Bishops Urge Action On Mandate
Special Report - August 8, 2012
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is urging Congress to pass legislation this year to address religious liberty concerns with the federal government’s contraceptive mandate in the healthcare reform law that took effect last week. In an August 3 letter addressed to U.S. House and Senate leaders, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, described the mandate as an “unprecedented and misguided federal policy.” The mandate requires most public and private health insurance plans to include coverage for “all FDA-approved contraceptives” beginning August 1. It includes a narrow exemption for churches and synagogues, and gives certain religious employers that qualify, such as religious hospitals, one year to comply.
“[D]espite widespread opposition to this coercive policy by religious organizations, lawmakers and the general public, Congress has still taken no action to counter it,” Cardinal DiNardo wrote. “The time for such action is, to say the least, overdue.” He mentioned recent legislative attempts in Congress to take “corrective” action on the mandate, including an attempt in the House to attach a measure to the Labor/HHS appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2013. However, DiNardo explains that “it now seems this legislation will not be considered until next March, months after the mandate has been imposed on most employers.”
“Through this mandate, the Administration is promoting an approach to religious freedom that is more grudging and arbitrary than any yet seen in federal law,” DiNardo writes in the letter. He warns of the negative impact of the mandate on a “third group of employees,” specifically “devout individuals and families who own and operate businesses, who without any word of protest from employees have been offering health coverage that does not violate their moral convictions.” According to the DiNardo, “their longtime practice will be contrary to federal law, punished by a tax of $100 a day per employee and other penalties.” He goes on to point out that, “Four of the pending law suits against the contraceptive mandate represent Catholic business owners of this kind in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Michigan.”
In related news, at least one Catholic group has publicly announced its intentions to defy the government’s contraceptive mandate, in addition to filing a federal lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services over the requirements. On August 1, Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, a pro-life Catholic group, told LifeNews.com that his organization, which he says does not qualify for the narrow exemption in the mandate, will not comply with the requirement to provide contraception coverage to its employees. In an August 1 memo to Priests for Life employees and consultants, Father Pavone wrote that, “In order to avoid the slightest semblance of scandal, or compromise of our principles, and lest any employee should imagine that we would ever consent to provide coverage for actions that destroy human life, I want to make it clear to you today that we will disobey this mandate.”
Father Pavone continued in the memo, “Neither Priests for Life as an organization, nor any one of our administrative team or Board of Directors, nor I personally, consent to provide, pay for, advocate, counsel, refer, or in any way tolerate or cooperate with any process, plan, exchange of money or services, or any other activity that would enable a person to engage in the use of abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, or sterilization.” He urged Priests for Life employees to “stand together in resisting” the mandate, and expressed his hope that the organization’s lawsuit, Priests for Life v. Sebelius, will prevail in the courts.
Contraception Mandate Briefly Halted - July 31, 2012
Belmont Mandate Lawsuit Dismissed - July 23, 2012
More Oppose Contraceptive Mandate - June 19, 2012
43 Catholic Groups Challenge Mandate - May 23, 2012
HHS Rule Requires Abortion Mandate - March 20, 2012
Majority Oppose Contraceptive Mandate - March 16, 2012
Seven States Challenge Contraceptive Mandate - February 27, 2012
Insurance "Accommodation" Unsatisfactory - February 15, 2012
Religious Leaders Oppose Mandate - January 31, 2012
Feds Keep Contraceptive Mandate - January 23, 2012
Evangelical College Joins Contraceptive Challenge - December 29, 2011
College Challenges Contraceptive Mandate - November 14, 2011
Administration Requires Free Contraception- August 4, 2011
Becket Fund Defends Belmont Abbey - October 12, 2009
Federal Agency Mandates Abortion Coverage - August 17, 2009
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