Photo: Flickr users Catholic Church (England and Wales) and Barack Obama and
The Obama Administration has decided to allow one more year for religious groups to comply with a regulation that forces them to make an impossible choice: either provide health-insurance that includes coverage of birth control and some abortion-inducing drugs to their employees, or provide no health-insurance and face stiff and escalating fines from the government.Currently the health-care regulation has an exception for “employers whose primary purpose is to inculcate religious values” such as individual churches and parishes, it does not exempt religious colleges, hospitals, or other institutions from this requirement.
The Catholic Church teaches that artificial birth control is a sin, and many (but not all) Catholic institutions try to avoid subsidizing birth control.
Belmont Abbey College, has sued the Obama administration, and its president, Bill Thierfelder, has said that “not even the ministry of Jesus and the early Christian church would qualify as religious [under the Obama administration’s definition] because they did not confine their ministry to their co-coreligionists or engage only in a preaching ministry.“
Bill Thierfelder has said that he will close the school before he complies with the Obama administration’s requirement that purchase health-insurance for its employees inclusive of contraception.
“This is a shameless attempt to kick the can down the road in an election year,” said Hannah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel for The Becket Fund, which is representing Belmont Abbey in its lawsuit.
“This isn’t about women’s health, its not about providing contraception or making it more available for free- it’s really about who pays for it,” Smith told us. “Contraception is widely available for free in clinics or on the internet. This is really about the government coercing religious entities to pay for it.”
While the current lawsuit handled by the Becket fund seeks to expand the exemption of religious social organisations, it currently does not aim to expand the exemption to religious individuals who want to run a business according to their conscience.
Even with the Obama administration’s delay, news that the White House will not expand the exemption is likely to become a campaign issue.
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