- ‘I Am Alive’ app gains popularity in terror-ravaged Lebanon
- Gun giveaways gain popularity among Republican candidates
- S.C. hospital worker slapped with $525 federal fine for refilling $0.89 soda
- Teen from ‘Jihad Jane’ plot becomes youngest ever to serve time on U.S. terror charges
- Iranian woman forgives son’s killer at the gallows
- Nebraska principal sorry for ‘don’t tattle’ flier
- Illinois readies to spend $100M for Obama museum in Chicago
- John Edwards back in court — this time as a lawyer for Va. boy’s malpractice case
- Covered California reports more than 200K in overtime Obamacare sign-ups
- Thanks, Chuck: Hagel says U.S. sending Ukraine sleeping mats, helmets
Catholic Bishop joins contraception mandate debate
Says employers with religious objections should get to opt out
Pointing to growing unease that President Obama’s proposed contraception coverage rule doesn’t protect religious freedom sufficiently, a Catholic bishop told Congress on Thursday the church will throw its weight behind House legislation releasing any employer from the mandate on religious or moral grounds.
Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops won’t retreat from their battle against the newest version of the rule, which expanded the exemption to not just churches, but Catholic charities, hospitals and schools as well.
“It doesn’t take care of the principle — the intrusion into the life of the church,” Bishop Lori said, adding any employer with a religious objection to paying for contraception should be released from the rule. “We think the mandate should be rescinded and that we should return to the status quo.”
Bishop Lori joined other Jewish, Protestant and evangelical leaders to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on religious liberty under the Obama administration — a session that turned into a heated debate over the president’s mandate that insurers provide free contraception to workers.
The hearing came after Republicans highlighted legislation earlier in the week that would dramatically expand the ability of employers to opt out. Bishop Lori said the Catholic bishops will push for the House version of the bill, which excuses employers from covering any medical service that violates their moral or religious beliefs.
“We think that’s a very good piece of legislation,” Bishop Lori said of the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska Republican, and has 191 co-sponsors in the House. It mirrors legislation introduced by Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, in the Senate.
As Republicans accused the administration of treading on conscience rights, Democrats complained that the witnesses were one-sided and said the hearing was just designed to embarrass the president and assault women’s health.
Ranking member Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, slammed Rep. Darrell E. Issa for calling a 10-member witness panel that included just two women and excluding members of Catholics United and other groups that have backed the president’s revised proposal.
“He’s stacked the hearing with witnesses who agree with his position,” Mr. Cummings said, accusing Mr. Issa of doing “a massive injustice by trying to pretend the views of millions of women across this country are meaningless or worthless to the debate.”
But Bishop Lori pointed to the Catholic Health Association and Catholic Charities USA, two leading Catholic groups who seemed to initially support the latest rule but later issued doubt-filled statements, saying they were still trying to get answers about how it would apply.
“It is instructive that as time passed on and there has been further opportunity for analysis, there are questions the Catholic Health Association itself is rightly asking,” he said. “As time goes on, [Catholic Charities USA] has also recognized there are very serious problems at the level of principle and at the level of practicality.”
The bishops say the compromise rule leaves out religious insurers and self-insuring employers — a category that includes 60 percent of covered American workers.
While Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius told reporters Wednesday that self-insuring companies would also be allowed to opt out, Bishop Lori said the administration hasn’t notified the bishops.
But rather than using the hearing to focus on details of the mandate, Republicans tried to frame the struggle as a matter of religious freedom. Mr. Issa held up pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy inscribed with quotes they made about protecting freedom of conscience.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- A familiar fading feeling for McMahon in Connecticut
- Romney’s bid to undo health law faces hurdles
- Hill GOP presses Medicare probe
- Romney, Obama advisors butt heads over binders, Big Bird and “Romnesia”
- Outsiders abide by rules in Brown-Warren race
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By Joy Overbeck
Redemption by government is futile
- Inside China: Marine's comment on islands draws sharp Chinese response
- Joe Biden's first Instagram pic mocked as shill for sunglass ad
- Jews being told to register in Ukraine: John Kerry
- BOLTON: A 'three-state solution' for Middle East peace
- Obama taunts GOP, takes nationally televised victory lap on Obamacare
- Chavez seizes Cargill factory
- Elderly Chicago man robs bank to go 'home' to prison; judge fulfills his desire
- PRUDEN: When a bored president just 'mails it in'
- Rand and Ron Paul ride to the rescue for Bundy in Nevada standoff with feds
- Atheists rush to stage Easter display: 'Jesus Christ is a myth'
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.