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Religious Leaders Protest HHS Mandate at Washington, D.C. Press Conference

7/3/2013 - 6:07 AM PST

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themselves of contraceptives, sterilization, or abortifacient drugs without their parents’ knowledge because such information will not appear on parents’ claims statements at the end of each month.

Last year, my current employer, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, became the first university in the country to drop its requirement for student health insurance due to moral and economic concerns connected to the HHS mandate. Fr. Terence Henry, TOR, then-president of Franciscan University submitted a public statement protesting the new guidelines from HHS that force Catholic institutions to choose between following their faith or providing health coverage in their employee and student health plans. In his statement, Fr. Henry wrote that “By making this insurance coverage mandatory, our government has violated the consciences of people of faith and infringed on our rights to practice our religious beliefs.”

In May of 2012, Franciscan University sued the federal government saying that the HHS mandate constituted a grave threat to Franciscan University’s ability to continue to teach from the heart of the Church.

The Franciscan University lawsuit was one of 12 lawsuits filed on May 21, 2012, by 43 Catholic organizations, including the University of Notre Dame and other Catholic colleges and universities. There are now over 60 total lawsuits against the mandate, about half brought by family-owned businesses and half brought by non-profit religious institutions. Fortunately, of those cases on behalf of family businesses that have received early rulings on the religious freedom issue, the vast majority—almost 80%--of plaintiffs have been awarded temporary halts to the mandate. Unfortunately, on the non-profit side, many of the cases—including Franciscan University’s lawsuit—have been dismissed without prejudice because the courts have claimed that the religious institutions have not yet been “injured” by the HHS mandate.

Those of us who work on Catholic campuses—or other Christian institutions—disagree. We have already been injured by this unjust mandate because our constitutional right to religious freedom has already been compromised. The refusal by the Obama administration to classify religious institutions like Franciscan or Notre Dame as religious employers has already compromised our religious rights. There is every indication that this will escalate.

Refusing to count Franciscan University and Notre Dame and other Catholic and Christian colleges as religious employers, the state can target us as they have done to Catholic adoption agencies that won’t place children with gay and lesbian couples.

Unless Catholic colleges and universities are given some assurance that their religious liberty will be protected, the threats will continue. Rejecting our claims of religious liberty, it is likely that in a misguided attempt to protect women’s rights, we will be forced to facilitate our students’ participation in student internships at the clinics of abortion providers. Similarly, Catholic colleges and universities may be forced to accept as leaders those who openly disavow the Catholic faith. Analogous situations have arisen at state universities and private colleges. (See CLS v Martinez, involving Hastings Law School in California, and Vanderbilt University.) But, if we protest on religious liberty grounds, we will be told yet again that we have no right to protest because we are not religious institutions.

A current Obama appointee to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Chai Feldblum) recently wrote that when it came to gay rights or women’s rights, she was “having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”

We are already at a place where the establishment clause has shifted from a legitimate desire to keep the government from entangling itself in the internal affairs of religious organizations to a justification of anti-religious secularism—a pushing of religion out of the public square. This threatens all people of faith."


Franciscan University of Steubenville  OH, 43952 US
Tom Sofio - Associate Director of Public Relations, 


Franciscan University of Steubenville, HHS mandate, religious liberty, ecumenism



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