Sixty pro-life leaders and heads of faith-based organizations have signed off on a letter to President Barack Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius protesting the very narrow exemption to the health insurance contraceptives mandate.
The mandate has upset pro-life groups that don’t want to be forced to provide health insurance coverage that pays for contraception, birth control drugs, or drugs like the morning after pill, Plan B and ella that can cause abortions in some circumstances. They have objected to a very narrow set of exemptions for religious groups that don’t adequately allow all faith-based organizations to opt out of providing such coverage.
Signatories of the letter include Protestant and orthodox Jewish leaders representing many religious colleges and universities, k-12 schools, grassroots faith-based organizations, denominations, law associations, rescue missions, and more.
This letter (full text below) comes on the heels of warnings from Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly who wrote yesterday in the Washington Times that an alternative definition has been proposed by the Catholic Health Association and the University of Notre Dame that would still leave unprotected many faith-based service organizations.
CNS alerted LifeNews to the letter and said it “points out that the revised exemption, just as the current narrow exemption in the health insurance regulations, has two major flaws: (1) it would leave unprotected many faith-based organizations that object to the contraceptives mandate; and (2) it would write into federal law a definition of “religious employer” that wrongly encompasses only churches and church-controlled organizations.
“As they point out, many faith-based organizations do not fit that narrow definition, and yet their religious freedom, too, must be respected by the federal government,” CNS noted.
The Catholic watchdog group says the letter is important because it shows that Catholics are not the only ones upset by the Obamacare insurance mandate.
“If one were to believe what the media reports and what some Democratic legislators say about the HHS mandate, it was only Catholics who had a problem with the contraceptive mandate,” CNS said. “This letter was circulated to and signed only by non-Catholic organizations and leaders. This letter shows that the concern about the religious freedom implications of the health insurance contraceptive mandate is much broader.”
The letter reads: “We write not in opposition to Catholic leaders and organizations; rather, we write in solidarity, but separately—to stress that religious organizations and leaders of other faiths are also deeply troubled by and opposed to the mandate and the narrow exemption.”
The Obama The administration has initially approved a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine suggesting that it force insurance companies to pay for birth control and drugs that can cause abortions under the Obamacare government-run health care program.
The IOM recommendation, opposed by pro-life groups, called for the Obama administration to require insurance programs to include birth control — such as the morning after pill or the ella drug that causes an abortion days after conception — in the section of drugs and services insurance plans must cover under “preventative care.” The companies will likely pass the added costs on to consumers, requiring them to pay for birth control and, in some instances, drug-induced abortions of unborn children in their earliest days.
Jeanne Monahan of FRC says the current opt out is not sufficient.
“On September 30th, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received thousands of negative comments related to the interim final rule published on August 3rd where all insurance plans were informed that they must cover the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives with no co-pay,” Monahan explains. “A very narrowly defined conscience exemption for religious organizations was included which, in essence, covers only places of worship and was originally drafted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for a bill in California.”
“HHS offered a fig leaf of conscience protection for certain churches that fulfill very specific criteria. However, religious groups that provide social services, engage in missions work to people of different religious faiths, religious health insurance companies, let alone religious health care providers and individuals in such health plans are not protected from any discrimination whatever. The new rule will force many Americans to violate their consciences or refrain from participating in health care insurance, further burdening an already costly system,” Monahan said.
“For an administration that promised to protect conscience laws in effect now, this decision completely ignores opinion, research and science that do not support a pro-abortion ideology. In the words of one of the committee members who objected to the IOM recommendations, the ‘evaluation for evidence lacked transparency … the process tended to result in a mix of objective and subjective determination through the lens of advocacy,” Monahan continued. “This administration is promoting mandates that will violate the consciences of millions.”
The HHS accepted the IOM guidelines that “require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services” and those services include “FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling” — which include birth control drugs like Plan B and ella that can cause abortions. The Health and Human Services Department commissioned the report from the Institute, which advises the federal government and shut out pro-life groups in meetings leading up to the recommendations.
The entire letter and the list of signatories follows:
Dear Mr. President:
We write to express our deep concern about the contraceptives mandate in the health insurance regulations, and about the “religious employer” exemption that is so narrow that it does not protect most faith-based organizations.
We write to you specifically as organizations and leaders that are not part of the Catholic community. We write not in opposition to Catholic leaders and organizations; rather, we write in solidarity, but separately—to stress that religious organizations and leaders of other faiths are also deeply troubled by and opposed to the mandate and the narrow exemption.
Most press reports on the controversy concerning the contraceptives mandate portray the opposition as coming only from the Catholic Church and Catholic organizations. But this is wrong. It is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients. It is not only Catholics who object to the narrow exemption that protects only seminaries and a few churches, but not churches with a social outreach and other faith-based organizations that serve the poor and needy broadly providing help that goes beyond worship and prayer.
The faith-based organizations and religious traditions represented by the undersigned leaders do not all share the same convictions about the moral acceptability of the mandated services. But we are all deeply concerned about the narrow exemption, including proposals made to expand it while still leaving unprotected many faith-based organizations. Many of us previously signed a letter, dated August 26, 2011, to Joshua DuBois, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, asking his help in persuading your administration, if it maintains the contraceptives mandate, to replace the current “inaccurately narrow and practically inadequate definition of ‘religious employer’.” An organization does not cease to be a religious organization just because it serves the poor and needy in material ways and does not confine its help to prayer and religious teaching.
