Religious freedom concerns on Obama contraceptive mandate grows

obama contraception mandate, healthcare, IRFAPresident Obama’s February 10th press conference and other actions by his administration satisfied the conscience concerns of some religious leaders and organizations but only increased the concerns of many others. In an “interim final rule” issued last summer, the administration had decided to carve out only a very narrow exemption to its requirement that all health insurance plans must cover, without co-pays, contraceptives, abortion-inducing contraceptives, sterilization, and reproductive counseling and education.

Churches would be exempted, the administration said, but not parachurches–because religious organizations that serve more than only fellow believers and that offer more than “inculcation in religious values” do not fit the administration’s narrow definition of a “religious employer.” When, on January 20, HHS Secretary Sebelius said that the administration was sticking with this narrow exemption despite all of the criticism, the uproar dramatically escalated, including loud protests from many liberal Catholic allies of the administration.

On February 10, the administration took several actions in response to the furor.  Without changing anything, it finalized the “interim final rule” with its narrow exemption–it is now federal law. Only churches are exempted from the mandate (churches with significant community-service programs might not be, however).

But what about parachurch organizations–religious colleges and schools, faith-based drug treatment programs, crisis pregnancy centers, and all the wide variety of community-serving religious organizations?  The administration said that faith-based service organizations whose insurance plans currently do not, for religious reasons, pay for contraceptives would be able to maintain that exclusion for a year, notwithstanding that the mandate comes into effect for health plans that have a start date of August 1, 2012, or later.

The administration has promised to developed a new, separate, regulation for parachurch organizations concerned about the contraceptive mandate. This is to be done over the next year (it is not cynical to imagine that the process will not start until after the November elections). Parachurch organizations will not get the complete exemption that churches have received. Instead, the President has promised what many (even supporters) have called a “fig leaf”: the requirement to provide free contraceptives will be transferred from the parachurch organizations to their insurance companies, which will notify the employees of this free benefit and also will be required (in theory) to absorb all costs of the birth control drugs, procedures, and education.

For more detail, see Faith-Based Services and the Contraception Mandate on IRFA’s website.

Many press reports and some religious leaders have hailed this as a great compromise that, as the President claims, satisfies both the requirement to respect religious freedom and his administration’s deep commitment to ensure easy and widespread access to birth control.

Any opposition must therefore be due to a hatred of (take your choice): the President, and/or expanded access to health care, women, birth control.

A wiser approach is to listen carefully to the growing chorus of serious voices that decry the purported compromise as not a real solution for the religious freedom problem.

If the government insists on making birth control more easily accessible, it must find some other way to accomplish its purpose. Notable developments since the announcement of the grand compromise include:

– Feb. 16 hearing of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, featuring a Catholic, a Jewish, and several Protestant religious leaders, and also representatives from five religious colleges (2 Catholic, 3 Protestant). Video and written statements are available here.

See also the analysis by Joshua Good, “Religious Liberty, The Contraceptives Mandate, and Civility,”,

– Feb. 21. Lawsuits continue to be filed against the federal government. Suits have now been filed by Belmont Abbey College (Catholic), Colorado Christian University (Protestant), EWTN (Catholic television network), Priests for Life (Catholic), Louisiana College (Protestant), and Geneva College (Protestant).

All of the 181 US Catholic bishops have spoken out against the mandate. Catholic Charities USA has warned against “mischaracterizations” of its position in the media, denying that it has accepted the President’s compromise.

A growing number of other Catholic institutions have also criticized the supposed accommodation. A long list of scholars and leaders from many faiths (over 300 and counting) has signed a letter of protest initiated by Mary Ann Glendon, John Garvey, Robert George, Carter Snead, and Yuval Levin.

Family Research Council released a letter of protest signed by more than 2,500 pastors and evangelical leaders.

Further Reading

Terry Mattingly, “Frame game: Mere politics? Just birth control?, Feb. 12.

N.C. Aizenman and Lena H. Sun, “Contraceptive rules remain in flux ,” Washington Post, Feb. 20 (although many states have their own contraceptive mandates, religious organizations can find ways to avoid violating their convictions; the federal mandate will eliminate these escapes)

Pew Forum, “Public Divided Over Birth Control Insurance Mandate,” Feb. 14.

Maggie Karner, “Where the Women Were During the House Contraception Mandate Hearing The effort to tarnish religious freedom concerns as sexism is clever but wrong,”, Feb. 17.

Michael Stokes Paulsen, “Obama’s Contraception Cram-down: The Pork Precedent,” Public Discourse Feb. 21.

