A bill designed to protect the religious freedom of schools, businesses, charities, health care providers, and other religious organizations has been introduced in the Senate.

The Health Care Conscience Rights Act, introduced by Republican Senator James Lankford along with 13 other Senators on Tuesday, would allow for religious institutions to be exempt from having to provide employees with health insurance coverage that they find burdensome on their moral and/or religious beliefs which they are required to provide under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate.

“It is possible for people with opposing views to live together in peace, but we all must respect our different beliefs. The federal government should respect freedom and conscience rights for everyone; this bill would assure that happens,” said Lankford in a statement to the Daily Signal.

The bill would ban the government from imposing punishments on religious institutions that refuse to comply with the contraception mandate due to religious or moral convictions. It would also prohibit discrimination by federal, state, or local governments toward any religious institution on the basis that it does not provide morally objectionable contraception. Should a government violate the legislation, the bill creates a cause of action and gives federal courts the ability to issue "injunctions and orders preventing the disbursement of all or a portion of federal financial assistance until the prohibited conduct has ceased,” according to Christian Post.

“Our nation is divided on various issues, but the fabric of America is built on the First Amendment rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion. This should be something we all agree on,” Lankford said in a statement.

The introduction of the bill comes less than a month after a federal court ruled against 4 Christian schools in Oklahoma and Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order of nuns that provide service to the elderly, requiring that they obey the contraception mandate.

In the ruling, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals asserted that the ACA mandate allows religious institutions to exempt themselves as long as they notify the the Department of Health and Human Services that will work with insurance companies or third-party service providers to provide contraception to employees working under religious organizations.

Little Sisters of the Poor argued that the act of opting out from the mandate still forces them to take part in activities that they find burdens their religious freedom.

"The court is wrong to punish people of faith for making decisions consistent with that faith," Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Gregory Baylor said in a statement after the ruling against the Oklahoma colleges. "The government should not force religious organizations to be involved in providing abortion pills to their employees or students.

Republican Representatives Diane Black of Tennessee, Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, and John Fleming of Louisiana introduced a similar bill in the House in February.

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