The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has issued a statement indicating its rejection of the latest HHS mandate proposal by the Obama administration. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the USCCB, wrote, “We will not cease from our effort to assure that healthcare for all does not mean freedom for few.”
The new HHS proposal provides a narrow definition of a “religious employer” and does not permit for individual for-profit businesses that claim a conscientious objection to the mandate. In short, the mandate continues to undermine the First Amendment right to religious freedom.
In Thursday’s statement, Dolan cited the complex and often obscure details of the so-called “accommodation” as one reason for its rejection. He quoted from the bishops’ prior statement, titled "United for Religious Freedom":
…the bishops explained that the "HHS mandate creates still a third class, those with no conscience protection at all: individuals who, in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and moral values." This includes employers sponsoring and subsidizing the coverage, insurers writing it, and beneficiaries paying individual premiums for it. Friday's action confirms that HHS has no intention to provide any exemption or accommodation at all to this "third class." In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath. We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.
A number of Catholic dioceses, schools, and organizations have filed suit against the Obama administration over the mandate.
In a statement earlier in the week, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput strongly condemned the Obama administration’s proposed “compromise” on the HHS mandate. In his column for his diocesan newspaper, Chaput wrote, “The White House has made no concessions to the religious conscience claims of private businesses, and the whole spirit of the ‘compromise’ is minimalist.”
Chaput further stated:
One of the issues America’s bishops now face is how best to respond to an HHS mandate that [even after the ‘compromise’] remains unnecessary, coercive and gravely flawed. In the weeks ahead the bishops of our country, myself included, will need both prudence and courage – the kind of courage that gives prudence spine and results in right action, whatever the cost.