Posts tagged with: HHS mandate

On Friday the Obama administration proposed a rule that it says will appease the concerns religious organizations have about the controversial abortion/contraceptive mandate issued last year by the Department of Health and Human Services. Here’s what you should know about the mandate and the proposed changes.

the-pillWhat is this contraception mandate everyone keeps talking about?

As part of the universal health insurance reform passed in 2010 (often referred to as “Obamacare”), all group health plans must now provide—at no cost to the recipient—certain “preventive services.” The list of services includes sterilization, contraceptives, and abortifacient drugs.

If this mandate is from 2010, why are we just now talking about it?

On January 20, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that that it would not expand the exemption for this mandate to include religious schools, colleges, hospitals, and charitable service organizations. Instead, the Administration merely extended the deadline for religious groups who did not already fall within the existing narrow exemption so that they will have one more year to comply or drop health care insurance coverage for their employees altogether and incur a hefty fine. For example, Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned company that is opposing the mandate, is facing fines up to $1.3 million per day.

Is there a religious exemption from the mandate? If so, who qualifies for the exemption?
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Hobby-Lobby-StoreJustice Antonin Scalia caused quite the stir by attending President Obama’s inauguration ceremony wearing a custom-made replica of the painter’s hat depicted in a famous portrait of St. Thomas More, the well-known Catholic statesman and martyr.

Whether Scalia intended it or not, observers quickly translated the act as a quiet game of connect-the-dots between the administration’s punitive HHS mandate and Henry VIII’s executioner, leading conservatives to applaud while progressives don their own less fashionable bonnets of protest.

Although I don’t expect actual heads to roll anytime soon, the symbolism is fitting indeed. This an administration that seeks to lure Christians away from their consciences through threats of economic penalties and pain. If your religious beliefs happen to clash with the coercive methods and materialistic aims of this administration, blood shall be spilt on the altar of “access.”

The irony abounds. Keep in mind that President Obama ran a campaign that ridiculed Mitt Romney as an Ebenezer Scrooge who clings to his coins without empathy for others and without regard for ethics and morality (all despite Romney’s strong record of charitable giving, might I add). Then and now, this same President seeks to persecute good people like Hobby Lobby’s CEO through economic penalties in the millions of dollars, all for the abonimable sin of caring about and believing in something before and beyond the dollar.

If the great secret of capitalism is its power to leverage and channel the human spirit toward more transcendent ends, the great irony of progressivism is its propensity to take on the image of its own materialistic critiques. (more…)

Rick-Warren-PhotoIn response to the Hobby Lobby lawsuit, Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and pastor of Saddleback Church, has released a statement at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty:

…The government has tried to reinterpret the First Amendment from freedom to PRACTICE your religion, to a more narrow freedom to worship, which would limit your freedom to the hour a week you are at a house of worship. This is not only a subversion of the Constitution, it is nonsense. Any religion that cannot be lived out … at home and work, is nothing but a meaningless ritual.

Some flippantly say ‘A business cannot be a Christian’ but the truth is, every business is either moral or immoral, ethical or unethical, depending the values they base their business on. When the government starts coercing businesses to violate their religious, moral, and ethical values, that is a flagrant violation of our Constitution.

I predict that the battle to preserve religious liberty for all, in all areas of life, will likely become the civil rights movement of this decade…Regardless of your faith, you should pay attention to this landmark case, and pray for a clear victory for freedom of conscience.”

Read the full statement here.

USA Today has a piece today on the HHS mandate battle. What I noticed was not so much the story, but the photo the newspaper chose to run. It’s an AP photo by Derik Holtmann from a rally held last spring, about the same time as numerous other rallies were taking place around the country. Since there is nothing in the story about the photo, I can only assume it was chosen “randomly.”  Here it is:

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I don’t know what you notice, but here’s what I see: A lot of older people. Grey hair. Elderly. The photo — I believe — is meant to give the impression that a few old people showed up to protest against birth control … clearly an issue they don’t have to worry about, right?

Yet, when I Google “HHS Mandate rally,” I get photos like this:

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I didn’t dig for these — they are on the first page of the Google search. I can also attest that at the rally I attended last spring, there were families, high school students, young adults and older folks — a wide range of people from various faith traditions deeply concerned about religious liberty in this country.

Oh, USA Today? I think your media bias slip is showing. Cover up and get with it.

Paul and Henry Griesedieck, owners of American Pulverizer Company of St. Louis and pro-life Christians, made a stand against the Health and Human Services Mandate and won, for now.  The HHS mandate requires employers and health insurers to provide employees with health insurance that includes coverage of contraceptives and abortifacient drugs which terminate early pregnancies. According to LifeNews, “[t]he U.S. District Court for Western Missouri issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the law.”

In their lawsuit, the Griesediecks contend that compliance with the Obamacare mandate would force them to violate their religious and moral beliefs.  In their lawsuit, the Griesediecks state that “it would be sinful for us to pay for services that have a significant risk of causing the death of embryonic lives.”

U.S. District Judge Richard Dorr ruled that the plaintiffs were likely to be able to prove that Obamacare “substantially  burdens their exercise of religion…Plaintiffs must either pay for a health plan that includes drugs and services to which they religiously object or incur fines.”

