USCCB responds to HHS proposals

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has responded to the latest “Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” by the HHS, which we commented on in an earlier blog posting

In a March 29 memo, they said the mandate “still forces us to act against our conscience and teaching,” and that the only real solution is to allow individuals and institutions to offer insurance plans that align with their moral convictions. 

No matter what mechanisms are chosen to fund and administrate the mandate, religious individuals and institutions will be prohibited from providing health coverage that is “consistent with their values,” the bishops explained.

The administration has proposed (in the initial accommodation) that insurance companies would pay for the objectionable coverage; in this latest proposal, third-party administrators would pay.  Nevertheless, the mandate still forces Catholics to violate our consciences.

One fundamental problem with the HHS mandate is that a government bureaucracy determines what is a religion, and what is a religious ministry.  And, perhaps not surprisingly, most Christian ministries (charities, social services, hospitals, schools) do not qualify as religious ministry.

The bishops reaffirmed their stance that “the government has no place defining religion and religious ministry” and that the current attempt to do so is unconstitutional.

“So no matter what new rules may be proposed to apply this distinction, it remains radically flawed,” they said.

Another key issue is that of the indivisibility of religious liberty.  Individuals, corporations, and institutions enjoy the right of religious freedom.  The bishops’ statement notes:

Rather than merely granting limited religious freedom under certain circumstances, the federal government must respect the fullness of religious liberty for both individuals and institutions, they insisted. 

The bishops warned that the mandate “now poses a threat to the rights not only of religious employers but of parents as well.”

This mandate threatens the religious liberty of all Americans.

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