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Tony Ondrusek is founder and publisher of Insurance & Financial Advisor and IFAwebnews.com.

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[UPDATE: ObamaCare rules changed to make insurers ‘bad guys’ in Catholic furor]

A firestorm is brewing as leaders of the Catholic Church in the U.S. react to a decision by the Obama Administration that there will be no exemption for church-owned hospitals, universities, social service organizations, homeless shelters and soup kitchens from certain provisions in the new federal health insurance law. Among issues the Catholic Church opposes is the requirement that the church must provide health insurance to its workers that includes contraceptive drugs and services, in direct contradiction to Catholic teaching.

Regardless of one’s opinion about access and availability of contraception devices, the conflict certainly points toward a sensitivity to religious tenets of any faith. But more importantly, it is a battle over the rights of states to enact insurance legislation vs the constitutionality of the federal government doing so, in this case dictating that all citizens must adhere to a law mandating the purchase and/or providing of insurance that includes coverage of something that infringes on one group’s freedom to practice its religion.

As it stands (aside from court cases, to be discussed later), Catholic leaders are not asking that the law be ruled void based on its constitutionality, they are simply seeking an exemption from one part of the law.

Not that exemptions to ObamaCare (also known as the “ACA,” Affordable Care Act) haven’t already been made. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, no fewer than 1,200 waivers and exemptions to the sweeping new law have been granted by the Obama Administration. Among those who have been granted exemptions or fully waived from implementing the law among workers or members are:

  • McDonald’s
  • United Federation of Teachers
  • AARP
  • Jack in the Box
  • Teamsters locals nationwide
  • Pavers and Road Builders District Council
  • Indiana Area UFCW Union Locals and Retail Food Employers
  • Waffle House
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine
  • Aetna
  • Cigna
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida
  • Universal Orlando
  • Aspen Skiing Co.
  • Ashley Furniture/Homestore
  • PepsiCo
  • Downstream Casino Resort
  • Firekeepers Casino
  • Bill Miller Bar-B-Q Enterprises
  • Panera
  • AMF Bowling
  • Ruby Tuesday
  • Foot Locker

The list is far, far too big to post here. But the fed does post online all those who have received waivers. Staggering.

Worth mentioning is that 40% of all those granted waivers and/or extensions from President Obama‘s landmark legislative victory are unions, and fully 20% of those granted waivers are in the California district represented by Democrat and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Muslims, Christian Scientists and the Amish will also be exempt.

The Obama Administration has been adamant that it will not grant a waiver or exemption to the Catholic Church that will permit it to offer to its employees health insurance plans that do not have contraceptive coverage, which directly contradicts church doctrine. Instead, it granted an extension for church-owned organizations to comply with the law, until August 2013.

“The public health case for making sure insurance covers contraception is clear,” wrote HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a recent USA Today column. In the piece, she stated that she felt the law provided the appropriate “balance” between the rights of religious employers and their workers.

An exact number of those employed either directly by Catholic churches or institutions owned by churches or dioceses is difficult to ascertain. In Miami, for example, the Archdiocese of Miami Catholic Health Services operates 26 facilities, with tens of thousands of employees working in two Catholic hospitals, three health care centers, three senior housing facilities, two residential centers for children, seven day-care centers, two specialized assisted-living homes, and more than 20 other social service and charitable institutions. Not to mention the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities arm, which claims to be the largest non-governmental provider of services to the needy in South Florida, which runs homeless shelters, transitional housing programs, addictions and recovery centers, immigrant and refugee programs, and dozens of other centers and programs.

There are 194 Catholic dioceses in the U.S.

So, with the Obama Administration unwilling to grant an exemption of one part of the federal health insurance law to the Catholic Church, the religious order is left with a dilemma: Does it adhere to its tenets and run afoul of the law by not offering contraception coverage to its employees, or does it reject a core value of its religion by purchasing the insurance for its employees?

If the Catholic Church in Miami alone were to hold to its religious beliefs and not offer the insurance, and instead closed shop instead of offering the coverage, who would be affected? Through its hospitals, care facilities, homeless shelters and soup kitchens, it aids more than 1,300,000 people each year, many of whom would find no solace from the local government, as there is no government or private concern so fully entrenched in the community with the ability to serve the underprivileged.

