Since the announcement of the Department of Health and Human Services mandate that would force religious employers to violate their consciences and pay for abortion-causing drugs, sterilization and contraception, much misinformation has been bantered about regarding health care, Catholic Church teaching and the impact this new regulation will ultimately have.
On Feb. 10, the Obama Administration announced some “accommodations” to the original rule, but, by the end of the day, the original rule was published without change. Promises were made that more regulations might be developed, but the “accommodations,” if made, will still force religious employers to pay for abortion-causing drugs, sterilization and contraception – either directly or through money paid to an insurance company.
Further, the vast majority of Pennsylvania’s dioceses and Catholic Charities agencies are self-insured, meaning they are both the employer and insurer. Despite the fact that the Church raised this issue throughout the debate dating back to July 2011, the clear violation of conscience for self-insured religious institutions was not addressed in the “accommodations.” Therefore, most of Pennsylvania’s dioceses and Catholic Charities agencies will be required to directly pay for medications and procedures that violate their religious beliefs. The “accommodations” have changed nothing for them.
Fixes for this problem could come in the form of legislative correction via The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S 1467 and HR 1179), litigation that overturns the mandate or a change in the rule by HHS.
On March 1, a vote was taken on the “Blunt Amendment,” which contained the text of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. Both Sen. Toomey and Sen. Casey voted to uphold religious liberty. However, with a final vote of 51-48, the amendment did not pass. Next, HR 1179 will be considered in the House, and it already has nearly 220 co-sponsors. A strong vote in the House will help advance the cause of religious liberty. Please consider contacting Sen. Casey and Sen. Toomey to thank them for their vote, and contact your congressmen and women to ask for their support and co-sponsorship of HR 1179.
You can contact your legislator via www.pacatholic.org or by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.
Do not be confused: religious liberty now and for the future is at stake in this debate. Will you stand up for our First Amendment right to exercise freely our religion – both on Sundays at Mass AND the rest of the week?
Shea is Outreach Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.
* * * *
Update on Legislation
Both Sen. Toomey and Sen. Casey voted in favor of the Blunt Amendment, which mirrored the language in SB 1467. The final vote was 51-48. However, the amendment was ultimately tabled. The next vote will take place in the House of Representatives.
Pennsylvania Co-sponsors on the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act:
Sen. Pat Toomey
Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Allegheny, Butler, Beaver, Lawrence, Mercer, Westmoreland)
Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Columbia, Carbon, Monroe, Luzerne, Lackwanna)
Rep. Mark Critz (D-Allegheny, Armstrong, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, Westmoreland)
Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks, Montgomery, Philadelphia)
Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Berks, Chester, Lehigh, Montgomery)
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Armstrong, Butler, Crawford, Erie, Mercer, Venango, Warren)
Rep. Tom Marino (R–Bradford, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Pike, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Wayne, Wyoming)
Rep. Patrick Meehan (R–Delaware, Chester, Berks)
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Allegheny, Beaver, Washington, Westmoreland)
Rep. Todd Platts (R-Adams, Cumberland, York)
Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Bedford, Blair, Huntingdon, Fayette, Indiana, Perry, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Somerset, Cambria, Mifflin, Juniata)
Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Juniata, McKean, Mifflin, Potter, Clearfield, Crawford, Lycoming, Tioga, Warren, Venango)
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I believe a new movement for Religious liberty has begun in this nation. The HHS mandate was the line in the sand which began a national response! Now we need to use this new movement to win the fight for school choice. The education of our youth is the most important issue of our day next to abortion. We need to offer the youth the hope of Jesus Christ within the setting of an authentic Cahtholic Education. Why should we be doubly taxed? Why should our schools be devoid of faith? Haven’t we established atheism and secularism as this Country’s religion by eliminating the presence of faith in our children’s education? The public education system has become a tool to inculcate our children and future generations with an antireligious world view. Unacceptable! We need a virtuous citizenry to survive as a Country. School choice affords an opportunity for that to happen! Great analysis below!
HHS Mandate is Good News for School Choice
Posted on March 30th, 2012
by Jeryl Bier in All News, Education News, Government News, Presidential News, US News, US Politics, health
Read 238 times.
School choice and a government mandate regarding contraceptives may seem like an odd couple. However, several writers have recently paired the controversial Health and Human Services insurance mandates with past decisions about school choice or voucher programs, including David Brooks of the New York Times and Libby Sternberg at Hot Air. Religious institutions have gotten the short end of the stick in both cases, and somehow the First Amendment has failed to afford the protection it seems to promise.
The Obama administration has attempted to explain how the consciences of religious institutions and their members can remain clear even while the employees of those institutions are provided services by employer-paid health plans that violate the institutions’ religious beliefs. However, these tortured justifications have inadvertently opened a line of reasoning that could invalidate the objections that say that government-provided vouchers or scholarships amount to a violation of the establishment clause of the Constitution. The key part of the latest version of the proposed HHS rule reads as follows:
[T]he Departments intend to propose a requirement that health insurance issuers providing coverage for insured group health plans sponsored by such religious organizations assume the responsibility for the provision of contraceptive coverage without cost sharing to participants and beneficiaries covered under the plan, independent of the religious organization, as a means of meeting these goals.
The basic structure of the argument is this:
•A religious employer pays premiums to the insurance company for health insurance.
•The insurance company puts the money from the premiums in Account A.
•The insurance company takes money from Account B, which contains funds from a source other than the religious employer, and pays for the objectionable benefits for employees of the religious employer.
•The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion is intact.
The objection to school vouchers has been that government funds going to religious schools violates the separation of church and state and amounts to an establishment of religion. Using the Obama administration argument outlined above, the school voucher concept can now be freed from the entanglements of the religious issue:
•The government remits funds from a government-sponsored voucher program to a deserving recipient family.
•The family puts the money from the government in Account A.
•The family takes money from Account B, which contains funds from a source other than the government, and pays the tuition to the religious school.
•The First Amendment prohibition against the establishment of religion is intact.
Of course this sounds like a parody, and it would be were it not for the identical glorified money-laundering scheme that the HHS has proposed to resolve the religious objections to their health insurance mandate. In reality, the validity of the two issues has been flipped. School choice voucher programs are not a government establishment of religion, while the proposed HHS “compromise” truly does restrict religious freedom. But the silver-lining could be the exposure of the fallacy of both arguments; and the harder the Obama administration pushes its HHS “compromise,” the weaker its position against vouchers will become