Religious Groups Irked by Contraception Mandate
The Obama administration is taking heat from religious groups, particularly Catholic leaders, upset that new federal health regulations may force them to pay for employees' birth control, a violation of church tenets.
Proposed religious exemptions to the new regulations, which were unveiled Aug. 1 by the Department of Health and Human Services, are considered so narrow that even Catholic officials considered friendly to President Obama argue that they should be changed.
"I call this the parish housekeeper exemption--that's about all it covers," Daughter of Charity Sr. Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association, a 600-member umbrella group for Catholic hospitals, told The Associated Press.
In 2009, Keehan lent crucial last-minute support that helped secure passage of Obama's health care reform law, a decision that signaled a split with the Catholic bishops, who opposed the law because they argued that it funded abortions.
But Keehan and the U.S. bishops are united on this issue.
Mercy Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, a spokesperson for the U.S. hierarchy, points out that the proposed exemption would only apply to a nonprofit employer that has "the inculcation of religious values as its purpose," that primarily employs fellow believers, and that primarily serves people "who share its religious tenets. …