Jesus vs. the Department for Health and Human Services

Proposed HHS regulations for “Required Health Plan Coverage” to be implemented next year will compel every employer to provide insurance coverage for sterilization and abortifacients, which Catholics (and perhaps other religious organizations) will judge as morally-reprehensible.

The Obama administration in their graciousness has provided some form of “conscience-exemption”:

Group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers, and group health insurance coverage in connection with such plans, are exempt from the requirement to cover contraceptive services. A religious employer is one that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii). 45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B).

but the guidelines here are drawn so narrowly that few, if any, religious organizations will actually qualify for exemption.

As Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the USCCB notes, in framing the definition of “religious employer” thus “the HHS has plunked itself right in the middle of the sanctuary. It is trying to define what a religion does and does not do.”:

Catholic hospitals, charities and educational institutions provide about $30 billion worth of service annually in this country. No one presents a baptismal certificate at the emergency room. The hungry do not recite the Creed to get groceries at the food pantry. Students can pursue learning at The Catholic University of America, Villanova or any other Catholic college without passing a catechism admissions test. The commitment to serve those in need, the sick, the hungry, the uneducated, is intrinsic to Catholicism. No federal rule (except now HHS’s) says the church must limit its service to Catholics if it is to be true to its teaching. HHS doesn’t get the parable of the Good Samaritan, who helped the stranger simply because he was in need.

Look at the numbers. Catholic hospitals admit about 5.6 million people annually. That’s one out of every six persons seeking hospital care in the United States. Catholic Charities serves more than 9 million people annually. Catholic colleges and universities teach 850,000 students annually. Among those served are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, atheists, agnostics and members of any other religious or irreligious group you can name.

Indeed, it seems as though Jesus himself wouldn’t pass muster at the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services.

(HT: Wheat & Weeds).

More to explorer


  1. And not just those employed by the Catholic Church or Catholic Charitable organizations, but those faithful Catholic businessmen and women who now face the choice of going against their faith of closing their business because they refuse to go along with Obamacare.

  2. A number of organizations, ostensibly speaking on behalf of American Catholics, asserting that voting for candidate Obama was not a vote for abortion. We were told again and again that our concerns about electing an abortion advocate were silly and unreasoned because 1) the “real” fight over abortion was in the courts and state houses and 2) because candidate Obama could do no more than maintain the Clinton-era status quo. Yet, here we are in the opening salvos of the 2012 General Election season with this pandering move to shore up pro-choice support.

    The question is, how can our fellow Catholics reason their way to voting for President Obama in 2012 now that he has betrayed his hand on abortion?

  3. Obama is the MOST pro death candidate we have had EVER! He was a cheerleader for partial birth abortion. To all Catholics who voted for this man, great job! What is next, the reincarnation of Stalin for health and wellness tzar.

  4. In 2008, it was licit for Caholics to vote Obama because . . .

    And, in 2012 . . .

    In 2008, I knew Obama was the most rabid pro-abortion candidate in US history.

  5. This proposed reg. tells me that this administration is intent on making the
    Church either become the willing tool of the federal bureaucracy or retreat to
    a ghetto. My impression is that our betters in DC would prefer not to have
    the ever-expanding number of citizens receiving aid/charity/welfare/services
    to be receiving from any hands but theirs.

    I read recently that the president’s proposed jobs bill contains a section that
    would reduce the amount of deductions one could claim for charitable con-
    tributions. Should I be sizing tinfoil hats, or is there a pattern emerging?

  6. I think we are giving the Administration too much credit.

    This isn’t diabolical, it is slimy, political pandering.

    Does the President want an expansion of federal programs with secukar oversight? Of course, but I don’t think there is much reflection on what that would mean going on at the White House. It is a want, nothing more.

    At this particular moment, the President wants, more than anything, to feel supported and loved. The timing of the end of Don’t ask, Don’t tell, the strike at the DOMA, the assault on No Child Left Behind, all of the immigration forays into legislative prerogatives… All of this is pandering, nothing more.

    The problem is that he has no clue what to do on a host of fronts and, so, is stepping in solely to draw attention away from his incompetence.

    His Middle East plan failed. Remember that “if we engage in self-loathing and fawning apologies for the existence of the West, they’ll love us.” How’d that work out? His economic plans are a failure too, though, in fairness, he played the Keanesian book to its limits. He has no idea how to get things moving. His healthcare plan is mired in legal problems and can’t be funded. His military doesn’t trust him and his intelligence services are without direction. Afghanistan is a slow-moving train wreck and Iran went nuclear despite all assurances from the President thAt “engagement” would bring them to heal. Israel and Turkey are no longer trusted allies and Europe sees no reason to heed anything we say. Putin rises, Obama falls. China holds our tether and international corporations flee US shores.

    All of the Administrations actions over the last three months are merely rear guard actions to cover wholesale retreat.

  7. Perceptive G-Veg. As his popularity sinks Obama is playing to his base and only to his base. A man who has been hailed and applauded all his adult life is now widely regarded as incompetent and thus he goes where the remaining applause is.

  8. Mary Ann Walsh and the Bishops promoted national health care for Obama nearly all along the way. Now the scorpion is doing what it was born to do.

  9. Don, this isn’t my area of law. Perhaps you have a more versed opinion.

    I see another piece of this that is troubling: HHS is, in essence, requiring that religious groups claim direct control over entities in order to bring them under the exemption.

    What I mean is that the regulation suggests that the exemption applies if entities come under the umbrella of, for example, a diocese. Thus, a diocese could take over direct management of a Catholic hospital or university and, so, bring them under the exemption. However, many religious organizations, not only the Catholic Church, are loathe to do this because the liability would attach – because doing so creates a monolith that can be toppled in one go.

    Using the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as an example: Supposing the Philadelphia Archdiocese took Mercy Healthcare, Villanova University, St. Joseph’s University, and a bunch of private, Catholic elementary and high schools under its wing in order to apply the HHS exemption. Then a jury finds against the Archdiocese in one of the suits and grants a ruinous award to the plaintiff. All of the entities under that umbrella would be liable for a plaintiff would argue that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has direct control over them. In essence, claiming the prerogative in the HHS context would be evidence of control in the liability context.

    Ugh. Am I reading this right?

  10. Oh yes G-Veg. I have done enough personal injury work to be familiar with the ceaseless search for a deep pocket, and I cannot conceive how a diocese could establish an effective firewall in such a cirumstance to prevent liability from attaching.

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