Democrats protest religious freedom hearing



WASHINGTON (AP) — Religious leaders are telling a house panel the Obama administration disregarded basic rights to religious freedom in setting policies for access to birth control insurance for employees of religious-affiliated institutions.

Democrats on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee protested Thursday’s hearing on Capitol Hill, saying they weren’t allowed to introduce witnesses who might support the administration stance or speak up for the rights of women to reproductive health coverage.

The hearing comes a week after President Barack Obama announced a change in a politically charged ruling that health insurance plans offered by religious-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and universities must include free birth control coverage.

Obama then shifted the burden of paying for such coverage to insurance companies.

The religious leaders said Thursday the compromise still violates religious freedom.