Catholic bishops, Becket Fund slam newest HHS contraception mandate rules

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(RNS) The Obama administration has once again modified the rules on employers and workers’ access to free contraception but religious voices are no happier.

Contraceptive pills.

Photo courtesy of Image Point Fr via Shutterstock

Contraceptive pills.

On Friday (Aug. 22), the Department of Health and Human Services released the new regulations for the mandate requiring employers to provide insurance coverage that gives workers free access to 20 forms of contraception. The new rules are meant to comply with a recent Supreme Court ruling.

The original mandate, issued in 2012, exempted strictly religious organizations such as churches but did not exempt faith-based nonprofits such as hospitals, charities and schools. Neither was there any exemption for private for-profit business owners who object to some or all forms of artificial birth control.

This spring, in a case brought by owners of the Hobby Lobby craft stores and the owners of a woodcraft company, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that small, family-held for-profit companies must also be exempted.

Another set of lawsuits, representing religious nonprofits such as the Little Sisters of the Poor and several faith-based universities and charities, has yet to be argued. The Little Sisters object to a requirement that they sign a form from HHS releasing them from instructing an insurer to cover contraception. The nuns hold that no matter which process or paperwork is required, they cannot facilitate any insurer providing contraception to their employees. In their view, that would be cooperating with an evil — artificial contraception and abortion — which are forbidden by their faith.

Almost as soon as the new rules were issued Friday, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Hobby Lobby’s case, slammed them as inadequate.

Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund, said in a statement that no matter how many times (and this is the eighth time ) the mandate is rewritten, the basic problem is the narrowness of the exemption itself. She said the government maintains its “original, hardline stance that only ‘houses of worship’ that hire and serve fellow believers deserve religious freedom.”

The only groups that are exempted fully and automatically remain those religious bodies that serve the religious needs of people of their faith, not the faith-based groups that serve a wide population regardless of religion.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ response was equally stern.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., talks with Catholic News Service after he was elected the new president of the  U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday (Nov. 12) in Baltimore. Photo by Nancy Phelan Wiechec, courtesy Catholic News Service

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., talks with Catholic News Service after he was elected the new president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Nov. 12, 2013 in Baltimore. Photo by Nancy Phelan Wiechec, courtesy Catholic News Service

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, in a statement posted on the USCCB Facebook page, the bishops would study the rules in depth but were disappointed at first look.

Kurtz said “the regulations would not broaden the ‘religious employer’ exemption to encompass all employers with sincerely held religious objections to the mandate. Instead, the regulations would only modify the ‘accommodation,’ under which the mandate still applies and still requires provision of the objectionable coverage.”

And because accommodations in the new rule were only offered to the small privately held companies that were covered by the Hobby Lobby ruling, Kurtz said, “the proposed regulations would effectively reduce, rather than expand, the scope of religious freedom.”


  • Larry

    They are fighting the need to fill out some paperwork. Can they get any lazier?

    At this point we can pretty much call the Becket Fund a conservative theocratic mouthpiece. There is nothing resembling religious conviction in any of this. It is simply Christians trying to impose their outdated views on others by coercion and seemingly getting away with it. I say enough with trying to compromise with them. It only gets treated like capitulation.

  • We were once a nation of laws made by the people.

    But now that Hobby Lobby and its Supreme Court defenders have seized the day – we are all subject to the LAWS OF GOD.

    Get used to Sharia Law.
    Or get used to coming out of the closet (atheists) and join this cause.

    Protecting our rights FROM religion has become a civil rights issue.
    The Holy Roller Christians are on the march to destroy our Constitution.

    They may be winning. 🙁

  • “Almost as soon as the new rules were issued Friday, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented Hobby Lobby’s case, slammed them as inadequate.”

    It is time for Atheists to form a stronger lobby. This ugly religious genie must be put back in the bottle before the Christian Caliphate starts fining us for not making prayers at sunrise!

  • gilhcan

    The Catholic bishops and members of the Becket Fund must learn two vital aspects about human rights:

    1. Freedom of religion includes freedom from religion, that of the bishops and the religion or non-religion of anyone else. Religion, if one wishes such beliefs, is a private, natural human right. That is precisely why it was listed as the very first right in the Bill of Rights that was added to our Constitution by the ratification of the people of this nation so soon after they ratified the Constitution itself.

    2. The Catholic bishops and members of the Becket Fund should also learn how to mind their own business and stop trying to force their religious beliefs or their religious morals, onto others in the name of what they call evangelizing.

  • gilhcan

    I’m not sure about your first claim, Max. Slavery was ratified in the original Constitution, and women were not allowed to vote for for 130 years after the ratification of that instituting document. So we had something in common with Sharia Law from the start. Many people in this country would like to institute it more severely. Like Sharia, it’s scripture-based.

