Last week, scores of influential Catholic and Christian groups publicly backed the principles underlying the lawsuits filed on May 21 by Catholic dioceses and groups against the Obamacare drug and device mandates. The announcements should add considerable pressure on the Obama White House to rescind or amend HHS regulations ordering faith-based groups to engage in health care activities totally contrary to the congregations’ religious doctrines.
On June 11, over 150 faith-based organizations joined in a letter to HHS Secretary Sebelius, expressing “grave concern” over the impact that the Obamacare mandate will have on religious freedom. The Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition, organized the letter. It was signed by aid organizations, including World Relief and the U.S. branches of the Salvation Army and World Vision, Inc, as well as by the National Association of Evangelicals; the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; the Baptist Bible College & Seminary; and the North American Baptist Conference. Legal organizations involved in lawsuits against the Obamacare mandate, such as Liberty Counsel and the American Center for Law and Justice, also signed the letter. They wrote:
As leaders and supporters of faith-based service organizations, we write to express our grave concern about the two-class concept of religious organizations that has been created by your department and other federal agencies in connection with the contraceptives mandate of the health insurance regulations for preventive services for women.
But we are united in opposition to the creation in federal law of two classes of religious organizations: churches–considered sufficiently focused inwardly to merit an exemption and thus full protection from the mandate; and faith-based service organizations–outwardly oriented and given a lesser degree of protection. It is this two-class system that the administration has embedded in federal law via the February 15, 2012, publication of the final rules providing for an exemption from the mandate for a narrowly defined set of “religious employers” and the related administration publications and statements about a different “accommodation” for non-exempt religious organizations.
On June 14, the Catholic Heath Association, the largest groups of Catholic-based hospitals in the U.S., delivered a crushing blow to any hopes that the Obamacare mandates would find any approval among leading Catholic-based organizations. The Catholic Health Association, the largest group of Catholic-affiliated hospitals and nursing homes in the country, issued a letter opposing the HHS mandate. The CHA’s opposition is especially damaging to the future of Obamacare because (a) it represents 600 hospitals and hundreds of nursing homes (one of every six patients in the U.S. is cared for in a Catholic hospital); and (b) it supported the enactment of Obamacare and was a key player in votes for the law by Catholic Democrats in the U.S. House.
CHA President, Sister Carol Keehan, wrote in the letter that, “we continue to believe that it is imperative for the Administration to abandon the narrow definition of “religious employer” and instead use an expanded definition to exempt from the contraceptive mandate not only churches, but also Catholic hospitals, health care organizations and other ministries of the Church.”
In other words, the Obamacare mandate would force CHA-member institutions to either turn away non-Catholic patients or close. That’s what numerous Catholic social services organizations have said – hospitals, nursing homes, AIDS clinics, and local clinics for the poor could all close.
These letters are precursors to the next stage of lawsuits against Obamacare by faith-based social service organizations, unless the White House amends or rescinds the current version of the mandate or the Supreme Court throws out the entire law.
The 43 Catholic dioceses, organizations and universities that sued the Obama administration on May 21 invoked their 7th Amendment rights and demanded that local juries hear the suits, not judges. It would be better if push doesn’t come to shove, but if it does, the nation will see why the Founding Fathers were unanimous in including this “sacred” and “inviolable” right in the Bill of Rights.