Hundreds join together in the Pledge of Allegiance during a March 23 rally in downtown Phoenix. (J.D. Long-Garcia/CATHOLIC SUN).

Portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act violate religious freedom and rights of conscience, according Nikolas Nikas of the Bioethics Defense Fund.

While the United States Supreme Court weighs the constitutionality the health care reform measure, often referred to as Obamacare, Nikas made his case to Catholics across the Phoenix Diocese.

Nikas has spent the last several weeks traveling the diocese and educating Catholics about the intricacies of the health reform law. To begin with, he said, the law includes three mandates.

“We can agree to disagree on the minimum coverage mandate. If that were the only issue, I wouldn’t be here,” Nikas told about 250 people at Our Lady of Joy Parish April 18.

Nikas likened the administration’s health reform to a Russian nesting doll. His partner, Dorinda Bordlee, read the nearly 2,800 page law and discovered the Abortion Premium Mandate buried deep inside. “She ought to get a lifetime plenary indulgence for that,” Nikas quipped.

Technically, federal dollars won’t be used to pay for abortion — but up to 150 million employees could each contribute $1 monthly to the fund out of their own pockets, adding up to a staggering billion-dollar fund, all to pay for abortion.

Under the new health-care exchange, employees won’t know if the plan their employer offers includes the monthly contribution to the abortion fund until they enroll. And, they won’t be allowed to decline abortion coverage based on moral or religious objections.

The other aspect of the health reform act that Nikas said violates the religious liberty of Catholics is the Employer Mandate that requires employers to provide coverage for contraception.

“They picked a fight with the Catholic Church,” Nikas said. “Who else has a well-defined teaching on contraception?”

Catholics can agree to disagree on the merits of socialized medicine, Nikas said. “I’m not here about politics — this isn’t about Democrat or Republican — I’m here because of the profound effect on religious liberty. If Reagan or Bush were doing this, I’d be fighting it.”

Nikas and Bordlee filed a friends-of-the-court brief, or amici curiae, on behalf of six national pro-life, medical organizations, including the Catholic Medical Association.

The brief states at the outset that the health reform act “violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by effectively forcing millions of individuals to personally pay a separate abortion premium in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The Employer Mandate portion of the health reform act that requires employers to provide free contraception, Nikas said, reflects the culture of death. “We have a culture right now that says abortion and contraception are the most important things,” Nikas said. “Is pregnancy a disease? To them, it is.”

He said the Department of Health and Human Services has narrowly defined religious employers, who would be exempt from having to provide free contraception.

According to the mandate, Nikas said, religious employers must have the inculcation of their religious beliefs as their primary objective, and must primarily employ and serve people who share their religious beliefs.

“Who gets this exception?” Nikas asked the crowd rhetorically. “Bishops and priests. Jesus himself wouldn’t qualify.”

The violation of religious liberty inherent in portions of the health reform measure “needs to get out,” Nikas said. “This is a teachable moment.”

For more information or to read the amici curiae brief, visit To schedule a presentation by Nikas, contact him at