Tag Archives: HHS Mandate

Life, liberty and the pursuit

Editor Patrick Novecosky argues that the HHS contraception mandate is immoral . . .

Patrick Novecosky

In our post-Christian American culture, patriotism is on the decline. But it’s a different story among church-going Christians. In my estimation, that uptick in patriotic fervor is directly related to the growing opposition to the socialist bent of the Obama administration and its flagship healthcare legislation, which was signed into law just two years ago.

Despite denials by the administration and the mainstream, Catholics and other people of good will recognize that forcing employers of any faith to provide insurance coverage for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs is a direct violation of the Constitution. I’m no legal scholar, but I understand what the Founding Fathers meant by “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Catholic teaching on the evils of contraception is clear. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) backs up the Church’s position. In 2005, a division of the WHO declared combined estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives as carcinogenic. Yet the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) wants every American woman to have free access to these cancer-causing drugs. If that’s not a war on women, I don’t know what is.

ObamaCare has a lot more surprises for the American public, according to a new video produced by the Alliance Defense Fund.

When fully implemented, the 2,700-page law will force you to pay for life-saving drugs. Life-ending drugs, however, are free. You may also be forced to pay a premium directly from your paycheck to cover elective abortions. The law also has a gag rule that forces insurance companies and employers not to tell you which plans include an abortion premium until the time you enroll.

Employers are forced by law to comply with the ObamaCare mandates. If your insurance plan doesn’t comply, you’ll be fined $100 per employee per day. If you don’t offer insurance at all, you’ll be hit with a $2,000 annual fine per employee. The law makes every employer and employee complicit in ensuring that abortion on demand becomes part of the American way of life (no pun intended). So it should be no surprise that the Obama administration worked closely with Planned Parenthood to write these anti-life mandates.

Legatus and dozens of other organizations have challenged the law’s constitutionality in court. (Click here for related story) As litigation continues, let your zeal for America and your Catholic faith drive you to pray for our nation. America was founded on ideals that still matter, but we must never lose our passion for defending them.

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus magazine’s editor.

With liberty and justice for some?

Marie Hilliard contends that the HHS mandate is unfair and unconstitutional . . .

Marie T. Hilliard

With the economy in the doldrums, times are difficult enough for businesspeople. Americans now have to decide whether to violate their consciences or a federal law. If left unabated, these dilemmas will continue — even if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

In a social system that is increasingly hostile to our free market heritage, hostility is also growing toward the Catholic Church. When seeking to insert faith-based values into public policy debates, Catholics often are accused of violating the separation of church and state. Nothing could be further from the truth. “The most significant aspect of the separation of church and state is not, as some seem to think, the shielding of the secular world from too strong a religious influence,” according to Yale constitutional law scholar Stephen Carter. “The principal task … is to secure religious freedom.”

During his 2010 visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of St. Thomas More’s integrity in following his conscience. “Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: What are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend?

“There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere….And there are those who argue — paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination — that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square.”

This has been seen blatantly in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that the employers provide — at no cost to their employees — contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs and devices. Furthermore, religious or faith-based ministries may be exempted only if they evangelize, employ and provide services primarily to their own members. Only three states with laws mandating such employee prescriptive coverage define a religious agency as narrowly as the HHS mandate: Oregon, New York and California.

However, state laws do not impact self-insured plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, under which many Catholic dioceses are regulated. The HHS mandate will negate this protection. It’s clearly disingenuous for the federal government to state that it’s mimicking state laws already in existence. Clearly our Gospel-mandated ministries are under attack.

But what about the private employer? Shouldn’t they also have conscience protection under the law? Of course! That’s why it’s so appropriate that Legatus has filed a lawsuit against the HHS mandate, reflecting the need to protect businesspeople from HHS’s violation of religious liberty. (Click here for related story) Yet attacks against the consciences of private employers, employees, and businesses existed before there was an HHS mandate — and they continue.

A fertility practice that limited its practice to married couples was ordered by the California Supreme Court in 2008 to provide service to lesbians despite the physicians’ religious objections. In New York, a nurse was forced in 2009 to assist in a not-immediately-life-threatening abortion after having given all the appropriate notice of such objections. Her supervisor threatened her with actions against her nursing license. The court determined that the nurse had no right of private action against her employer.

