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US Bishops' attorneys call mandate 'accommodation' inadequate


MICHELLE BAUMAN

Source:
CNA
Type:
Media/Opinion
Date:
5/16/2012

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ABSTRACTUS Bishops' attorneys call mandate 'accommodation' inadequate :: Catholic News Agency (CNA) Editors Service About us Donate Spanish Portuguese Follow us: Loading News Headlines Vatican Americas Asia - Pacific US Europe Middle East - Africa Most Read Most Commented Archive Mandate Resources Abortion Advent Apologetics Benedict XVI Bible Cardinals Catechism Catholic Womanhood Church Fathers Life & Family Liturgical Calendar Liturgy Mary Politics Prayers Sacraments Sacred Arts Saints Virtue Tools Catholic Podcast RSS Feeds CNA TV CNA Audio Columns A Life Worth Living Answering the Tough Questions Bishops' Corner Book Reviews Both Oars In Catholic & Single Catholic Men Guest Columnist Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II In Good Company Indispensable Economics Inside the Church during WWII Led Into the Truth Movie Reviews Preparing the way for the Roman Missal – 3rd Edition The New (& the Old) Evangelization The Spirit of the New Translation The Way of Beauty With Good Reason Your Moment in the Mass Documents Pope Benedict XVI Pope John Paul II Pope Paul VI Pope John XXIII Pope Pius XII Pope Pius XI Pope Pius X Pope Leo XIII Vatican II Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith Pontifical Council for the Family United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Cardinal James Francis Stafford Archbishop Charles J. Chaput Bishop Samuel J. Aquila Catholic Womanhood Home » News » US US Bishops' attorneys call mandate 'accommodation' inadequate By Michelle Bauman Washington D.C., May 16, 2012 / 03:06 pm ( CNA/EWTN News ) .- Arguing that a promised “accommodation” to the Obama administration’s contraception mandate fails to address religious freedom concerns, attorneys for the U.S. bishops suggest a possible lawsuit if the mandate is not rescinded. “Absent prompt congressional attention to this infringement on fundamental civil liberties, we believe the only remaining recourse, in light of the approaching regulatory deadlines, is in the courts,” said lawyers representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The mandate and its extremely narrow religious exemption are currently being challenged in at least 11 lawsuits by states, colleges, private employers and organizations across the country.  On May 15, Anthony R. Picarello and Michael F. Moses, who serve as general counsel and associate general counsel, respectively, for the bishops’ conference, submitted formal comments on the most recent suggestions regarding the administration’s contraception mandate. The controversial mandate will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences. While the mandate includes a religious exemption, few groups would qualify for it because it applies only to nonprofit organizations that exist for the purpose of inculcating religious values and both serve and employ primarily members of their own faiths. The bishops’ attorneys reiterated their previous argument that this exemption is “unprecedented in federal law, improperly narrow, and unlawful.” Widespread criticism of the mandate led the Obama administration to publish a new “advance notice of proposed rulemaking” in March. The notice outlines various suggestions for different ways to implement the mandate as it will apply to religious organizations that oppose the required coverage but do not qualify for the exemption. The administration has invited public comment on the advance notice until June 19. Afterwards, it will move forward with the process of issuing further regulations on the implementation of the mandate. In their comment, the bishops’ lawyers repeated arguments that in addition to being poor health policy, “the mandate itself is unjust and unlawful,” in violation of numerous federal statutes and the First Amendment’s protections of religious liberty.  The attorneys observed that the mandate is already finalized and has not been changed by the advance notice, which promises a future “accommodation” but does not affect the rule as it is written. Furthermore, they said, the promised accommodation will not extend to secular stakeholders that object to the mandate. Rather, the Obama administration has made it clear that the accommodation will apply only to religious organizations. In addition, the attorneys said, the accommodation does not provide adequate relief, “even for those few stakeholders that qualify for it.” They argued that the suggested options regarding coverage through a third-party administrator are all insufficient because the plan itself continues to fund or serve “as a gateway” to facilitate earmarked funding for objectionable products and procedures.  Either by paying for the coverage through their premiums or allowing access to such coverage through the plan itself, objecting organizations will be facilitating something that they consider gravely immoral, they said. The bishops’ lawyers also pointed o.......