The upshot of all this legalese is that the law sets the bar for eligibility for a religious exemption quite high. According to a 2009 report on MSNBC.com, this language was originally meant to apply mainly to one religious group, the Old Order Amish, whose beliefs prohibit them from participating in public or commercial insurance. Members participate in a form of self-insurance per the language above requiring exempted sects "to make provision for their dependent members."
- Is it true that "Islam considers insurance to be 'gambling,' 'risk-taking,' and 'usury,' and is thus banned"?
Strictly speaking, yes. But there are exceptions, and health insurance appears to be one. "It is true, under common interpretations of Islamic law, that conventional insurance is forbidden," stated About.com's Guide to Islam Christine Huda Dodge in response to my query on the subject. "As [Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid] explains, many scholars point out that paying money for something, with no guarantee that you will ever benefit from it (i.e. you pay for health insurance coverage, and never get sick), involves a high ambiguity/risk and could theoretically be considered a form of gambling. The criticism is of the system itself, where the insured always seems to lose while the insurance companies get richer and charge higher premiums."
Some of the same Islamic sources allow for exceptions in cases where insurance is mandated by law, however. "If you are forced to take out insurance and there is an accident," notes Sheikh Al-Munajjid, "it is permissible for you to take from the insurance company the same amount as the payments you have made, but you should not take any more than that."
As Dodge points out, Muslims living as minorities and governed by secular law in non-Muslim countries often have to compromise and work within the limits imposed on them. "It seems to me that most American Muslims are resigned to certain insurances that are considered to be obligatory," she writes. "Car insurance, for example, is mandated by law. As far as I know, nobody has complained or petitioned for a religious exemption to car insurance. Health insurance is even more fundamental, as the health/life/death of one's self and family hangs in the balance. I am unaware of any attempts from within the Muslim community to avoid health insurance."
In point of fact, Muslim organizations such as The Islamic Society of North America and American Muslim Health Professionals lauded the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and voiced no objections to the mandated health insurance provision.
- Is it conceivable that strictly observant Muslims might be granted individual religious exemptions?
I'm no legal expert, but I'll venture to say that sure, it's conceivable provided such applicants are able to meet all the strict conditions set out above. It may be awhile before we know how that actually pans out, however, given that the provision mandating health insurance doesn't go into effect until 2014.
- If some Muslims are granted religious exemptions, would that mean "the ObamaCare bill is the establishment of Dhimmitude and Sharia Muslim diktat in the United States," as claimed in the email text?
No, that's an absurd and defamatory statement to make in a country where Muslims constitute a very small minority of the population and have historically complied with secular governance.
- Is it true, as the author of the text claims, that she, as a non-exempt Christian, "will have crippling IRS liens placed against all of my assets, including real estate, cattle, and even accounts receivables, and will face hard prison time because I refuse to buy insurance or pay the penalty tax"?
No. According to an analysis by The Journal of Accountancy, "The act specifies that liens and seizures are not authorized to enforce this penalty, and noncompliance will not be subject to criminal penalties."
Sources and further reading:
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010
Full text on U.S. Senate website
Internal Revenue Code of 1968, Section 1402: Definitions
Via Cornell University Law School
Health Bills Allow Some a Religious Exemption
CQ Politics (MSNBC.com), 3 August 2009
Health Care Reform Reshapes Tax Code
Journal of Accountancy, 1 April 2010
General information about the beliefs and practices of Islam
ISNA Welcomes the New Health Care Reform Law
Islamic Society of North America website, 23 March 2010
Last updated 08/29/11