Twenty-five states have passed legal mandates requiring pharmacies to provide emergency contraception to customers. Fortunately, brave pharmacy owners in Washington stepped up to the plate to challenge this injustice. The courts recently reversed the position of the Washington State Board of Pharmacy after the Becket Fund, representing the pharmacists, got the Board’s anti-conscience position reversed. However, the state’s attorney general is appealing the decision.

Where is Thomas Jefferson when we need him? “Our rules can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God.”

All of us — particularly lay people — need to echo this assertion: “We cannot submit; we will not submit. Our conscience is answerable not to the state, but to God.” We cannot accept that there be liberty and justice only for some. Persons of faith can lay claim to the “first right” guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution — the right to religious liberty. We can and we must.

Marie T. Hilliard, JCL, PhD, RN, is a staff ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

Defending our first freedoms

John Hunt: We’re engaged in a struggle for the soul of the Church in America . . .

John J. Hunt

As Legates bask in the glow of the organization’s quarter century of service to the Catholic Church, we find ourselves engaged in a struggle for the very soul of the Church in America. The technological and cultural advances we enjoy in the 21st century have been met with a corresponding slide in morality, ethics and objective truth in the marketplace, the academy and, on occasion, even within our families.

For many Legates, the attack on religious freedom espoused in the Health and Human Services contraception mandate incorporated into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) provides the rallying call to defend our First Amendment right to religious freedom.

In order to defend this God-given liberty, Legatus has filed a federal lawsuit against the HHS mandate that requires insurance coverage for contraception and sterilization. “This is a case about religious freedom,” the lawsuit’s 42-page complaint begins. It charges that the mandate “forces employers and individuals to violate their religious beliefs because it requires employers and individuals to pay for insurance from insurance issuers, which fund and directly provide for drugs, devices, and services” that they believe are sinful.

Today, unlike any other time in modern history, freedom of religion is in real danger. The natural law truths — marriage between one man and one woman, recognition that life begins at conception and must be protected until natural death, unchanging and sacred understanding of the goodness of an all-loving God — are not only being ignored, they are being reviled by a culture that seeks its own “truth.”

A dichotomy exists in this age of progress and plenty, and we in the United States — particularly we of Legatus — are called to lead in this cultural conflict. It is a period of fundamental change that threatens the very life of the Church in America. We are blessed to live in a time when each of us can and must contribute to the Church’s apostolic fruitfulness in the face of challenges from all sides. This spiritual battle between good and evil can only be surmounted by a complete reliance on, trust in, prayer to, and love of Jesus Christ.

As you offer your daily prayers and attend Mass, I ask that you include the intention of success in the litigation to which duty has called us.

John Hunt is Legatus’ executive director. He and his wife Kathie are charter members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter.

Assessing Obama’s assault on religious liberty

Fr. Thomas Berg contends that Catholics must resist Obama’s immoral mandate . . .

Fr. Thomas Berg

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule on Jan. 20 requiring all insurers to include free coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization procedures and prescription contraceptives in their insurance plans — including those sponsored by employers. All of these “preventive services” are instrumental to engaging in intrinsically evil actions, as consistently taught by the Catholic Church.

On Feb. 10, President Obama announced that the administration would pursue an “accommodation” to address objections to the HHS mandate. He did so by principally removing the employer from the equation, shifting the cost of the objectionable coverage from the employer to insurance companies.

The outcry from a broad spectrum of Americans of both political parties, a plethora of religious affiliations, and most notably from the Catholic bishops under the leadership of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has been powerful. With great effect, the bishops have insisted that the administration’s assault on the religious liberty of some is an assault on the religious liberty of all. Nor will the bishops tolerate a solution that exempts Catholic institutions while leaving tens of thousands of religiously minded and conscientious individual employers without recourse.

Proponents of the mandate have suggested that insurance companies could rely on health cost savings that would accrue due to the availability of the “preventive services.” But the vast majority of analysts believe that the very real costs of providing “free” services in insurance will be passed on to the employers in form of higher premiums. Now three months into the controversy, experts can envision no scenario relying on insurance to cover these services which disentangles religiously affiliated employers sufficiently to satisfy Catholic moral concerns. In greater detail, here’s why.

