HHS Contraceptive Mandate:
The Issue That Won't Just Fade Away
August 1st has come and gone. This crucial deadline passed virtually unnoticed by the general public. Yet this was the beginning of a rolling start date for the mandate: As new insurance plan years begin on or after August 1st, religious and secular employers (with the exception of churches) have to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive services in their employee health insurance plans.
The only other exception. Many nonprofits objecting to contraceptives coverage can delay the coverage for one additional year. The administration has promised a permanent "accommodation" for them, but no details are available and the ideas that have been proposed seem inadequate to many - with lawsuits continuing to mount. (See specifics on the mandate, the exemption, the delayed enforcement, and the promised "accommodation" here).
A two-tier system. When Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius announced the narrow exemption from the mandate last January, faith leaders across the religious and political spectrum sharply criticized the administration for not protecting objecting faith-based service organizations. Although an "accommodation" has been promised for them, this way of proceeding creates a two-class system of religious organizations - with churches receiving full religious freedom protection, while organizations serving the public are left with only limited protections.
30 Lawsuits now in play. Plaintiffs include Protestant as well as Catholic organizations, businesses as well as ministries, states and also individuals. (See the joint statement by the presidents of Wheaton College and Catholic University of America here).
Looking ahead. Many are speculating that the administration may offer its promised "accommodation" only to faith-based organizations that have an official tie to a church or denomination. That would leave many service organizations without any relief. In case this should happen, IRFA has already prepared a letter of protest, ready to be circulated for signatures if this mistaken view of religious organizations is proposed in a regulation.
IRFA is active in this important issue in many ways:
- Continuing issue advocacy work with the Obama Administration. In June, IRFA drafted and sent a letter signed by 150 faith leaders to Secretary Sebelius, protesting the two-class system of religious organization. Letter available here.
- Education and outreach to faith-based organizations. In August, we hosted a conference call featuring Scott Ward and Patrick Purtil of Gammon & Grange, discussing the implications of the HHS mandate for their organizations date. Recording available here.
- Academic article published. IRFA President Stanley Carlson-Thies' article, "Which Religious Organizations Count as Religious? The Religious Employer Exemption of the Health Insurance Law's Contraceptives Mandate," appeared in Engage, a Federalist Society publication. Available here.
- Consultations. IRFA President Stanley Carlson-Thies is consulting with a legal think tank on a project designed to provide post-election guidance on federal policy necessary to safeguard robust religious freedom.
Meet IRFA's Newest Board Member:
Michael Moses, Associate General Counsel,
US Conference of Catholic Bishops
Michael Moses has served as Associate General Counsel with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for over 20 years. His practice areas at the Conference include litigation and legislation on such policy issues as health care and the defense of marriage - issues where religious liberty and rights of conscience are integral and increasingly fragile. Because of these growing challenges, the Conference recently formed an ad hoc committee on religious liberty. Its activities have included spearheading last summer's well-received Fortnight for Freedom.
Last May, Michael gladly accepted Dr. Stanley Carlson-Thies' offer to serve on IRFA's board, "IRFA fills an invaluable role," Mike says "by keeping abreast of, and speaking to, a wide range of current and emerging religious liberty issues that impact faith-based service organizations." Mike especially appreciates IRFA's focus having taught at a Catholic elementary school early in his career.
Mike lives in Alexandria with his wife, Carey, and their children, aged ten and seven. Mike devotes much of his free time to family activities, including chauffeuring his kids to and from local soccer games.
Religious Freedom for All
IRFA is committed to safeguarding the religious freedom of all faith-based organizations. As a Christian organization, IRFA believes that God desires people to serve him freely.
Governmental coercion is inappropriate where matters of deep conviction are at stake--even when others use their freedom to do things we believe to be wrong.
For this reason, as well as because effective persuasion requires common action, IRFA. wherever possible, deliberately works on a multi-faith basis