    I don’t think we can claim real democracy has ever existed in this nation, and we seem to be moving further away from it now. Much of the blame for that is the laziness and political ignorance of the people, the masses, the electorate–especially those who don’t even bother to vote. Of course, if people won’t study and learn about issues and politicians, not voting couldn’t be worse.

    Consider the small fraction of black voters in Ferguson, MO, in their last election. And they constitute a large majority of the population of that town. Why does Ferguson have a super-majority of whites on its police force? Who’s to blame?

  • gilhcan

    The Little Sisters of the Poor and all other health care providers with religious motives should get out of the health care business if they are not willing to provide all aspects of health care to everyone who needs and wants them. No exemptions should ever have been made, not for religious entities, not for private companies like Hobby Lobby. The decision should be left up to individuals and their doctors. If Catholic or other church affiliates do not want to participate, they should not be given any public funding for their operations. When they accept public funds, they cease to be private.

  • gilhcan

    Larry: That claimed fight about paper work is a lying subterfuge to escape the law. If such entities don’t want to provide health care, get out of health care. No more public funding to any organizations who are not willing to comply with public laws. Public law must never be subservient to canon law.

    Also, it is very unbecoming for so-called religious people to be lying about the real motives for their behavior. Of course, we know from the outrageous sex scandal that continues among many clergy, Catholic and others, especially Catholic, that we cannot expect honesty about their motives or actions.

  • @gilhan,

    “We were once a nation of laws made by the people.”
    You are correct. My claim isn’t right.

    But what I meant to say – religion’s role at the very beginning of our country was minimized by the founding documents in the 1770’s. Soon afterward, the influence of religion returned.

    You are also correct that democracy is not faring well.

    But some of the destruction of democracy can be blamed on the prevalence of religion and the persistent delusional idea that God plays an invisible, dominant role in all outcomes.
    “Thy Will be done” is one of the most insipid, insidious dangers to humanity. It is an argument from every pulpit TO DO NOTHING and let “GOD’s will” supersede .

    The most religious communities, such as Ferguson, MO (Christian Left) and Kansas City, MO (Christian Right) are the least democratic.

    As long as religion remains strong, and its philosophy permeates society – people will defer responsibility for their lives to an imaginary Sky Ruler.

    This nonsense leads to very powerful, unelected, unaccountable fiefdoms known as ‘Parishes’. Religion is inhuman and subversive.

  • Frank

    Keep up the good fight!

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  • andy wright

    atheists do not deserve any response from anyone,similar to 4 year olds
    neither is rational-just live out your lives,seek your 15 minutes fame
    and go below for eternity.

  • andy wright

    you do not believe in them or their merit,so leave them alone
    enjoy yiur wretched earthly life-we won,t have to hear your screams from below

  • Frank

    Abortion is hardly ever health care.

  • @Andy wright,

    Don’t be so mean to Paul Newman just because he was an Atheist.
    He raised $370 million for poor children and he didn’t do it ‘for god’ – he did it for poor children!

    You Christians are always so angry.

  • @Andy wright,

    “enjoy your wretched earthly life..”

    Who are you calling wretched?

    “I had my son tortured terribly, even arranged for his bones to be broken and made sure that he bled to death – every drop of blood had to go right out of his hanging corpse onto the ground – very important – because I couldn’t think of any better way to help human beings from the mess I created” – Yahweh

    “And if you don’t believe me, I’ll do even worse things to you!” – Yahweh

    And…You worship this?
    You are welcome to it – but don’t call me wretched for not believing it.

  • goldengrain

    Certainly. Contraception and abortion are legal medical options. You don’t start making exceptions for religious fanatics because they will keep pushing and pushing until the have the entire country hostage, conforming to their will. We find that out with Muslim fanatics, and our own, home-grown sorts differ little in this aspect.

    If Christian companies can dictate their will on diverse employees, what’s to stop another suit by Muslims, claiming women must cover their arms and legs?

  • John

    I think it’s time for you to update your rhetoric. The homosexual pederast priest scandal has been over for quite a while now.
    Public schools, Jewish synagogues, protestant ecclesial communities, and Islamic centers all had numbers of abuse that were just add high, if not higher than the Catholic church.
    The only difference is that the Catholic church is the only one that’s actually cleaned up the act.
    If the Church listened to pope Pius X, our pope Benedict and the men out of the seminaries with deep seated homosexual perverts incisions this scandal would have not happened to the extent out did in the 1960s-1990s.
    But the heretical “spirit of Vatican II” and the resulting crash in vocations forced evil church men like Bernadine and Mahoney to have control of the strings for that dark period of the church’s history. The church is only just now coming from under the cloud of felt banners, altar girls, scandal ridden groups like CCHD, and homosexual pederast modernist perverts like Wembert Weakland.
    Francis appears to want to take the Church back to the heretical “seamless garment” pushed by the ahem, “problematic” Joseph Bernadine.
    Thanks to Benedict, and good strong church men like cardinal Raymond Burke, I think we are turning the page on the abuse crisis.