Michael Gerson, “Clarifying the Basics of Religious Freedom,” Capital CommentaryFeb. 17.

Birth Control Mandate Is About Religious Freedom, Scholar Says”, Feb. 16 (interview with Stephen Monsma).

Melissa Rogers, “Honoring Religious Objections and Access to Contraceptive Coverage,”, Feb. 17. (“It is not the government’s job to try to determine what is the ‘right’ understanding of a faith; instead, its job is to assess whether the faith practice is sincere and the burden on it is substantial. Having already demonstrated an interest in accommodating spiritual obligations, the administration can and should consider different understandings of those obligations.”)


The Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance works to safeguard the religious identity, faith-based standards and practices, and faith-shaped services of faith-based organizations across the range of service sectors and religions, enabling them to make their distinctive and best contributions to the common good.

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7 thoughts on “Religious freedom concerns on Obama contraceptive mandate grows”

  1. The link between Obamacare and Hitlercare needs no dots–Read Mien Kampf. The model of socialized medicine that Obama proposes today is,precisely, the model of socialized healthcare that Hitler detailed in Mein Kampf. Hitler’s model, probably (since there are no records on who Hitler studied, was Heidegger and his hermeneutics of factical life.
    If you think my arguments are convoluted, you have not read a great deal of philosophical thought, (try reading the afformentioned philosopher’s treaty Being and Time ). The difference between natural law vs declared law is well defined in many works. And for the record I am not a Christian, nor would I ever be a Christian because I have studied history.
    If you want “dots” answer these questions…

    1.Has Obama ever defended America in any sense of the term?

    2.Has Obama ever defended the Constitution?

    3.Has Obama had studied,and been mentored by socialists, radicals, and even terrorists,( remember his political mentor was a member of the terrorist group the Weatherman, and admits to killing people while in that group)?

    4.Does Obama associate with radical, socialist Christian sects that advocate anti-semitism and anti-Isreal hatred?(Have you forgotton Rev. Wrights celebration of 9-11)

    5.Does Obamacare prioritize the rights of the society above the rights of the individual?

    IF your answer to all of these questions is yes, then you are agreeing that Obama is a socialist. Obama care is socialism–and if you have any further doubts read Mein Kampf.

    For my curiosity, what studies prove that Catholics did not vote for Hitler? Is there evidence that exists as to which Germans voted for Hitler and which did not? Clearly Italian Catholics voted for Mussolini, and French Catholics cooperated with the Nazis. Even George Soros, son of Jews, is suspected of being part of the French collaboration with the Nazi’s. It is more then a little suspicious that he lived when his family fried in the Nazi ovens, and that he was unduly wealthy immediately after the war.

    On to the Constitution, while the educated founding fathers most likely were familiar with Hume, none specifically referenced him in any document. Nor is there any source information suggesting that his philosophies suggesting that his philosophy was a substrate of American Independence. Most of the founding fathers were not educated to the degree of even studing Hume, (Franklin, Madison, and many others did not complete high school) and most of Hume’s work was not readily available in America at that time. Your “guesses ” lack historical support–so your guesses at the very best are no better then mine.

    Mine are just accepted by more political historians.

  2. The difference between the marketplace and Obamacare exchanges is, precisely the difference between an open market and socialism. Obama is, like Hitler, like Stalin, like Spock, and like Bentham; a socialist. Socialists are, by their own philosophy anti-American.
    Where you are wrong is that I did not say “natural rights”–I said rights. Obviously I meant rights granted by our Constitution. The Constitution trumps the need for a legislator. No where in our Constitution will you find the term natural rights. You will find the term used in the Declaration of Independence, but not as the derivation of our rights and responsibilities as citizens. The laws of Nature are used, exclusively to declare all humans equal in the eyes of God. Being equal means that when people feel their rights as individuals are being abused by the expansion of the rights of the government,(otherwise phrased as the rights of the group) they have the right to form their own government if there is no other means to assure one’s individual rights. Only a fool would think that the concept of equal rights, including the freedom of religion, somehow stems from a religion that killed millions for the sake of racial and religious purity. Only a fool would forget how many died at the hands of the Catholic church, or in the protestant pogroms and holocausts in Europe.
    What the Declaration makes vitally and glaringly clear is that this government is formed to preserve and maximize the rights of the individual over the rights of any form of government. That is the definition of what it means to be an American; and the polar opposite of that definition is socialism. What you want to forget is that Obama clearly was not smart enough to create his own socialist healthcare scheme–he stole his creation straight from the pages of Mein Kampf. Like Hitler’s Germany, Obama is creating, literally, death boards to ration health care to those that the Obama dictatorship deems worthy.
    Or are you suggesting that Obamacare does not ration health care, will not judge who is more worthy and who is less worthy of health care, and will not reduce the individual Americans to choose what care they want? Who is the fool?

