[UPDATE] Unacceptable — former Vatican Ambassador, Prof. Robert George, others respond

[UPDATE: Over 118 national leaders (and counting), including university, college, seminary presidents, deans and board members, along with notable journalists, scholars and activists.  Updated letter can be found here.]

The following letter was signed by former Vatican Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon, Princeton Prof. Robert George, Notre Dame Law Prof. Carter Snead, Catholic University of America President John Garvey, and EPPC Fellow Yuval Levin.

Today the Obama administration has offered what it has styled as an “accommodation” for religious institutions in the dispute over the HHS mandate for coverage (without cost sharing) of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. The administration will now require that all insurance plans cover (“cost free”) these same products and services.  Once a religiously-affiliated (or believing individual) employer purchases insurance (as it must, by law), the insurance company will then contact the insured employees to advise them that the terms of the policy include coverage for these objectionable things.

This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy.  It is certainly no compromise.  The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust.  Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.

It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not “paying” for this aspect of the insurance coverage.  For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers.  More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual.  They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy.

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying “five day after pill” pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer.  It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer.  What matters is what services the policy covers.

The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.  This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.  It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept as assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.

Finally, it bears noting that by sustaining the original narrow exemptions for churches, auxiliaries, and religious orders, the administration has effectively admitted that the new policy (like the old one) amounts to a grave infringement on religious liberty.  The administration still fails to understand that institutions that employ and serve others of different or no faith are still engaged in a religious mission and, as such, enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.

Signed:

John Garvey

President, The Catholic University of America

Mary Ann Glendon

Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University

Robert P. George

McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University

O. Carter Snead

Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

Yuval Levin

Hertog Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center

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71 thoughts on “[UPDATE] Unacceptable — former Vatican Ambassador, Prof. Robert George, others respond

  1. [...] signed by former Vatican Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon and other notables, this decision is called “morally obtuse” and an “assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience” of men and women of [...]

  2. Vic Melfa, CEO says:

    Please let me know any resources that can help me understand how HHS Mandate and ObamaCare will hurt my 100 person business in Massachusetts. We now have Blue Cross Blue Shield for our employees and pay 60% of the premiums. And I try to be a faithful Catholic.
    Thank you.

  3. [...] uproar was immediate and loud. On February 10, President Obama himself seemed to offer a compromise option, but reality is that the changed wording and presentation did not [...]

  4. [...] Him.77 CommentsHow the White House's 98% Contraception Figure for Catholics is Wrong72 Comments[UPDATE] Unacceptable — former Vatican Ambassador, Prof. Robert George, others respond67 CommentsCompromise or Accommodation, it's still unacceptable. [Updated]43 Comments [...]

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