WASHINGTON -- Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., on Thursday signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill that would grant religious exemptions to President Barack Obama's health care law.
If passed, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011 would grant an exemption for religious entities whose beliefs conflict with the health care law.
As it's currently written, the already-passed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would require institutions with religious affiliations -- such as some hospitals, universities, colleges, nursing homes and charities -- to cover contraception and sterilization services in their health insurance plans or face a financial penalty.
"This mandate effectively had the government telling us how we must practice -- or not practice -- our faith," Bishop David Zubick of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said in a statement. The bill, introduced in August by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has 21 cosponsors -- 20 of whom are Republicans. It is now being considered by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.