The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities wrote to President Barack Obama urging him to eliminate a proposed health care mandate that requires all new insurance plans to cover contraceptives, sterilization and some abortion-causing drugs.
“This mandate would require our member and affiliate institutions to violate their religious consciences,” CCCU President Paul R. Corts wrote, referring to “the narrowness of the religious exemption” and “the absence of any religious accommodation for health plans provided to students.”
The mandate in the Obama administration’s health care law is expected to come into effect next August. But many religious groups, not just the Catholics, are asking the administration to remove the clauses before it becomes law. Corts also co-signed a Dec. 21 letter to Obama from Protestant leaders asking for a revised exemption.
The regulations technically contain a religious exemption but the language “would leave most, if not all, of our institutions subject to the mandate,” Corts said. The current exemption requires an organization to have “the inculcation of religious values as its purpose,” hire and serve primarily those who share its religious tenets, and be organized for tax purposes as a “church, their integrated auxiliary, or conventions or associations of churches.”
While CCCU’s 138 member and affiliate schools do “infuse their religious values into every aspect of what they do … they are also fully-accredited, degree-granting, institutions of higher learning,” Corts pointed out, adding that while some of its institutions are affiliated with larger church organizational or denominational structures, many are independent religious organizations.
Similarly, while all CCCU members hire only professing and practicing Christians for all administrative and full-time faculty positions, they have implemented different policies for hiring support staff and adjunct faculty that reflect their respective understandings of how best to accomplish their missions in light of their theological traditions, Corts added.
CCCU requested the White House either eliminate the mandate altogether or create an exemption that would include all religious organizations.
Corts also explained that many schools object to being required to offer emergency contraceptives as it both violates their religious convictions and is in direct contradiction to the behavioral standards that schools require of their students. “In order to correct this, an expansion of the current exemption would have to apply to plans beyond those offered by religious employers,” he suggested.
Last week, Colorado Christian University joined Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic college in North Carolina, in filing a lawsuit over the regulation.
Hannah Smith, senior legal counsel at the Becket Fund has said conscience objections to the mandate are neither isolated nor can be muted. She told The Christian Post that the lawsuit was important because the Colorado school is the first evangelical group to file a lawsuit over the mandate. “It’s not just a Catholic issue. It affects religious organizations across the spectrum.”