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USCCB attorneys foresee legal action against ‘unjust and unlawful’ HHS mandate

Catholic World News - May 16, 2012

Attorneys for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reiterated that the HHS mandate “accommodation” offered to some religious employers is morally objectionable.

Responding to the Department of Health and Human Services’ request for public comment on the “accommodation,” the USCCB’s general counsel and associate general counsel stated that

the final rule continues to keep in place a regulation that defines as “preventive health care” drugs, devices, and procedures that render a woman temporarily or permanently infertile, and that may be associated with serious adverse health outcomes. We believe that this mandate is unjust and unlawful—it is bad health policy, and because it entails an element of government coercion against conscience, it creates a religious freedom problem. These moral and legal problems are compounded by an extremely narrow exemption that intrusively and unlawfully carves up the religious community into those that are deemed “religious enough” for an exemption, and those that are not.

Now, the ANPRM [Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking] has invited comment on a promised future “accommodation” for some (but not all) non-exempt religious organizations—an “accommodation” that would still leave their plan premiums or plans (or both) as the source or conduit for the objectionable “services.” But the use of premiums and plans for that purpose is precisely what is morally objectionable, and having an insurer or third party administer the payments does not overcome the moral objection.

“We are convinced that no public good is served by this unprecedented nationwide mandate, and that forcing individual and institutional stakeholders to sponsor and subsidize an otherwise widely available product over their religious and moral objections serves no legitimate, let alone compelling, government interest,” the attorneys added. “Indeed, as stated in our August 2011 comments, such coercion is a serious violation of federal statutory and constitutional guarantees of religious liberty and rights of conscience.”

“Absent prompt congressional attention to this infringement on fundamental civil liberties, we believe the only remaining recourse, in light of the approaching regulatory deadlines, is in the courts.”

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