Religious Leaders Oppose Mandate
Special Report - January 31, 2012
A host of Christian leaders and universities are resisting the Obama Administration’s announcement that nearly all employers, including religious universities and hospitals, will be required to provide health plans to employees that include coverage for contraceptive and sterilization services. As we previously reported, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced on January 20 that certified religious nonprofit employers have until August 2013 to amend their health plans to meet the new requirements. A very narrow definition of religious institutions that can be exempted from the rule beyond 2013 includes only those organizations “whose purpose is to instill religious values and that employ and serve only individuals of their same faith.” Two colleges, including Belmont Abbey near Charlotte, have filed lawsuits against the DHHS, challenging the contraceptive mandate. In addition, according to CatholicVote.org, nearly 100 Catholic bishops from 38 states plus the District of Columbia and Military Services are publicly opposing the mandate, including the Most Reverend Michael Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, and the Most Reverend Peter Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte.
On January 27, Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Jugis wrote to urge North Carolina Catholics to support H.R. 1179Respect for the Rights of Conscience Act to “correct the threats to religious liberty and rights of conscience posed by [the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act]” by ensuring that participants in the healthcare system “retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.” According to the Bishops, neither the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh nor the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte qualify as a “religious employer” that is exempted from the requirement to cover sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception in their healthcare plan. The Catholic Church opposes the use of sterilization, abortifiacients, and contraception on moral grounds.
In a letter to Catholics in eastern North Carolina on January 30, Bishop Burbidge framed the rule as a denial of “the fundamental freedom afforded to us by the Constitution of the United States, which secures our religious liberty. Under this directive, we will be compelled either to violate our conscience or to drop health coverage for our employees and then suffer penalties for doing so.”
In addition, on December 21, over 60 non-Catholic religious leaders wrote to President Obama to express “deep concern about the contraceptive mandate in the health insurance regulations, and about the ‘religious employer’ exemption that is so narrow that it does not protect most faith-based organizations.” The authors included leaders from the National Association of Evangelicals, Prison Fellowship Ministries, the Christian Legal Society, the American Center for Law & Justice, the Southern Baptist Convention, Focus on the Family, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, The General Council of the Assemblies of God, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/Hispanic Evangelical Association; the American Association of Christian Schools, The Wesleyan Church, and 30 Christian universities. The leaders wrote “specifically as organizations and leaders that are not part of the Catholic community … in solidarity, but separatelyto stress that religious organizations and leaders of other faiths are also deeply troubled by and opposed to the mandate and the narrow exemption.” The letter argued that the “current inaccurately narrow and practically inadequate definition of ‘religious employer’” hinders religious organizations’ desire to serve “the poor and needy in material ways [not confined] to prayer and religious teaching.”
Feds Keep Contraceptive Mandate - January 23, 2012
Evangelical College Joins Contraceptive Challenge - December 29, 2011
College Challenges Contraceptive Mandate - November 14, 2011
Administration Requires Free Contraception- August 4, 2011
Becket Fund Defends Belmont Abbey - October 12, 2009
Federal Agency Mandates Abortion Coverage - August 17, 2009
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