We reiterate our opposition to the narrow exemption. We wish to stress that we strongly object to a revised exemption that is only broadened enough to include faith-based organizations that are affiliated with a specific denomination. We understand that such a compromise has been proposed to your administration. The suggested compromise discriminates against the many religions that organize themselves in ways other than by being centered on a denomination.
Some faith-based organizations have an interdenominational or ecumenical affiliation. Yet others are linked with houses of worship that are not denominational at all. And a significant number of faith-based organizations are not affiliated formally with any house of worship or denomination. Rather, they are, and are considered in Federal law to be, religious organizations because of their religious mission, their faith-shaped internal operations, and their presentation of themselves to the community as religious organizations.1
Mr. President, religious organizations beyond the Catholic community have deep moral objections to a requirement that their health insurance plans must cover abortifacients. Religious organizations beyond the Catholic community object to the current narrow exemption which puts them outside the definition of “religious employers.” And religious organizations beyond the Catholic community object to any revision of the exemption that would limit it to churches and denominationally affiliated organizations.
We believe that the Federal government is obligated by the First Amendment to accommodate the religious convictions of faith-based organizations of all kinds, Catholic and non-Catholic.
We respectfully ask that your administration, should it maintain the current contraceptives mandate, devise an exemption for religious employers that accurately defines such employers and exempts them from being required to offer to their employees (and students, if they are among America’s many religious colleges and universities) health services to which they have
deep religious objections.
Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals
Wayne L Gordon, President, Christian Community Development Association
John Ashmen, President, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions
Jim Liske, CEO, Prison Fellowship Ministries
Fred L. Potter, Esq., Executive Director and CEO, Christian Legal Society
1 See, e.g., LeBoon v. Lancaster Jewish Community Center, 503 F.3d 217 (3rd Cir. 2007),
addressing what is a “religious organization” for purposes of the religious employer exemption
in sec. 702(a) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Mindful of the First Amendment
implications, the Court In Leboon sets down a nine-factor test for determining if an organization
is religious. Ibid. at 226. The non-profit religious association in LeBoon is found by the Court
to be a religious organization even though it is not formally linked to synagogues in the same
community. Ibid. 227.
Colby M. May, Esq., Director & Senior Counsel, Washington Office, American Center for Law
Dr. Richard Land, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist
Tom Minnery, Senior Vice President, Focus on the Family
Stanley Carlson-Thies, President, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance
Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations
Rabbi Abba Cohen, Vice President for Federal Affairs and Washington Director, Agudath Israel
Dr. Gary M. Benedict, President, The Christian and Missionary Alliance
Dr. George O. Wood, General Superintendent, The General Council of the Assemblies of God
Stephanie Summers, Chief Executive Officer, Center for Public Justice
Ron Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/
Hispanic Evangelical Association
John Holmes, Ed.D., Director of Government Affairs, Association of Christian Schools
Dr. Keith Wiebe, President, American Association of Christian Schools
Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, Chair, Board of General Superintendents, The Wesleyan Church
Everett Piper, PhD, President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University
Shirley A. Mullen, President, Houghton College
Henry Smith, President, Indiana Wesleyan University
Dr. Todd S. Voss, President, Southern Wesleyan University
Tom Armiger, CEO, World Hope International
Andrew Sears, Executive Director, TechMission
Jay Van Groningen, Executive Director, Communities First Association
Karen Woods, Cornerstone Community Resources
Bruce Miller, CEO, Lawndale Christian Health Center
Rev. Steven E. Boes, President and National Executive Director, Boys Town
Paul R. Corts, President, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
Robert C. Andringa, Ph.D., President Emeritus, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
Robert H. Spence, President, Evangel University, The National Assemblies of God University of
Arts, Sciences & Professions, Springfield, Missouri
Carl E. Zylstra, President, Dordt College
Gordon L. Anderson, Ph.D., President, North Central University
Dr. Todd J. Williams, President, Philadelphia Biblical University
Charles H. Webb, PhD, President, Spring Arbor University
Dr. Lee G. Royce, President, Mississippi College
Jerry B. Cain, President, Judson University
Rick Mann, PhD, President, Crown College
William L. Armstrong, President, Colorado Christian University
Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, Ph.D., President, East Texas Baptist University
Dr. John C. Bowling, President, Olivet Nazarene University
Joseph Castleberry, Ed.D., President, Northwest University
Dr. Charles W. Pollard, President, John Brown University
Dr. Barbara Bellefeuille, Provost, Toccoa Falls College
Dr. Roger Parrott, President, Belhaven University
Dr John Jackson, President, William Jessup University
Dan Boone, President, Trevecca Nazarene University
Mike E. O’Neal, President, Oklahoma Christian University
Paul J. Maurer, President, Sterling College
James H Barnes III, President, Bethel University
Bob Brower, President, Point Loma Nazarene University
David W. Olive, President, Bluefield College
Jules Glanzer, President, Tabor College
Dr. Loren E. Swartzendruber, President, Eastern Mennonite University
Dr. David C. Alexander, President, Northwest Nazarene University
William M. B. Fleming, Jr., Interim President, Palm Beach Atlantic University
Eric Strattan, lead pastor, Bridge Bible Church, Muskegon, MI
Gail Kraft, Executive Director, Love INC of Muskegon
Case Hoogendoorn, Senior Partner, Hoogendoorn & Talbot LLP, Chicago
Stephen V. Monsma, Senior Research Fellow, The Henry Institute, Calvin College