WASHINGTON, D.C. - A day after two Appeals Courts provided injunctions for Hobby Lobby and Geneva College in their religious freedom lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for mandating objectionable coverage in their health plans, the administration issued a final rule implementing this anti-religious policy and extended the "safe harbor" for non-profits for five months. Family Research Council (FRC) expressed strong opposition to HHS and the Obama administration's continued violation of religious freedom through its health care mandate.
The HHS mandate forces all health insurance plans to include abortifacient drugs (drugs with abortion-causing properties), sterilizations and contraceptives. The new final rule implements policies first proposed in the March 2012 "Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" and which was proposed again in February 2013.
Anna Higgins, J.D., director of FRC's Center for Human Dignity, made the following statement:
"A day after the courts issued temporary relief for Hobby Lobby and Geneva College because of the likelihood of success in challenging the anti-religious nature of the HHS mandate, this latest rule shows the administration is tone-deaf to religious freedom. The extended safe-harbor merely grants non-profits more time to decide whether to violate their fundamental religious beliefs and shows HHS is trying to buy more time as the courts begin to rule against this violation of religious freedom.
"Family Research Council strongly opposes the latest regulation that continues to mandate that life-ending drugs and contraceptive services be covered, with no copay, by health plans of businesses and organizations that have serious moral and religious objections. The accounting gimmick HHS continues to require fails to satisfy the religious freedom protections that exist in other current laws and in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"The mandate does not protect women's health either. It threatens women's health by forcing religious employers into the untenable choice of violating their consciences or dropping health coverage for families and the women they employ. That doesn't help women's health; it harms it.
"Since HHS and the Obama administration appear to be unwilling to protect religious liberty despite numerous court decisions against their violations, and regardless of any extended deadline for non-profits, Congress must act again to preserve the constitutional right of religious freedom. Until Congress or the courts solve this problem, institutions must decide between civil disobedience coupled with large fines or violating their faith," concluded Higgins.