    My question… why does nobody mention the higher abuse prevalence with Jews, Muslims, protestants, and public secular groups?

  • John

    What’s “conservative” about agreeing that the government should force a Catholic institution to go against dogma and sign off on totally free birth control, sterilization, and abortions?
    A better question is, why is the democrat party only interested in “free” birth control, when other drugs like those for diabetes, antiviral, antibiotics, antidepressants, pain medications (the list can go on)…

    Why the obsession with sterile sex?
    The church is clear that birth control and abortion ate intrinsic evils. It has always been this way.

    Why should the government and the democratic party of death, force its antilife views on the Church?

    Why should the Little Sisters of the Poor be forced to sign off and.approve of these Intrinsic evils?

    Did or baby killer in Chief get a monetary kick back from planned parenthood for this? Why else is it only sterile sex drugsand abortafacients that are paid for 100% by taxpayers, and requiring the okay from those that don’t agree?

    You can complain all you want that the Church doesn’t “evolve” to accept intrinsic evils, but truth is truth, and truth forest “update” to the Times one lives in.
    Black is still black, and white will always be white.

    The liberals inside and outside the Church are always obsessed with changing our “updating” the same things. Liberals never talk of theological things like the assumption of the Blessed Mother, etc. Nope, it’s always the same with the Left…
    -both control
    -women’s “ordination”
    -acceptance of sodomy between men
    -priestly celibacy

    Now. Who’s obsessed with sex again??

  • John

    It’s the ones FORCING UNDER PENALTY to cover one kind of drug that’s “holding ones hostage”.
    Nobody is forcing anybody to work for a faithful Catholic group like the Little Sisters of the Poor.

    And last I checked, both control was 9 flats a month. Why the obsession to force ones to cover it 100%. Why not diabetes drugs?

    Why should the baby killer in Chief force his views on the Church?

  • John

    Where exactly in the constitution does it say a government can force a religion to cover birth control 100% under penal of law?
    Nobody is banning birth control.
    You can still pay 9 bucks to get it yourself.

    The left wing, as usual is trampling religious freedom (first amendment, by the way).
    Where exactly Is forcing groups to pay for abortion drugs in the constitution?

  • John

    Atheists are known widely as the angriest, most closed minded bunch around.

    Poor thing. I truly feel bad for you.

  • jimbo

    Judging by the crusty looks of the aged author, and her (his?) Insensitive tone, this is likely just angry liberal rantings.

    News flash. Contraceptives and abortion drugs ate still legal. Nobody is “denying women’s access to healthcare”. These druids can still be obtained for virtually nothing, if not free at your local neighborhood abortuary.
    Who gives the federal government power to force faithful Catholic groups to sign off on supplying these drugs?

    Typical left wing “progressive” government coercion.

    Other than the fact that the democrats are in the pocket of planned parenthood, why this obsession by democrats with sterile sex and forced acceptance of sodomy between two perverts?

  • @Jimbo,

    “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!”
    (1 Corinthians 16:22)

    Name calling is the Christian thing to do.
    Why are you Christians so angry?

  • @John,

    “They are swine” – JESUS (Matthew 7:6)

  • @jimbo,

    “sodomy between two perverts”

    I see you judge people harshly.
    It is the Christian way.

    “He made a whip of cords and attacked them” – (John 2:5)

    “bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King and execute them in front of me.” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    Why are Christians so angry?

  • Sundown

    There is no “democrat” party. It’s called the “Democratic” party. Maybe if you paid attention to the news you would know this.

  • @John,

    “Why should the baby killer in Chief force his views on the Church?”

    Obama was 13 years old when Roe Vs. Wade was decided which gave women the right to her own body.

    1. Explain how Obama at 13 years old influenced the Supreme Court.
    2. Explain why nobody else has ever considered your amazing ‘insight’?

  • @John,

    Kill the women. Rape the little girls:

    “‘Why have you let all the women live?’ he demanded. …They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for your pleasure.” (Num:31:18)

    Keep the virgins for your pleasure?
    What morality is preached by your god?

    And Women are the cause of plagues?
    Doesn’t your God know that gay men were the spreaders of AIDS – not women?
    How many other things are wrong with god?

    I wouldn’t trust your Theocracy to get anything right.

  • @John,

    “Now. Who’s obsessed with sex again??”

    You had to ask:

    “Thus says the Lord: ‘I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives [plural] while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbor. He shall LIE NAKED WITH YOUR WIVES in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.’ ” (2 Samuel 12:11)

    Rape neighbors wives in broad daylight!?

