Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Dual-Edged Sword of Religious Exemptions

The First Amendment of the US Constitution reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

Along comes the health care bill.  All US citizens must purchase health insurance or else pay a significant penalty for not doing so.

Here is the penalty:

‘‘(a) TAX IMPOSED.—In the case of any individual who does not meet the requirements of subsection (d) at any time during the taxable year, there is hereby imposed a tax equal to 2.5 percent of the excess of—

(1) the taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income for the taxable year, over

(2) the amount of gross income specified in section 6012(a)(1) with respect to the taxpayer. . . .”

There are exceptions. Certain people with religious objections would not have to get health insurance. Nor would American Indians, illegal immigrants, or people in prison.

Let’s look more closely at the religious exemption:


(A) IN GENERAL- Subsection (a) shall not apply to any individual (and any qualifying child residing with such individual) for any period if such individual has in effect an exemption which certifies that such individual is a member of a recognized religious sect or division thereof described in section 1402(g)(1) and an adherent of established tenets or teachings of such sect or division as described in such section.

Any individual may file an application (in such form and manner, and with such official, as may be prescribed by regulations under this chapter) for an exemption from the tax imposed by this chapter if he is a member of a recognized religious sect or division thereof and is an adherent of established tenets or teachings of such sect or division by reason of which he is conscientiously opposed to acceptance of the benefits of any private or public insurance which makes payments in the event of death, disability, old-age, or retirement or makes payments toward the cost of, or provides services for, medical care (including the benefits of any insurance system established by the Social Security Act). Such exemption may be granted only if the application contains or is accompanied by -

(A) such evidence of such individual's membership in, and adherence to the tenets or teachings of, the sect or division thereof as the Secretary may require for purposes of determining such individual's compliance with the preceding sentence, and

(B) his waiver of all benefits and other payments under titles II and XVIII of the Social Security Act on the basis of his wages and self-employment income as well as all such benefits and other payments to him on the basis of the wages and self-employment income of any other person, and only if the Commissioner of Social Security finds that -

(C) such sect or division thereof has the established tenets or teachings referred to in the preceding sentence,

(D) it is the practice, and has been for a period of time which he deems to be substantial, for members of such sect or division thereof to make provision for their dependent members which in his judgment is reasonable in view of their general level of living, and

(E) such sect or division thereof has been in existence at all times since December 31, 1950.

Translated, those “exemption” provisions mean if you are a mainstream Christian, Jew, or atheist, you need not apply to opt out of this socialist legislation.  The exemption will apply only to those of the following faiths who have a conscientious objection to health insurance:

It is interesting to note the religions that are credited with lobbying Congress to be exempted were the Christian Scientists and Amish.

How many in each of these exempted religions stand to be beneficiaries of this exemption?   Common estimates are:

  • Scientologists:  Fewer than 80,000
  • Christian Scientists: Fewer than 400,000
  • Amish:  Around 230,000
  • Muslims:  2 to 3 million.

Who is the biggest beneficiary of this exemption?  The “no establishment of religion” clause is indeed a double-edged sword!  Muslims well know about double-edged swords and how to benefit, both literally and figuratively.  Obama can certainly relate to that given his affinity to Islam. 

Is this outcome by design or merely happenstance?  Do you believe in coincidences?  One thing is certain, the more government meddles in the details of life, the greater the likelihood of inequalities created by the law of unintended consequences or by the intentions of those acting behind the curtain.

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