HHS decision an assault on religious freedom
Published on February 2nd, 2012
By Dennis Poust
Last month, the Obama administration rejected direct appeals from Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and announced that newly implemented regulations by the Department of Health and Human Services would NOT exempt religious ministries from a mandate requiring that contraceptive drugs and devices (birth control pill, IUD, “morning after pill,” etc.) and elective surgical sterilizations must be covered in all employee health insurance plans, without so much as a co-pay requirement.
The administration granted only a very narrow religious exemption. In effect, in order to be considered a religious organization, the employer must primarily serve people of the same faith and employ people of the same faith. Come again? Can the President and Washington bureaucrats have such a limited understanding of Catholicism and, indeed, Christianity, as to not understand that Jesus himself demanded that his followers care for the poor, the sick, the elderly, immigrants, vulnerable women and children, without regard for religious belief? Impossible. And, sadly, that leaves the only logical explanation being that the decision is a direct assault on our country’s guarantee of religious liberty in general, and on the Catholic Church in particular.
In New York and elsewhere, the Catholic Church and other religious faiths have been dealing with these kinds of assaults for years. In our state, for instance, the legislature passed a contraception mandate very similar to what the Obama administration just imposed on the rest of the country, although the New York law does not include sterilization. But we have always counted on the federal government to respect and defend the Constitution, even when the individual states may not. Now the federal government is going even further than New York and California has, and overruling the majority of states that have chosen to respect religious liberty with regard to health insurance mandates for proscribed services.
As Cardinal-designate Dolan forcefully said shortly after the announcement, “To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty.”
The U.S. Bishops have vowed to fight the ruling. An action alert by the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment urges support for a legislative remedy. Please take a moment to go HERE to email your U.S. senators and congressional representatives.