When the changes to the HHS Mandate were announced today, there seemed to be hope that the administration was taking action to preserve religious liberty.
Cardinal Dolan said he had to read the entire bill but it would come as a pleasant surprise. He expressed concern that private for-profit companies run by religious people would still be forced to violate their conscience in providing the mandated healthcare.
As it turns out, the changes are elaborate accounting tricks, only a bit more elaborate than the original accounting trick offered to religious people.
Check out the panel discussion on the Special Report this evening:
From today’s press release:
…The proposed rules lay out how non-profit religious organizations, such as non-profit religious hospitals or institutions of higher education, that object to contraception on religious grounds can receive an accommodation that provides their enrollees separate contraceptive coverage, and with no co-pays, but at no cost to the religious organization.
With respect to insured plans, including student health plans, these religious organizations would provide notice to their insurer. The insurer would then notify enrollees that it is providing them with no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies.
With respect to self-insured plans, as well as student health plans, these religious organizations would provide notice to their third party administrator. In turn, the third party administrator would work with an insurer to arrange no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies.
Insurers and third party administrators would work to ensure a seamless enrollment process. The proposed rules lay out how the costs of both the insurer and the third party administrator would be covered, without any charge to either the religious organization or the enrollees.
Additionally, the proposed rules simplify and clarify the definition of “religious employer” for purposes of the exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement. These employers, primarily houses of worship, can exclude contraception coverage from their health plans for their employees…
Pro-life groups find the rule with the changes unacceptable and have issued statements that the changes still violate the First Amendment. The rules leave out the many Americans and employers, such as Hobby Lobby, who would be forced to violate their core values.
Dr. Gene Rudd, Christian Medical Association Exec. VP, stated:
“The administration fails to understand that many employers and individual Americans, regardless of a religious label or not, maintain strong conscience objections to participating in any, way, shape or form in a plan that promotes pills that the FDA says can cause the demise of a living human embryo — a developing baby in her earliest stage.”
Dr. Stevens added, “It would appear that the administration is trying to diffuse the pressure from federal courts around the country by throwing a sop to religious groups. If administration officials think that this action will somehow cause us to back down and accept the terms of surrender, well, that’s just not going to happen. We all plan to stand united in the fight to ensure that everyone’s First Amendment freedoms of religion and conscience are protected.”
Senator Orrin Hatch said that a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decision requiring employers to provide health care services in violation of their faith should be overturned by the courts, because it violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that Hatch helped push through the Congress on a bipartisan basis.
“This is a sad day. Freedom of religion and the right of peoples of faith to be protected against government intrusion must be sacrosanct,” said Hatch. “Unfortunately, this White House doesn’t seem to believe in that Constitutional guarantee – forcing private companies to provide health care services in violation of their beliefs. I’m confident, however, that this misguided policy will be overturned by the courts as I believe it is in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
The lawsuits undertaken by the Beckett Fund on their behalf will continue.
What disturbs me the most is the government is deciding the definition of a religious organization, who are allowed to follow their religious convictions and under what circumstances they will be allowed to follow them.