Maggie Gallagher

On top of the financial penalty, the monks at Belmont Abbey (like hundreds of other religious schools, charities, hospitals and ministries) will have to deprive themselves and their employees of all insurance coverage as the cost of conscience.

They will not be allowed to go into the insurance market and pay for health care coverage their conscience can support, because the government will have made it illegal for health insurance companies to provide such coverage policies. There are very few crimes in this country for which the penalty is so severe.

The coercion involved is massive. It is inexplicable except as part of a deliberate plan by Obama to reduce religious influence in the public square -- to reduce the capacity of religious people to create institutions that stand up against government power.

Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George simply called it "theft."

As he was leaving the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Benjamin Franklin was famously asked by a woman what form of government our Founding Fathers had given us: "A Republic, madam," he replied. "If you can keep it."

he Senate vote on the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act is the first step in what must be a determined campaign to limit government and protect not only religious liberty, but liberty itself.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.