“With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution — Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital — none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact.”
My wife, who was watching the debate with me, can attest to the fact that I just about jumped out of my chair. “That is a blatant lie!” I exclaimed. “PRI will have to either buy insurance that covers contraception, sterilization, or abortion-inducing drugs, or we will have to go on the Obamacare plan that does. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t!”
Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, who was much calmer during the debate than either Joe Biden or myself, also objected. He pointed out that the American bishops are so unhappy with having their faith and their conscience violated in this way that they are suing the Obama administration.
And it wasn’t long after the October 11th debate in Danville, Kentucky, that the American bishops themselves responded to Biden’s whopper. In fact, they issued a statement the very next day, criticizing the V.P. for making an “inaccurate statement of fact” about the contraceptive mandate’s impact on religious institutions.
Over the past few months, more than 100 plaintiffs, from Catholic and non-Catholic universities, to charitable organizations and private businesses — have filed lawsuits challenging the mandate, arguing that it infringes upon their constitutional right to free exercise of religion.
In disputing Biden’s assertions, the bishops’ conference pointed out that the mandate has but a very narrow exemption for religious employers. This exemption applies only to non-profit organizations that exist primarily for the inculcation of religious values and both employ and serve primarily members of their own faith.
Therefore, the conference said, any religious charities, hospitals and social agencies that serve all people of any faith — including Georgetown Hospital and the other organizations named by Biden, as well as the Population Research Institute — are simply not covered.
The administration has been talking about making an additional “accommodation” for non-exempt religious organizations like PRI, but this turns out upon examination to be nothing more than an accounting gimmick. PRI and like-minded organizations would still have to pay for sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients indirectly, through increased premiums.
The bishops’ conference continues to ask the Obama administration “in the strongest possible terms” to take action that truly removes “the various infringements on religious freedom imposed by the mandate.” As do we at PRI.
But it may turn out that the only real solution to the problem is to remove Obamacare — with its mandates, rationing, and death panels — itself.