    You want this God to run America?
    I would not trust your Theocracy to get anything right.

  • John,

    “Nobody is banning birth control.”
    Yes you are.

    If you think you can control what women do with their bodies
    You should consider what some people would like to do with your body:

    A law has been proposed
    whereby all men must give up one of their kidneys
    to a needy diabetic or be denied coverage
    for other medical treatments.

    How would you like that?

    Men might learn to shut up
    if they understood what they are asking of women.

  • Larry

    No other church or organization caught in such scandals had the resources to frustrate investigations and avoid paying damages like the Catholic church did.

    With that aside, the issue here is that they feel it is their duty to use what power they have to coerce people to follow their interests. Their behavior here shows the same kind of disregard for the public that they showed in reaction to wayward priests. Protect their own at the cost of anyone else.

  • Larry

    Forcing employers to provide MINIMUM HEALTH CARE coverage as provided by law. There is no right to force people to abide by your religious views. Working for a company or organization does not mean one is automatically the religion of the management.

    At will employment does not mean an employer can do ANYTHING they want with their workers.

  • Larry

    The minute they stopped acting like a church and started acting like an employer providing general services to the public.The more churches move out of the business of giving religious rites and prayer, the more they have to accept being part of the civil society and its rules.

    Religious freedom does not entail coercing others into accepting your dogma. Instead of trying to lead an example to others, Christians feel they have to use force to get their views noticed.

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  • markinator

    John — you wrote: ” The homosexual pederast priest scandal has been over for quite a while now.” So that you are aware, homosexuality is a sexual attraction to persons of the opposite gender. It is a description, just like “heterosexual”. The Catholic clergy that engaged in criminal sexual conduct with minor children were pedophiles. Pedophilia is criminal when acted upon like the Catholic clergy did. The church started this lie as a deliberate deception to their insidious problem of pedophile clergy.

    You wrote: “our pope Benedict and the men out of the seminaries with deep seated homosexual perverts incisions this scandal would have not happened to the extent out did in the 1960s-1990s.” Please see my explanation above about how badly you are wrong. The scandal in the Catholic church remains pedophile clergy raping minor children. Also, I highly doubt that pedophile Catholic clergy only abused kids during your arbitrary time frame. We can be sure that it’s been around for far much longer, but now they don’t hold authority, and can’t run nor hide.

    You wrote: “why does nobody mention the higher abuse prevalence with Jews, Muslims, protestants, and public secular groups?” You just mentioned them. But then if your statement had any veracity, you’d already have provided some links or citations to demonstrate your point. But you didn’t. I agree that there are pedophiles among those clergy too. Now, add those to the criminal pedophile priests and bishops, and it sure looks like religion has a serious issue with their clergy raping kids.

    You’re simply fabricating and perpetuating the church’s deception regarding homosexuality, and you do it knowingly. That’s why you seemed to have a need to elaborate on OTHERS guilty of the same crime. The Catholic church is trying to deflect attention through more false claims that other professions have the same rate of criminal sexual conduct, and that is demonstrably false. You claim that this scandal is now in the past, yet there are multiple court cases being heard in Minnesota right now, with the church obfuscating and delaying at every chance. It’s quite disgusting to see your defensive behavior tactics that spread more disinformation.

    You can easily see on the follwing link the map that gives links to all of the dioceses in the US. Nearly all have listings of clergy being credibly accused:

    One look at that website’s information, and there will be no doubt that the Catholic priesthood owns the dubious title of having the most pedophiles in its ranks.

    Have a nice day!

  • markinator

    andy wright: It’s peculiar how you’ve isolated atheists as not deserving of any response. What that tells us about you is that you’d allow the Westboro Baptists their time, as well as the Satanists, and let’s not forget Islam. You apparently think that christianity is the correct religion, but still allow for these others to have their say.

    You would not allow the following people to have their say in the matter: Carl Sagan, Albert Einstein, Neil deGrasse Tyson, George Carlin, John Lennon, Brad Pitt, and Stephen Hawking, because they were all atheists. Before you think that Hitler was atheist, he was not. Hitler was an avowed Catholic, as were all Nazi officers, and they attended church weekly.

    You would not allow me to have my say. I am an atheist. I am a US Army veteran that defended all citizens’ right to have their say. Since the US is becoming more atheist (currently at 20% and increasing), not long before christianity is the minority belief in the US, and the reason for it is directly the fault of the religions themselves driving people away.

  • markinator

    andy wright: You defend the Little Sisters of the Poor and their idiotic claim about signing a document that will violate their beliefs. Yet that same organization doesn’t have a problem signing the checks they’re given as payment. Also, I’m enjoying my “wretched earthly life”, but I’m quite certain that when you’re in heaven, you get to point and laugh at the people in hell for eternity.

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