LITTLE MORE THAN A NOD
I am late in responding to yesterday’s announcement by President Obama that his administration is willing to “tweak” [my word, not his] the regulations which I and so many of you have found objectionable in the HHS regulations requiring of religious employers contraceptive coverage including abortifacients in the Affordable Health Care Act for their employees. First, the good news of sorts. He has heard the protests being raised all over the country on this egregious violation of religious liberty. I repeat, this is not a battle about contraception but about religious liberty.
For the Diocese of St. Petersburg, however, it falls far short of a “fix.” We are self-insured with an Administrator managing our program for us and gaining the discounts that come with belonging to a larger health care operator. It still appears that the Diocese would be required since it acts as a health care insurance provider to provide the coverage and now we would have to pay for it making these morally objectionable provisions even worse. So while it was nice to hear the President say that no religious entity who finds this requirement of law objectionable on conscience grounds would be required to participate (I now know that our schools, Catholic Charities, St. Leo University, the cemetery are exempt and that was some progress in clarification yesterday) I as the employer who just happens to run an insurance company for my employees get hit even worse!
Perhaps in the days ahead there will be further clarification by the Administration on this requirement but we need to continue to strenuously make our case, seek legislative relief if that remains necessary, and “bang the drums loudly” for the essence of the first amendment guarantee of freedom of religion which we have thus far raised so effectively. A nod in the right direction is at least a start but it is still a long way to Tipperary.