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The national debate regarding religion and contraception made its way to Lancaster on Tuesday evening.
That’s where U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney spoke at a town hall meeting inside Stevens Auditorium at the University of South Carolina Lancaster. He’s been traveling throughout the state’s 5th Congressional District lately, updating constituents on federal affairs in Washington, D.C.
Mulvaney, a first-term Republican congressman from Indian Land, began his presentation Tuesday with multi-media slides that touched on the nation’s tax structure and current unemployment figures.
However, things became more interesting toward the end of the event, when attendees were able to ask questions.
A woman, who said she lives in Sun City Carolina Lakes in Indian Land, took Mulvaney to task on several issues, including the ongoing debate about President Barack Obama’s policy on employer-provided birth-control coverage.
Opponents say religious freedoms are being violated if a group with religious objections to birth control is required to provide the coverage. Catholic-based institutions have been used widely as examples during the debate.
A little earlier Tuesday, when asked about his passions, Mulvaney brought up the issue.
He doesn’t feel Catholic hospitals, Methodist universities or Jewish charities, for instance, should be required to provide birth-control pills, “morning-after” pills or sterilization services.
“There’s a reason the First Amendment is the first amendment,” Mulvaney said, referencing the freedom-of-religion inclusion to the U.S. Constitution.
Mulvaney, who is Catholic, said that if he ran a business today, he would take issue with the policy.
“It’s absolutely, positively wrong,” he said. “This law would require me to violate my own religious principles.”
The woman described a hypothetical scenario that required a woman to use a contraceptive as a method for cancer treatment. She asked Mulvaney would he then agree to provide the coverage to employees.
Mulvaney said women should be free to use contraceptives, though he still doesn’t agree that a religious-based group should be mandated to offer them as part of their health coverage.
“I think we’re going to disagree on this,” Mulvaney said.
When asked later by The Lancaster News, the woman did not want to give her name.
Earlier, Mulvaney spoke at length about taxes and jobs.
He displayed a chart indicating that the wealthiest 1 percent in the United States make 19 percent of the money and pay 37 percent of the taxes. Those statistics were shared to oppose the belief that the richest Americans should pay more taxes.
The congressman disputed the national unemployment rate, which now sits between 8 and 9 percent.
When you factor in the people who have simply stopped looking for work, the unemployment rate is truly more like 15 percent, he said.
“People just give up. They drop out of the system,” Mulvaney said. “The 15 percent is a more accurate number of what we deal with every day.”
Though he said the economy is “doing better,” he adds that it will take the creation of 250,000 new jobs a month to get the country back to pre-recession levels.
Mulvaney later touched on Social Security and Medicare. It’s estimated that the former will run out in 27 years and the latter will be exhausted in just nine years.
“They are what drive the deficits,” he said.
Mulvaney said entitlement reform is needed, though Democrats will have to lead that effort. If Republicans do so, they will be accused of undermining safety nets, he said.
Likewise, Mulvaney believes Republicans will have to restructure military spending. If Democrats take the lead, they will be accused of being weak on defense, he said.
Kathy Thomas drove from Rock Hill to hear Mulvaney speak Tuesday evening.
She took notes throughout his presentation and appeared engaged the entire time, audibly reacting to some of the comments shared.
Thomas later said the congressman didn’t say anything that surprised her.
“His ideology is different from mine,” said Thomas, who believes it takes both tax cuts and spending to strengthen the economy. “I just have different opinions on how things should be fixed.”
Lancaster resident Tony Adams, a Mulvaney supporter, said he was glad to be in attendance.
“I learned a lot about Washington tonight,” Adams said. “I didn't take my eye off him.”
Scott gru-Bell, who considers himself politically neutral, said he wants honest leaders who have a clear vision for the country. He wishes Mulvaney and other lawmakers would focus less on party politics.
“I want good government, not ideological partisanship,” said gru-Bell, a Fort Mill resident.
“This is going to turn into anarchy, then mobocracy and finally dictatorship,” he said. “I don’t want that.”
Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152