it operates as a “for-profit” business.



But while Tyndale House won an important victory, at the same time the owners of Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts store chain, were losing their challenge to the HHS mandate in Oklahoma City. Like other challengers, they said that paying for such coverage violated their religious beliefs.

The Rasmussen survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on December 2-3, 2012 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.