The government intends to force insurers to cover these products and services even though the contract between the insurer and employer excludes them. Thus, from the perspective of a Catholic employer, if it chooses to offer health insurance to its workers, it will know in advance that this coverage pays for the problematic products and services. The government is leaving no way around this problem because it is insisting that the mechanism for providing “free contraception” to the public must be the insurance system.

Consequently, it remains the case that when a Catholic employer chooses to offer insurance, it will, by definition, trigger insurance coverage for the very same objectionable products and services. That is, employees will have access to these proscribed services and products in virtue of the contract between employer and insurance company. Thus, the Catholic employer is left in the position of either accepting to be a key cog in the process of facilitating access to gravely immoral practices or of not providing health insurance at all to its workers.

That “being a key cog in the process” is termed in Catholic moral theology as “material cooperation” (as opposed to “formal cooperation,” which would mean willfully being a cog in an evil endeavor — like the get-away driver in a bank robbery). Conscientious Catholic employers who wish to be faithful to Catholic moral teaching would certainly not approve of their insurance policies covering these services (that would be formal cooperation), but by acquiescing to the mandate they would find themselves in this position of materially cooperating. The Church teaches that material cooperation can at times be licitly tolerated in view of very serious reasons. Is the provision of health insurance to employees a serious enough reason to allow for this degree of complicity?

The evident moral good of providing health insurance to employees (with all the attendant benefits) does not supersede the grave moral requirements of upholding religious liberty, protecting the life of the unborn and witnessing to the world about the right ordering of human sexuality. While the provision of health insurance by employers is certainly in full harmony with Catholic social teaching, it is not — nor have the bishops of this country ever taught that it is — a positive moral obligation of Catholic employers. Of course, in 2014 and beyond, employers will have even less of an obligation to provide insurance to their workers as the government will have set up by then an alternative insurance access point in every state.

But what a tragedy it would be for any Catholic employer to have to face such a choice. Before it comes to that, it is our hope, rather, that reason will prevail through the voices of concerned citizens all across this country. We must continue to reject empty offers of “accommodation” and demand rescission of this unconstitutional, unlawful and immoral regulation.

Rev. Thomas V. Berg is a member of the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law and professor of moral theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y. James C. Capretta is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Standing with the Church

Editor Patrick Novecosky writes that Catholics have great reason to be optimistic . . .

Patrick Novecosky

I admit it. I’m a news junkie. I scan the headlines every morning. I have my web browser open to key news sites during the work day, and before I go to bed … I check the news again. Just to keep my addiction in check, my wife made a rule: no smartphones at the table.

Some people find the news depressing — and for good reason! If you’re an avid reader of the weekly Legatus Insider, you know what I mean. Even though I often find myself scratching my head, wondering how the world could get any worse, I’m always looking for that nugget of good news. After all, we’re called to be people of hope.

Despite the culture of death pressing down on us, Catholics have great reason to be optimistic. Despite unconstitutional mandates, a cynical mainstream news media, and Hollywood elites regularly mocking our faith, we have an ace in the hole: We have the Truth on our side. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6). And we can be certain that we are on His side if we stand with the Church He founded.

In March, the U.S. bishops issued a statement clarifying their stand against the Health and Human Services contraception mandate. Despite the liberal media’s attempts to distort the issue, the bishops have made it abundantly clear from the beginning of this debate in January that this fight is about religious liberty, not contraception. They will not back down, and they will not comply. They need to know that we are firmly behind them.

“This is not about the religious freedom of Catholics only, but also of those who recognize that their cherished beliefs may be next on the block,” the bishops said in a March 14 statement. That sentiment is hitting home with people of all faiths. Even Glenn Beck, a Catholic-turned-Mormon, is sounding the alarm bells by saying, “We’re all Catholics now.” And polls show that the majority of Americans believe the mandate is unconstitutional.

Ultimately, the mandate’s constitutionality will be tested in the courts. A number of Catholic and pro-life organizations — including Priests for Life and Ave Maria University — have already filed suit. More will follow, including faithful Catholics who lead secular business organizations. If we stand with the bishops on this issue, if we fast and pray, and if we hold fast to the Truth, we will prevail in what is truly important — even if the world is against us.

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus magazine’s editor.