By Greg Campbell
The long-awaited compromise by the Department of Human Health and Services fell flat Friday, as religious-affiliated organizations called the so-called compromise “radically inadequate” for addressing the concerns of organizations that have taken exception to the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare that calls for organizations to cover contraceptives, despite any potential moral objection to doing so.
On Friday, the Obama Administration unveiled their proposed solution to the controversial Obamacare mandates that lead to several legal battles as businesses and faith groups sued the federal government to avoid being required to cover contraceptives against their religious principles.
However, the proposed solutions largely fell flat with religious organizations as the proposed “accommodation” by the government provides exemptions for religious institutions and houses of worship such as churches, but does not address the concern felt by business owners who feel that the law infringes upon the free exercise of their religious beliefs.
“The focus upon churches and affiliated organizations is evident, but there is no mention of the debate that continues to surround religious companies that are owned by individuals with faith-based objections to providing contraceptives. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) released today simplifies the definition of a ‘religious employer.’ The new rules read:
The simple definition of ‘religious employer’ for purposes of the exemption would follow a section of the Internal Revenue Code, and would primarily include churches, other houses of worship, and their affiliated organizations, as defined by Section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii)
This proposed change is intended to clarify that a house of worship would not be excluded from the exemption because, for example, it provides charitable social services to persons of different religious faiths or employs persons of different religious faiths. The Departments believe 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…
‘Still unresolved is the issue of private employers who invoke a religious objection to providing insurance coverage for services they deem morally objectionable,’ Catholic League Bill Donohue said in a statement about the proposed changes. ‘Because the new rules have not been finalized, and there is an opportunity for further public discussion, more progress may yet be made.’”
Kyle Duncan, general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty who have represented several religious-affiliated schools in court, noted in a statement that the new rule, “does nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans.”
“The rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby are still being violated,” he said.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, the President of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, stated,
“Once again, President Obama’s so-called ‘compromise’ is unacceptable – religious and moral freedom is not up for negotiation. There must be no religious “test” by the government as to who, and what type of entities, are entitled to a conscience. We demand respect for non-religious entities such as the Susan B. Anthony List that recognize the taking of human life is the antithesis of health care. Government policy under our constitution, history and statutory law has recognized the right of citizens to be free from government compulsion of conscience on such fundamental matters. The only acceptable outcome is the complete repeal of the HHS mandate and the restoration of a thriving marketplace where Americans can choose health care coverage consistent with their beliefs.”
The national crafts chain Hobby Lobby has been particularly vocal about their opposition to providing contraceptive coverage. Their plea for protection from the mandate was denied by the Supreme Court and Hobby Lobby has stated that penalties for not complying with the law could be as much as $1.3 million per day.
It is still unclear whether or not the Obama Administration will further address the contraceptive mandate and provide relief for businesses and organizations who hold a moral objection to it.