The Obama Administration’s war on religion continues unabated.
From Catholic News Agency:
Obama administration announces new HHS mandate rules
Washington D.C., Aug 22, 2014 / 10:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Department of Health and Human Services issued on Friday new rules regarding its contraception mandate, after the Supreme Court ruled against its application to certain companies this summer.
The rules create a new way for non-profit groups to state their objections to the required coverage, prompting their insurance company to pay for their employees’ contraceptives. For closely held for-profit companies such as Hobby Lobby, the federal department said it is asking for ideas on how to extend the same accommodation being offered to non-profits.
Friday’s news rules deal with the federal contraception mandate – issued under the 2010 Affordable Care Act – which requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.
The mandate has been met with controversy since its introduction, leading to more than 300 lawsuits from individuals and groups who say that it forces them to violate their religious beliefs.
For non-profits, the newly-issued rules “lay out an additional way for organizations eligible for an accommodation to provide notice of their religious objection to providing coverage for contraceptive services,” the Health and Human Services department stated Aug. 22.
Previously, religious groups were instructed to sign a form voicing their objection to the coverage, which would authorize their insurer or a third-party administrator to pay for the products.
Many religious groups had objected to this arrangement, saying that it still required them to violate their religious beliefs by authorizing an outside organization to pay for the products they found to be immoral.
The new rule announced Friday allows these non-profit groups to notify the Department of Health and Human Services of their objections. The federal government will then contact insurers and third party administrators to provide the coverage.
The non-profit rule goes into effect immediately, although it is an “interim final rule,” meaning that it is open to comments from the public and has not yet been finalized. ["interim final rule"...]
Regarding closely held for-profits, such as Hobby Lobby, HHS said it is asking for comments on how it might extend to them “the same accommodation that is available to non-profit religious organizations.”
“The proposal seeks comment on how to define a closely held for-profit company and whether other steps might be appropriate to implement this policy.”
Friday’s announcement is the latest in a series of revisions to the controversial mandate. While the mandate includes a narrow religious exemption for houses of worship and their affiliated organizations, many faith-based groups – such as soup kitchens, hospitals and schools – do not qualify for the exemption because they are not affiliated with a specific house of worship.
Read the rest there.
Meanwhile, a reaction from the President of the USCCB, Archbp. Kurtz of Louisville.
Archbishop Kurtz Provides Initial Response To Revised HHS Mandate Regulations
Disappointed that regulation will not expand exemption, only modifies ‘accommodation’
Extending ‘accommodation’ to exempted businesses reduces religious freedom
More thorough study and detailed comments to come
WASHINGTON–Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it is issuing an additional set of interim final rules to implement its requirement that health plans, including employer-sponsored plans, provide for sterilization, contraception, and drugs that can cause an abortion. In response, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), provided the following statement:
“The Administration is once again revising its regulations on the HHS mandate. We will study the regulations carefully and will provide more detailed comments at a later date. In keeping with our practice, we will evaluate the regulations according to the principles set forth in ‘United for Religious Freedom,’ a March 2012 statement of the USCCB Administrative Committee that was later affirmed unanimously by the body of bishops at the General Assembly of June 2012.
“On initial review of the government’s summary of the regulations, we note with disappointment that the regulations would not broaden the “religious employer” exemption to encompass all employers with sincerely held religious objections to the mandate. Instead, the regulations would only modify the “accommodation,” under which the mandate still applies and still requires provision of the objectionable coverage. Also, by proposing to extend the “accommodation” to the closely held for-profit employers that were wholly exempted by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Hobby Lobby, the proposed regulations would effectively reduce, rather than expand, the scope of religious freedom.”