USCCB: conscience legislation needed to protect believers against new HHS ‘compromise’
February 18, 2013
The latest proposal offered by the Obama administration regarding the HHS mandate maintains a “coercive element,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said in a letter to members of the House of Representative.
“I fear that the federal government’s respect for believers and people of conscience no longer measures up to the treatment Americans have a right to expect from their elected representatives,” Archbishop Lori said as he called for the application of conscience-protection legislation to the HHS mandate.
While the new proposal “is unclear or incomplete on some points, three things seem clear,” said Archbishop Lori:
First, the Administration’s new definition of an exempt “religious employer” is briefer than its original four-part definition, but the Administration itself says it does not “expand the universe” of those who are exempt. It maintains the same unacceptable division between places of worship, and religious organizations that focus on putting faith into action by serving the needy.
Second, if a religious organization is not exempt, its insurance company or third-party administrator will impose the full mandate “automatically” on the organization’s employees and their female children, using the personal information that the employer had entrusted to them solely to provide a plan consistent with the organization’s faith. This part of the mandate, if adopted as a final rule, is expected to take effect by August 1 of this year.
Third, all other believers with an objection – individuals and families, nonprofit or for-profit organizations that are not explicitly religious, insurers, third-party administrators – will have the mandate imposed on them without any recourse, as has already begun to occur since August of last year. Their only relief at this point is from federal courts, many of which are granting preliminary injunctions against the mandate on religious freedom grounds.