Not all of the workers employed by the Catholic Church are Catholic, and it would seem reasonable to assume that a majority might not be. And while some Catholic universities and hospitals do, in fact, offer insurance plans that include contraception to its workers, does the federal government have the right to force those dioceses that do not offer – and do not want to offer – contraception coverage to its employees to do so anyway?

If the federal government were to enact some sort of “healthy eating” law that required a balance of different foods among institutions, restaurants, etc., would it also for the Hebrew Union College in New York — which operates a soup kitchen for the homeless — to prepare and serve pork products to its clientele, if such an action would contradict the students’ faith and tradition?

By forcing Catholic institutions to offer contraception services to its workers in direct opposition to church teaching, is the federal government trampling on the First Amendment rights of those churches, which have been guaranteed that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof?”

If the Supreme Court finds in June that the law itself is unconstitutional (dozens of states have filed suit to find the individual mandate illegal), then the point may be moot. But if not, there are already court challenges to the law on the basis of religious discrimination.

Not everyone is happy that the Catholic Church is seeking an exemption from the law, including many liberals and some radicals. On the other hand, there are conservatives who believe the president has overstepped his bounds.

As this battle of “the law of God” vs “the law of Man” unfolds, Judgment Day on the issue can’t come soon enough for the president, who likely wants the debate to be dead and buried long before election time rolls around.

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25 Responses

  1. Greg Howard Says:

    Keep up the good work Tony!

  2. Andi White Says:

    Great reporting Tony! Its time the Catholic Church got off its high horse and contributed to ever rising overpopulation.

  3. Judy Says:

    why should you and I pay for the doings of others

  4. John Says:

    This could be a $ 150,000,000,000 mistake by the Obama administration

    The church can challenge on religious discrimination, since some religious exemptions do exist

    The church can challenge in that the option to file for an exemption was closed before the rule was issued, and so argue that in fact the law was altered by the rule change after the right to appeal was over

    If the court challenge fails, the church can:

    choose to claim it’s self an organization based in Italy, and become exempt from U S health care law as an overseas employer, with all hiring and firing of priests and church staff as based overseas

    chose to self insure all church based staff,
    and on moral grounds, decline to offer insurance to any employees,
    just like it can decline to perform abortions in church hospitals, can decline to perform same sex marriages, or give access to lewd and pornographic materials on church owned school computers and in church libraries.
    The 20 or 30 million employees would then qualify for being on the exchanges, and the majority would then get federal assistance from the federal government to buy insurance on those exchanges.
    Cost = 30,000,000 x $5,000 average = $ 150,000,000,000 per year

    The church could even contract the amount of services it offers, letting the state and federal government pick up even more of the financial burdens.

    That would add hundreds of millions more in costs onto an already failing system

  5. Chris Says:

    Look, the only thing that matters is that Catholic hospitals and schools have people who are not Catholics working for them. The Diocese who CHOOSES to run a tax exempt organization which employs people not of their faith must follow the law that Americans passed. NOT the law as dictated by Rome.

    Why would Americans want to follow Catholic dogma or Muslim Sharia law? We don’t. The right is so hypocritical it is staggering indeed.

    OFFERING contraception is not infringing on anyone’s religious freedom. If catholics were forced to take contraception, that would infringe on their rights. Tell me you can see the difference. Forcing non-catholics to follow Pope law is infringing on their rights as Americans.

    Oh yeah, go look at what Republicans said about JFK and him taking orders from the pope. Now who’s taking orders from the pope OVER our American President.

  6. marty Says:

    No one is forced to work at a Catholic institution. Offering it is different than paying for it and administering it.

  7. George Violand Says:

    Whether you are Catholic, non Catholic, pro life or pro choice this issue is about the Federal government reaching more and more into our private lives. Wake up Chris!

  8. mike Says:

    let me get this straight, McDonalds the laboe unions and everyone else that paid for the presidents campaign is exempt. so we are willing to step on the founding premise of this country spit on a religions beliefs. Who is next?

  9. Dennis Says:

    No one is taking orders from the Pope. Orders are coming from Obama who is far from the Pope in every way. NO American business, catholic or not should be told what benifits they must offer to there employees. This is not the Soviet Union, YET. This law must go and Obama must go! ( along with Reid, Polosi, Holder and Sibillis )Business is going to strike back and everyone will be on the government exchange and it will break the system. Can anyone expalain why Muslims get exemption and Catholics don’t?
    Pretty stupid of Obama, but I am not surprised!

