The Department of Health and Human Services on Friday set the stage for a massive showdown between the federal government of the United States and American Christians who believe the government has no right to force them to act against their faith by mandating that they buy, provide or facilitate health-care coverage that includes sterilizations, contraception, or abortion-inducing drugs.
HHS released a new proposed regulation under the Obamacare law that the department presented as an accommodation to religious “organizations” that object to providing sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans. However, the proposal does not truly expand the exceedingly narrow religious exemption presented in the initial regulation, which was finalized last year, and continues to offer no exemption at all to Christian individuals or business owners.
“There really is no expansion of the religious exemption,” said Leonard Leo, a Washington attorney, who is a board member of The Catholic Association, a group of Catholic lay persons dedicated to applying the teachings and principles of the church to the issues of the day.
"The HHS mandate announcement today changes nothing, it is just another accounting gimmick and the HHS mandate continues to be a violation of civil rights, religious freedom and First Amendment rights,” said Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor to The Catholic Association. “Catholic institutions and other faith based organizations, including hospitals and universities and private employers, still do not get their First Amendment rights back and are still being forced to either violate their faith or pay crippling government fines for practicing their faith."
The original regulation, finalized by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelisu in January 2012, said virtually all health care plans in the United States must provide all women of child-bearing age with cost-free coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.
The Catholic Church holds that all three of these things are intrinsically immoral and that Catholics cannot be involved in them. Many Christians of other denominations object to the fact that the regulation requires coverage for abortion-inducing drugs.
The original regulation provided an exemption that applied only to houses of worship themselves and their immediate auxiliaries. To qualify, an institution needed to meet four criteria:1) It needed to be organized under the section of the Internal Revenue Code used by churches per se, 2) be primarily employed in the inculcation of religious tenets, 3) employ primarily people of its own faith, and 4) serve primarily people of its own faith.
This exemption did not extend to Catholic charities, hospitals and schools.
The original regulation also offered no conscience exemption at all to individual employees or business owners. Thus, Catholics and other Christians who objected to sterilizations, artificial contraception and abortion would be forced by the government to buy and/or provide health care plans that covered these things, paid for these things, and facilitated these things.
On June 13, the Catholic bishops of the United States unanimously adopted a statement calling the regulation an “unjust and illegal mandate.” The unanimous Catholic bishops said that the regulation not only would violate the free exercise of religion of Catholic institutions by forcing those institutions to act against the teachings of the Catholic faith, but also would violate the rights of individual Catholic workers and business owners.
“The HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values,” said the unanimous Catholic bishops. “They, too, face a government mandate to aid in providing ‘services’ contrary to those values—whether in their sponsoring of, and payment for,insurance as employers; their payment of insurance premiums as employees; or as insurers themselves—without even the semblance of an exemption.”
Around the country, more than 40 lawsuits were filed against the regulations. Plaintiffs ranged from the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.; to the EWTN television channel; to Hercules Industries, a heating and air-conditioning company owned by a Catholic family; to Hobby Lobby, a retail chain owned by a Christian family.
The new proposed regulation redefines a “religious employer” to mean only those institutions organized under the Internal Revenue Code section used by houses of worship. “The Department believes that this proposal would not expand the universe of employer plans that would qualify for the exemption beyond that which was intended in the 2012 final rules,” said a statement HHS released Friday.
Additionally, the regulation says that when a non-profit that “holds itself out as a religious organization” buys a health-care plan for its employees, the insurance company would have to set up a separate plan that it provides to those employees free of charge and that gives the employees free sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.
When a non-profit that “holds itself out as a religious organization” is self-insured, the third-party administrator would be required to work with a health insurance provider to have that provider create a free policy that gives the covered employees free sterilizations, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.
When providing their employees with a health-care plan, these religious non-profits would be required by the government to trigger the provision of free abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations to their employees and an insurance provider who would be forced by the government to provide those things for free.
After HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finalized the original regulation in January 2012, many of the Catholic bishops of the United States had the priests of their diocese read a letter to their parishoners from the pulpit. In this letter, the bishops said: "We cannot--we will not--comply with this unjust law."
This is outrageous. No matter what our religious affiliation or whether we have one or not, we need to support the Catholic Church in this as if we don't our right to religious freedom will be eroded, just as if we don't stand firm on the issue of banning guns our right to own and bear arms will be eroded.
This is the Obama Administration and the Liberal Democrats attempt to rewrite or nullify our very Consitution, starting with the Bill of Rights.
What is doubly difficult in this is that there is a definite separation of Church and State and Obama and his Administration are violating that and this can't happen. The liberals were up in arms about Romney's LDS (Mormon) faith and how they felt he would not be able to separate his beliefs from his administrative duties as president. Well, regardless of Obama's religious beliefs (Christian as he maintains, Muslim as he has admitted to being, or even non-belief or atheism) all of this has to be separated from his administrative duties and the Democrats are not stopping him from this; to impose this law is giving the government jurisdiction over religious doctrine; there is no separation.
As for me, I stand with the Catholic Church on this one just as I stand with the NRA and my fellow gun owners regarding the ban on guns. There is enough proof now that the government doesn't know an assault weapon from ..... will leave it there. Further, religious belief takes precidence over a government mandate that goes against this belief. For those that work for the Catholic Church and want free contraceptives, abortions, etc., they can find another job or accept the Church's stand supporting their beliefs.
It is really simple, no one, including the Catholic Church, demands that a person as to be a Catholic nor accept their doctrine. You don't even have to do this to attend Mass or enroll your children in their Parochial schools. However, if you join the Church, which is of your own free will, you are expected to adhere to the doctrine of the Church. Therefore, the government has to realize that anyone that works for the Church, has also agreed to accept the doctrine of the Church in that they have to accept the fact that the Church does not condone abortion. So, with that in mind, you would have a choice, pay for your own insurance which would pay for this, or accept the insurance that the Church provides that does not cover abortions, or final choice, find another job with an employer that will cover it through their insurance. Very simple. The Church does not make you join, they do not make you work for them; accept their conditions for employment or go somewhere else.
This goes even deeper; the government does not have the right to regulate what a business owner does or doesn't do regarding the running of their company, the type of insurance they provide their employees, who pays for the insurance coverage, etc. I believe Romney was right, let the States deal with employment issues, the laws regarding business policies such as working conditions, etc. The Federal Government has to get out of these issues; smaller government is critical to the best interests of the citizens of this Country.