Thursday, May 26, 2016

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Catholic Education Daily


Obama Administration Responds to Justice Sotomayor, Catholic Health Plan on HHS Mandate

Today the Obama Administration told Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor that the Christian Brothers Services health plan is exempt from providing immoral insurance coverage to more than 200 Catholic schools and organizations—but the plan’s lead attorney says the argument ignores a serious violation of the clients’ religious freedom.

At the invitation of Justice Sotomayor, the Administration responded this morning to her order temporarily blocking enforcement of the HHS mandate for the Christian Brothers Services and its client the Little Sisters of the Poor, according to NBC News.

The Administration argued that the Christian Brothers plan is a “church plan” exempt from federal oversight, and therefore need not comply with the HHS mandate to provide coverage for abortifacients, sterilization and contraception. Likewise, it is alleged that the Sisters have no reason to object to the HHS mandate, because they are not forced to directly provide or pay for coverage of contraception themselves, and their health plan  administrator refuses to do so.

"They need only self-certify that they are non-profit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services," the Department of Justice reportedly wrote.

But Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and a law professor at The Catholic University of America, said in a statement that the religious freedom of Christian Brothers clients is nonetheless violated: “The government demands that the Little Sisters of th ePoor sign a permission slip for abortion drugs and contraceptives, or pay millions in fines. The Sisters believe that doing that violates their faith, and that they shouldn’t be forced to divert funds from the poor elderly and dying people they’ve devoted their lives to serve.”

Matt Bowman, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, further explains the argument at Catholic Vote while sharply criticizing Michael Sean Winters, a columnist for the heterodox National Catholic Reporter.  Winters accused Rienzi of “bearing false witness” in calling the form mandated by the Obam administration a “permission slip” for immoral insurance coverage. Bowman replied:

…Winters is the one who is either bearing false witness or displaying his own incompetence.

Obamacare says that when an entity is in a self-insured plan, like the Little Sisters are, they must file a certification form. But it’s not like other certification forms that the rule requires.  It does not merely express their religious objections. The form also, specifically and additionally,“designates” their “third party administrator” to go get the abortifacient and birth control payments.

Sotomayor now has the option of sending the case back to the federal courts or requesting that the full Supreme Court hears the case.

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