  10. Marya Says:

    If you start to throw that tax exempt caveat around, be careful what you wish for. Your taxes will go up so high you will be sorry. Consider what Catholics have saved you over the years instead of bullying it. We will turn the other cheek, then shut down.

  11. Marya Says:

    Andi White, are you kidding me?! Overpopulation? We are in a demographic nightmare. People worldwide are scrambling for dwindling pension funds and entitlements (the Greeks are some of the most aborting people in the Western world, check it out on Wiki) Social Security and Medicare in the U. S. are faltering for the exact reason that abortion has depleted the young to such an extent, and the old have stopped dying like flies, that we face economic ruin. How can you develop a federal tax plan and kill the very tax base that is suppose to pay for it? Europe is now procreating at an alarmingly low rate, something like 1.2 children. Even Mexico has seen a dramatic drop since 1970 from 6 children in a family to 2.1. Hope you like picking your own apples.

  12. Mary Arangua Says:

    I am a Catholic woman who practices natural family planning. It’s 100% effective. My husband and I have a large family by choice and I knew exactly when I would conceive. The ignorance woman have about their fertility is pathetic. The contraindications of birth control (thrombosis, increased heart disease) drugs would take them off the market if they didn’t have a 12% failure rate (Guttenmaker Institute). Abortion is a back up for failed birth control. But it’s where the money is. Obama hopes to intice hospitals to use abortion as a cash cow. The Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood brohaha was really about the Komen Foundation’s push to find life-style causes for abortion (see their website). Many studies have indicated abortion can make the risk for breast cancer much higher. The Catholic Church is on the right side of this issue.

  13. John D Says:

    Thank you for your research Tony. This should not even be an issue. How
    hypocritical is President Obama when all these other groups have been
    exempt from the ACA.

    Mr. White, overpopulation? Go talk to adoptive parents who have to go
    overseas to find a child.

    Chris, are you kidding me! It is not the question of forcing anyone to actually take the service, but PAY for it. And since I know you just think the ACA is the cat’s meow; move to Canada for a couple years and then let’s see what side of the fence you are on when you return.

    This a constitutional issue. The government has no basis to force the CC to providethis service or pay for it directly or via insurance. Besides, if that person would like that service, they can go visit their local Planned Parenthood and get it for free.

  14. Anne O'Brien Says:

    Mary Arangua, my husband and I are in the same position as you. I highly resent being told that we have to pay for other people’s choices when we choose not to use artificial contraception.

    Andi White, go do some research and see how much trouble we and other nations are in from low birth rates. We are rapidly approaching the day when we will have an aging population and not enough young people to support it.

    If the Obama administration is not stopped, then what other freedoms will we lose? This isn’t just an issue of the Catholic Church and contraception, this is about a government run amok that believes it can trample the rights of its citizens with no regard to the Constitution.

  15. Al D Says:

    I’m one of the lucky ones to procure an exemption, which begs this question: If Obamacare is so much better than the faulty system we now have, why is there a growing list of exemptions?

    I hope the Supremes consider this growing list of exemptions and decide it’s only fair to extend them to all of us.

  16. Al D Says:

    John Says:

    This could be a $ 150,000,000,000 mistake by the Obama administration.

    Al says:

    I see it as a $5-10 trillion mistake by the time the “progressives” admit it, if it’s possible for them to ever admit to any of their costly mistakes.

  17. Frank Lazarus Says:

    Chris is right on, thank you!

    The Muslim exemption was not for Muslim Owned hospitals, so long as the Cathoplic Church wants to employ non-Catholics and/or “non-conforming” Catholics, why should they not be like any other employer?

    The issue is about EMPLOYEE rights, not anti Catholicism!Lighten up Obama Haters!

  18. Susan T. Says:

    Go back to the website and read it again. It’s not a waiver for coverage, it is a waiver to provide plans with no limits. These companies provide insurance that has low limits and high deductibles for part time employees who cannot afford higher premiums. The new law prohibits limits so to continue these plans before 2014 the insurance companies were going to jack up the premiums sky high..which would mean these employees would lose all insurance.

    Once more affordable plans will be available in 2014, these waivers go away.

    As for the Catholic Church – they own a large chunck of the medical industry through their hospitals, medical groups and biomedial facilities. They will be making a ton of dough off this healthcare plan. I wouldn’t worry about them.

