The headquarters of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is seen in Washington in this file photo. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Exemptions from certain requirements for contraceptive coverage in the Affordable Care Act will be broadened to include many more types of religious institutions and accommodate the needs of self-insured church entities.

A new set of proposed rules announced Feb. 1 by the Department of Health and Human Services appear to accommodate many of the objections raised by Catholic institutions, among others, that said the previous rules would force them to stop providing employee health insurance because the federal requirement to include contraceptive coverage violate their religious beliefs.

The expanded exemptions would cover religious institutions of higher education and charitable agencies that do not discriminate on the basis of religion as to whom they serve or employ.

The proposed rules specify, however, that no exemption will be given to “for-profit, secular employers.” Some for-profit entities such as Christian-owned toy retailer Hobby Lobby have sued the federal government over the contraceptive mandate, saying that it violates the religious beliefs of the owners and the faith-based company outlook, and so they should be entitled to a religious exemption.

A brief statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the conference welcomed “the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.”

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(CatholicPhilly.com will update this story as new information emerges.)