Last week, the Obama administration tweaked the requirements for the contraception mandate on religious-based businesses and non-profit organizations. The “compromise”- which still exempts houses of worship, churches, worship centers, and church associations – includes exemptions for religious non-profit organizations, Christian and Catholic colleges, universities, hospitals, and religious charities from directly paying for health insurance that covers contraceptives and “reproductive services.” These organizations, still being legally mandated to cover their employees, would have to find a third-party insurer that would offer the employees a plan that included contraception- at no cost to the enrollee.
The so-called accommodation didn’t go far enough. Though religiously-affiliated colleges, hospitals, and non-profit organizations are exempt from directly paying for and providing contraceptive insurance plans, this exemption doesn’t cover the entrepreneurs and private business owners who own their own businesses large or small (such as Hobby Lobby) that hold religious objections to the mandate. Though they are not religious organizations in and of themselves, many of these businesses are managed by people who are guided by religious principles. Therefore, the “compromise”, while exempting churches and loosely religious non-profits, continues to infringe upon the moral conscience of thousands of business owners and their employees, preventing the freedom guaranteed in the Constitution to express their religious values and beliefs.
Furthermore, the contraceptive exemption that continues to affect church-based charities, colleges, and hospitals aren’t fully exempted based on the fact that they employ- and serve- a significant number of people who may not share the same faith as the institution, even though it’s a religious organization. That’s right.
Defined by the IRS, a church organization desires to advocate and instill religious values as its purpose or mission; it primarily employs people who share its religious principles and primarily serves people who share its religious tenets. Religious-based non-profits, on the other hand, may have a mission statement steeped in religious values and principles; but because it employs and serves people who may not share the same religious values, the organization doesn’t qualify. And neither do the private for-profit businesses that, again, aren’t religious institutions.
This reeks of a litmus test that defines “religious” in the way(s) that suits the government’s ideological predispositions. It’s also religious discrimination. For the government, “religious” is based upon the people the religious institution employs and services, not the internal character or mission of the organization that does the charitable servicing. So if those who receive charity, help, or employment agree with the religious-based mission of the business, then it qualifies as religious; if those who receive help, charity, or employment don’t happen to share the same religious viewpoints as the organization’s mission, then it doesn’t qualify as religious. No good.
There’s more that could qualify as religious discrimination. Remember, the religious-affiliated institution that is now exempt from directly purchasing a contraceptive insurance plan is still mandated to provide separate coverage for their employees that offers the contraceptive services- this is done through another insurance provider. Remember still, it’s provided at no cost to the enrollee- zero co-pay. The problem with this scenario is that there’s no legal injunction provided that would prevent the exponential cost-increase of premiums and/or co-pays of the non-contraceptive plan (which includes the co-pay) in relation to the contraceptive plan. This potential cost-increase will be considered religious discrimination by those who have opted out.
Further, the potential cost-increase of the non-contraceptive plan could be used to subsidize those plans that provide contraception and reproductive services- the very same behaviors that some employers/employees are morally opposed to and which prompted the exemption in the first place.
This is what I happen to call a moral “glitch” within the Obama administration. This is not unlike the “glitch” regarding the ironically and erroneously-named Affordable Care Act, which inadvertently disqualified thousands of poor American families (up to 7 million people) from affording employer-provided health insurance. At the same time, these poor families also won’t qualify for government assistance to purchase health coverage on their own. Thus, to accommodate for this “glitch”, these families won’t be subjected to the penalty- tax- by the IRS for not purchasing health insurance. But they will still have access to health care.
This is exactly what happens when, as Nancy Pelosi said, “[we] have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it” rather than reading the bill, in its entirety, prior to its passage.
Though this “exemption” may be one very small step in the right direction, it still discriminates against the religious sensibilities of millions of Americans. Nothing short of a full repeal of Obamacare will do.
The future of American healthcare, personal freedom, and religious liberty all depend on it.
Photo credit: terrellaftermath