  19. pork chop Says:

    first off this #$%^ should never have happened you guys need to stand up or this stuff anit ever gonna stop we gonna be taxed again and again and again til everyone is broke that being said i know theres some idiots out there who are gonna vote for obama this is not a good idea obama has done nothing but cost us 5 trillion dollars i think it was and gonna make the country go broke by taxing everyone then they are gonna say “but obama got the gas down so he should go back in” obama didnt have anything to do with that he is the worse president of all time worse then bush cliton all of them but im willing to wager 100 dollars to each one of youo that in november he will win because america is to stupid to see outside the box its sad but its the truth you go to work come home enjoy a meal with your family go back oout and do it again why do you think they give you a little bit of money every year to keep control of ya 6 or 700 bucks aint much to them but it will keep ya in check til the next year wonder how long its gonna be til they start saying you can only have 2 kids because we are becomeing overpopulated it will happean and im gonna laugh when it does

  20. vince phillips Says:

    In one sense it is about religious freedom and decisions of conscience but a larger issue is by what right does the Federal Government to take over control of the health and health insurance industries. Of course that is what the Supreme Court could have addressed more directly re their decisions.

    Re waivers, I will be fascinated to see if the Obama Administration will extend waivers another year since not renewing them would be tanmount to giving Romney another issue he could present to the American public…Obama putting these formaerly waived employees on the street with no insurance. In the darned if you do, darned if you don’t department, Obama will also get harsh treatment if he extends the waiver giving rise to cries of cotporate welfare and political payoffs.

  21. andy Says:

    the whole ACA is the break in the levee that protects yours and my freedom and liberties. It is not about the skirmish with catholic church, it is all about this…… If they can force you to pay a tax or penalty on health care issue, then the sky is the limit. They will soon tax you for not purchasing the “healthy” foods as deemed healthy by the fda, tax you for not purchasing a electric car, tax you because you are breathing air that they control, etc….. they will not stop until we are all drones and slaves to a communistic system where the political elite are super wealthy, and the 99% of us are all dirt poor providing for them (the liars on the left). We will eventually be handing over our entire pay check to entitlement programs for minorities and people who dont even pay any taxes (48%) and want a free ride on your dollar. When we all get to that “transformed” america, the entire population will probably just stop working because it is not worth it. It pays more to just have the government give food stamps, free medical care, free housing, freeload on other people’s money. When other people’s money runs out, what then? Why should I or anyone achieve or strive for greatness, invent something great to advance mankind when it is not worth it. Why should I try to become what they define as rich becasue i know i will have to bear the weight of society and entitlements for many people who have no desire to get themselves out of a hole. Yes, this “fundamental change” that Obama speaks of, is all about hope. He has taught us all to hope and would like nothing more than to be the mastermind supreme ruler when the US Constitution finally gives way to the marxist ideals he demonstrates as his vision for our future.

  22. Frederick Says:

    Um i suppose it should be obvious but when you want to see what you want to see i guess. So ill just point out, they just have to offer it, it doesnt mean any of you need to use it if you dont want to use birth control dont, its not really any different now, im pretty sure any of you could walk into planned parent hood right now and get some pills unless your a guy. ill point that out to make it obvious. Stop making a big deal outta stupid [expletive deleted}. Just offer it. Cry some more. Wah poor can get treat so can middleclass boohoo, prices of pharmaceuticals will go down waaaahhh, insurance company cant tell me they wont cover my kind of cancer boohoooo hoooo . I got terminal lymphoma and my insurance cant raise my rates sob sob, [expletive deleted]

  23. marc Says:

    IF the catholic medieval church wants to be the exception to this law of the land then they need to pay their own share of taxes. IT costs ME for that entity to exist and if they paid property taxes it would add a whopping 17 Billion to the caufers. And why not pay for what 98% of their flock already uses? Its a disgusting ploy to get over on the public and not do their fair share for their workers. Maybe its time for them to just hire priests and nuns for all the jobs in those hospitals, clinics, ect and stay out of the public sector.

  24. sharon Says:

    This entire issue is about doing that which is right and just for the community of our nation- a melting pot. We are not identical in culture or beliefs. But all should be provided access to the healthcare available in this great nation. This is not about handouts nor self-centered preservation.
    Can we move ahead now and focus on getting everyone back to work so that we may all be vital contributors to our community? Stop this incessant whining and bickering about government interference. If our country had behaved properly to begin with, it never would have been a political issue.

  25. Lola Says:

    Wish we could just impeach him!

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