The Christian Legal Society is deeply troubled by the Administration’s refusal to reconsider its policy to coerce faith-based institutions to pay for abortion-inducing drugs. Quite simply, the Administration’s deliberate indifference to Americans’ religious liberty is staggering.
Under the new health care law, the federal government mandates that all employers’ insurance plans include coverage of “preventive services.” On August 3, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services explicitly broadened “preventive services” to include mandated coverage of contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs.
The Administration’s regulation includes a curious “religious exemption” – curious because it protects almost no religious institution. Faith-based institutions are covered only if they inculcate religious values, hire only members of their faith, and serve only members of their faith. Obviously, no hospitals, homeless shelters, or international aid groups need apply. Religious colleges may claim the exemption only if they restrict enrollment to students of one faith.
On August 26 and, again on December 21, in alliance with numerous Jewish and Protestant organizations, CLS petitioned the President to re-think such a potent restriction on a long recognized religious liberty. This Alice-in-Wonderland initiative may serve as the template for future de facto gutting of federal and state exemptions in other areas as well.
Rebuffing the religious community’s requests, the Administration instead repeated that religious groups must fall in line or suffer the consequences. To add insult to injury, the Administration delayed the compliance deadline a year – until after the election – as if a year of soul-searching will persuade religious groups to recant.
Unless it is intentionally seeking to deceive the public, why does the Administration bother to offer any religious exemption at all? Either no religious conscience issue exists, and everyone must march in lockstep, or a religious conscience issue exists, and the government must provide a good-faith exemption. But the Administration takes the worst path imaginable: it recognizes a significant conscience issue exists, but then effectively precludes any religious organization that seeks to serve others from preserving fundamental rights of conscience even among its own staff.
This is not a Catholic issue, or a women’s issue, or even a political issue. The issue is whether American pluralism will survive. The Administration seeks to broaden control over the health care of every American worker and redefine “religion” so narrowly that, in the end, there is no exemption at all. In a country founded and constantly replenished by immigrants seeking religious freedom, religious conscience must be respected.
Thank you for your support that makes it possible for CLS to be a responsible voice to the executive branch on behalf of religious liberty and life.
The Christian Legal Society is a nationwide association of Christian attorneys, law students, and law professors. www.clsnet.org