The Obama administration announced today it will wait for a year (coincidentally until after the elections) before requiring religious organizations to comply with an Obamacare mandate that they provide coverage for contraception — including controversial drugs that can abort an early pregnancy.
This started with a decision by the Obama administration last summer listing the “preventive” services that must be covered by health plans under Obamacare without charge to patients, and the list included contraception.
This is another assault on the Constitution and the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called the federal regulation an “unprecedented threat to individual and institutional religious freedom.”
The Obamacare regulation gives faith-based institutions, like Catholic universities and hospitals, the choice of violating the fundamental tenets of their faith by covering the federally mandated coverage in their employee health plans, or of dropping health insurance for their employees — in which case they would be fined for violating the employer mandate.
This is an outrage. Belmont Abbey, a private Catholic college located in North Carolina, is being joined by several other universities in suing the government over the mandate. The administration gave religious organizations a very narrow exemption from the mandate, only if the group’s employees are primarily of one faith and primarily serve members of that faith.
Belmont Abbey says that Catholic universities that employ non-Catholic professors or Catholic hospitals that provide care to non-Catholics don’t qualify. Even Jesus wouldn’t qualify as religious under the regulation’s definition, the Bishops wrote in earlier comments about the rule!
USCBB president Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has established a Bishop’s committee on religious liberty, headed by Bridgeport, Ct., bishop William Lori. The committee is going to have a great deal of work to do in defending the faith against Obamacare’s many assaults.
As I told Kathryn Lopez for a recent article, there is a war on religion from the Left, and it is very dangerous to the institutions that make our civil society function.
The Catholic Church historically has been a vital part of the safety net — providing aid for the poor, care for the sick, shelter and food for the homeless, and care for mothers in need, as a few examples.
The health-care law threatens to tear gaping holes in that safety net by forcing Catholic health plans to cover contraception, by denying funds to Catholic adoption agencies, and ultimately by forcing taxpayers — including Catholics — to fund abortion.
This is dangerous to the very fabric of our society. It’s a crucial reason why the whole health law, with its centralized control over health-care decisions, must not stand.
Posted on National Review Online: The Corner, January 20, 2012.