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Religious leaders, academics rebuff Obama’s contraception policy change
By David Uebbing
President Obama and HHS Secretary Sebelius at the Feb. 10, 2012 press conference on Preventive Health Services and Religious Institutions. Credit: C-SPAN
President Obama and HHS Secretary Sebelius at the Feb. 10, 2012 press conference on Preventive Health Services and Religious Institutions. Credit: C-SPAN

.- Over 200 college presidents, academics, religious leaders and journalists have signed a letter that denounces President Obama’s “accommodation” to the contraception mandate for failing to “remove the assault on religious liberty.”

“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 an assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick,” the letter states.

Its signatories include Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Dr. Paige Patterson, Catholic University of America president John Garvey, Rabbi David Novak of the University of Toronto, and 206 other professors, scholars, journalists and religious leaders.

The list of signers includes a substantial number of representatives from the University of Notre Dame, but not the university’s president, Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C.

Titled “Unacceptable,” the letter was released Feb. 14 on the website of the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom, in response to President Obama’s Feb. 10 change to the contraception mandate. The Obama administration’s regulation will now require all insurance companies to cover contraception, sterilization and some abortion-causing drugs, without charge.  

Although President Obama’s revision was panned as a “compromise,” the signers of the letter rejected that description because the new rule “still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services” they objected to before.

“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,” the letter states.

It is a morally weak argument, the signers say, to assert that it is different for the insurance company to explain to an employee that she is "entitled to the embryo-destroying 'five day after pill,'" than for the religious employer to do so.

"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 letter closes by observing that since the new policy contains the same narrow religious exemption as the first version of the mandate, the Obama administration “has effectively admitted that the new policy … amounts to a grave infringement on religious liberty.”


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