Skepticism has greeted the White House’s announcement that it is changing Obamacare rules requiring religious groups to give employees free birth control.
Under the compromise, the government would work directly with employees wanting contraception included in their health care.
“The change, announced by administration officials late Tuesday night, would allow nonprofit groups to opt out of the mandate simply by writing a letter to the federal government,” reports Ben Wolfgang at the Washington Times. “Until now, nonprofit religious groups such as charities and universities had to file paperwork with health insurance companies allowing those companies to offer birth control directly to employees.”
That paperwork was objectionable to Christian organizations who called it a form of “permission giving” that they viewed as complicity with evil.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled that Wheaton College, a private Christian school in Illinois, cannot be forced to help employees seek free birth control. Earlier, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision had freed companies from providing contraception if the owners have moral and religious objections.
With Tuesday night’s announcement, “the Obama administration claims it will create a new option for religious nonprofits,” writes Stephen Ertelt for LifeNews. The announcement came in a court brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.
However, the head of a pro-life group suing the White House said fears remain that Obama officials are merely circumventing the Supreme Court. Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, told LifeNews he doesn’t trust the administration and will continue the court case.
“The Priests for Life lawsuit against the HHS mandate is the next to be decided,” he said. Oral arguments have already been heard in the District of Columbia’s Circuit Court of Appeals.
“At the crux of the issue is that our completion of the form required under the ‘accommodation’ given to religious non-profit groups constitutes cooperation in the very evil that the form says we are objecting to,” said Pavone.
He said Priests for Life would be satisfied “if the government just kept us out of the process altogether of either triggering, authorizing, or in any fashion being the gateway for employees to receive coverage for objectionable practices.”
Other critics said the administration isn’t fully embracing the religious liberty required in the Supreme Court rulings.
“This is just the latest step in the government’s long retreat on the mandate,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “We hope the government will listen to the thousands of voices that called on the government to protect religious liberty. It’s time for the government to stop fighting the 30 federal court orders — including two from the Supreme Court — protecting religious ministries from the mandate.”
Publication date: July 25, 2014