    1. Actually there has been some recent studies done that indicate German Catholics did not vote for Nazi Party compared to German Protestants in the hinterlands. Some even have connected this historic tendency to the appeal of Rick Santorum to those toothless dweebs in the GOP clinging to their god and guns, as Obama quipped. Still. Your wandering hyperbole is too circular for words, not to mention your confusion about “natural rights”

      I’d argue that the Constitution, in reaction to Founders understanding of the history of the England (read Hume’s history of England like every Founder did) to see the document foremost guard against the Monarch’s incessant grasping for power against other segments of English Society: nobles, clergy, guild, merchant, and farmer. So it is first about limiting the power of the Congress and Executive. Individual rights are a by product and mean nothing unless in the context of a well ordered society of free people, which assumes proper government and care for the commons.

      And please, please show us the exact dots that get you from Obamacare to Mein Kampf. That’s like saying house painters are Nazis because Hitler was one.

  3. Obamacare is neither new or revolutionary. In 1938 the same healthcare plan was proposed by Hitler in Mein Kampf. Obamacare is socialized medicine, because it requires all person to purchase health care. While clearly unconstitutional, socialized medicine is anti- freedom. To exist it must deny participants the right to make decisions, religious or otherwise, for themselves. When the needs of the many outweight the needs, or rights, of the few; (which is the classical definition of a socialist society) individuals lose personal rights–the right of religion is just one of those rights.
    Don’t take my word for it; just look at history for numerous examples of socialism destroying religious freedom. Any one want to be a Christian in China?

    1. The GOP pushed for a individual mandate as alternative to Hillary Care. The difference is the individual would select insurance from the market place not Obamacare exchanges.

      Your “needs of the many” quote comes from Spock in Wrath of Khan II, BTW. It was philosopher of utilitariansim and social reform in the late 18th century Britain Jeremy Bentham who said, “It is the greatest good to the greatest number of people which is the measure of right and wrong.”

      Bentham made the case that to talk as you do of natural rights and duties (clearly legal distinctions) suggests laws with without a legislator. This does not make sense and is akin to talking about a child without a parent. For this reason Bentham rejected your (then and now) radical notion of “natural rights” that arose from the French Revolution. Apparently you, like most Xians, don’t even know your own traditions and end up promoting liberalism, scientism (the way you read Scripture) and revolution thanks to your cheap religion and ignorance.

      For Christians both in Catholic and Protestant thinking, human dignity comes from our creatureliness as image bearers of God, not the secular liberal tradition’s notion of “rights” bestowed by some dictator, the masses, or some pagan idea of nature.

  4. Obama is not a Christian. He does NOT believe Jesus is the way the truth or the life and that there is no other God but Him. Moreover, obama supports killing unborn children and eugenics as is clearly seen in his appointment of John Holdren a man who wrote books about forcing Americans to be sterilized, having abortions and who advocates government population control. Don’t be fooled. It’s not hard to seduce a crowd by saying you were on your knees. Big deal. Being on your knees and even praying doesn’t make you a Christian. The only time he’s on his knees is when he’s looking for a vote. Obama has a story for every crowd he appears to. Romney is no better. Romney think he’s going to be a god and live on a planet when he goes to heaven. Obama thinks he a god now on this planet. In a 2004 interview with Cathleen Falsani, Obama said, “I believe that there are many paths to the same place.” Obama also said, “All people of faith-Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, everyone knows the same God.”

    But Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Nowhere in the Bible is there a reference to Obama’s “many paths.” Obama’s father, grandfather and great grandfather were all muslim, this makes him a muslim in muslim religion. He is compromised. He should NOT be chief and commander of our military. And he’s most definately not a friend to Israel.

    1. It is unconstitutional to require some particular oath or religious confession (prescriptionism) for holding office. Candidates run for President, not the Pope. That is not to say we cannot think about politics as Christians, but let’s defeat bad policies on the merits, not because of someone’s confession of faith or lack thereof; especially if it simply doesn’t jibe with yours.

      Here’s a good op-ed from EJ Dionne about religion and public life that appeared in the Washington Post on Maundy thursday.

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