Judge Dorr noted that the federal government contends that the Griesedieck Companies are secular entities, and thus cannot “exercise religion.”  Judge Dorr responded by saying:  “There are many entities under which an individual can run a business…Does an individual’s choice to run his business as one of these entities strip that individual of his right to exercise his religious beliefs?”

In addition to concluding that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act the mandate and its penalties would substantially burden plaintiffs’ free exercise rights, the court held that for 1st Amendment purposes, the mandate is not a neutral law of general applicability.

The court wrote: “Plaintiffs have shown to the court’s satisfaction for the purposes of these initial proceedings, that the [Affordable Care Act] mandate is not generally applicable because it does not apply to grandfathered health plans, religious employers, or employers with fewer than fifty employees.  Specifically, plaintiffs argue that the ACA mandate’s exemptions clearly prefer secular purposes over religious purposes and some religious purposes over other religious purposes.  Burdens cannot be selectively imposed only on conduct motivated by religious belief.”

Read the full article here.

The National Catholic Register and Associated Press are reporting that Justice Sonia Sotomayor has denied Hobby Lobby (and a related company, Mardel, Inc.) its request to opt out of the HHS mandate to provide abortifacients as health care to employees. Justice Sotomayor’s decision stated that Hobby Lobby did not meet the legal standard for preventing them from complying with the government mandate. However, David Green, CEO and owner of Hobby Lobby disagrees, saying the lawsuit violates his family’s faith.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Hobby Lobby as well as a number of other organizations and groups that have filed lawsuits against the contraceptive mandate, said in a Dec. 20 press release that “the Green family’s religious convictions prohibit them from providing or paying for the abortion-inducing drugs, the ‘morning-after’ and ‘week-after’ pills, which would violate their most deeply held religious belief that life begins at conception.”

Said the Becket Fund, “The business’s lawsuit acts to preserve its right to carry out its mission free from government coercion.”

If the ruling stands, the decision will cost Hobby Lobby approximately $1.3 million in fines daily. The company currently employs about 18,000 people, operating over 500 stores in 41 states.

“There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution,” wrote Judge Brian Cogan in his ruling issued two weeks ago against a Justice Department motion to dismiss the Archdiocese of New York’s lawsuit against the HHS mandate. “To the contrary, the Bill of Rights itself, and the First Amendment in particular, reflect a degree of skepticism towards governmental self-restraint and self-correction.”

More federal judges are coming to the same conclusion. Earlier this week a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. issued a partial but significant victory to Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College in their lawsuit against the Obama administration’s contraception and abortifacient mandate.

The Obama administration had announced plans to create a new rule protecting the religious liberties of these Christian colleges and other similarly situated religious groups. But to date, the administration has not yet taken the steps necessary to make that promise legally binding. Lower courts dismissed the colleges’ cases while the government contemplated a new rule, but the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided the cases should stay alive while it scrutinizes whether the government will meet its promised deadlines.

“The D.C. Circuit has now made it clear that government promises and press conferences are not enough to protect religious freedom,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “The court is not going to let the government slide by on non-binding promises to fix the problem down the road.”

Conestoga Wood Specialties of Pennsylvania, with 950 employees, has filed suit against the government’s HHS mandate. The Mennonites, who trace their religious roots to the 16th century, have about one million members worldwide. Mennonites understand that life begins at conception, and the owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties do not want to be forced to comply with a mandate that conflicts with their faith.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Because of that provision in the policy, because our clients are paying for it, because of their religious beliefs, they are very opposed to any form of killing – they don’t think they should be forced into providing coverage that has the potential for taking of a life,” said Chuck Proctor, a Chadds Ford-based lawyer representing the firm and its principals, Norman Hahn and his two sons.

There are now 41 cases, with 110 plaintiffs, against the HHS mandate, including the craft store, Hobby Lobby and Grand Rapids-based Autocam.

Currently, there are forty cases against the Obamacare HHS mandate. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires employers to provide,  as employee health care, “preventative services” such as abortion and sterilization.

John Daniel Davidson, in First Things, says that the president and his administration have grossly misjudged this entire situation. In Davidson’s view, the administration “in their conceit” seemed to think that millions of Americans would simply put aside their deeply held religious and moral convictions and play along with the government. But that’s not all.

…perhaps most shocking was the administration’s hubris in assuming that religious organizations, business owners, and individuals with deeply held beliefs about contraception and abortion would agree to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs such as the morning-after pill. Were federal officials surprised when the Catholic Church objected to mandated contraceptive coverage? Did they really think Catholic-owned hospitals and universities would accept such a rule? Did they think conservative Christian schools like Wheaton College—which forbids alcohol, tobacco, and even unsanctioned dancing on its campus—would somehow be willing to provide its employees with morning-after pills and other abortifacients?

Davidson specifically mentions the case brought by the owners of Hobby Lobby (read more here and here) as an example of a non-religious organization – a for-profit business – whose owners are not willing to simply set aside their religious beliefs for what they believe to be an unconstitutional law.

Read “Obamacare’s Crisis of Conscience” at First Things.

Making the case for religious liberty for those with ultra-short attention spans.

Ed Morrissey also provides a 30 second argument:
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