Lawyers representing the U.S. bishops today issued comments on the revised Health and Human Services mandate proposed on Feb. 1, saying the revisions still are "an unprecedented . . . violation of religious liberty by the federal government."
Associate General Secretary and General Counsel Anthony Picarello of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) submitted the comments to HHS, along with Michael F. Moses, USCCB associate general counsel. Their objections to the revisions rest on five points, as follows:
— The mandate still requires coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations, listing them as "preventive services," even though they do not prevent disease.
— No exemption of accommodation is available for individuals with religious or moral objections to contraceptive coverage.
— Although the revision improves upon the definition of "religious employer," it still excludes some religious entities such as Catholic hospitals, schools, universities, colleges, Charities and social service organizations by not recognizing them as an integral element of the Catholic Church.
— Although the "accommodation" offered on Feb. 1 does fit with the above-listed religious entities that are excluded from the definition of "religious employer," it still requires the entities to fund or otherwise facilitate the morally objectionable coverage.
— The revised mandate still infringes upon First Amendment religious freedom protections for organizations and individuals.
However, both Picarello and Moses wrote the USCCB is willing "to work with the Administration to reach a just and lawful resolution of these issues."
Read the full comments here.
The Catholic Conference of Illinois on March 27 also submitted comments to HHS, mirroring the remarks made by the USCCB. The public comment period ends on April 8. Individuals may also submit comments objecting to the mandate through the website of the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment.