Insurancelaw Inhibitsreligious Freedoms
Wheaton College and other distinctively Christian institutions are faced with a near and present threat to religious liberty.
Last August, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate that the insurance plans for religious institutions (except churches) must provide coverage for all government-approved contraceptives. The list of required contraceptives includes abortifacient drugs -- "morning after" and "week after" pills that claim the life of a fertilized egg.
During the period for public debate, the HHS received more than 200,000 comments objecting that the contraceptive mandate would violate the First Amendment rights of anyone who believed -- for religious reasons -- in the sanctity of human life.
This would be true not only for Roman Catholics who oppose all forms of contraception, but also for Protestants and others who believe that the use of contraception for the purpose of abortion is immoral.
The HHS secretary has been unresponsive to these concerns, and, in fact, has testified to Congress that she did not consider legal precedents for religious liberty in formulating her mandate. In January, she announced that the HHS regulations would be enacted without amendment.
Catholic charities, Christian colleges and other religious organizations still would be compelled to cover contraception in their health insurance plans. And the coverage list still would include abortion-inducing drugs.
In February, these regulations were finalized without amendment. Subsequently, the administration has proposed to offer certain religious groups some sort of accommodation. According to the proposal (which has not yet been enacted), Christian organizations would not have to pay for contraception and abortion; instead, their insurance companies would offer these services for free.
Unfortunately, the proposed accommodation fails to address the religious liberty issues at the heart of the controversy over the HHS regulations. Even if we are not paying for it, institutions like Wheaton College still would be required to cover abortifacient drugs, in violation of our religious principles. …