- (Photo: Mud Productions / Stephen Elliot)
The National Association of Evangelicals has said that the changes to the Department of Health and Human Services' rules concerning the Affordable Care Act still "miss the mark," because they would pressure a number of citizens to violate their religious beliefs when it comes to contraceptives.
"The final rule still leaves many religious employers unprotected," said Leith Anderson, NAE president. "The government should not compel any of its citizens to violate their consciences."
In June, the White House administration announced the new HHS rules, noting that they had listened to public feedback about the mandate. While the mandate exempts churches and religious non-profits opposed to abortion and contraceptives from having to provide insurance coverage to employees with such benefits, those breaks do not extend to for-profit companies, even if they say they are religious organizations.
"The health care law guarantees millions of women access to recommended preventive services at no cost," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said. "Today's announcement reinforces our commitment to respect the concerns of houses of worship and other non-profit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage, while helping to ensure that women get the care they need, regardless of where they work."
Following the announcement, a number of legal groups that are involved in lawsuits against the HHS mandate said that the new rules are not good enough.
Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty said: "As we said when the proposed rule was issued, this doesn't solve the religious conscience problem because it still makes our non-profit clients the gatekeepers to abortion and provides no protection to religious businesses."
Gregory S. Baylor, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, added that the new rules do not address the concerns people have surrounding religious freedom.
"The Obama administration insists on waging war on religious freedom, and the final rule issued today confirms that. It ignores the voices of numerous Americans who expressed concern about the mandate's impact on for-profit, faith-based job creators," Baylor argued.
NAE's Anderson said that the White House administration and Congress are unlikely to act on behalf of those concerned citizens, meaning it is up to the courts "to restore the constitutional protection guaranteed to all Americans under the First Amendment."
Anderson concluded: "We are encouraged that many of the lawsuits filed on behalf of religious employers are receiving a favorable hearing."
Last week, President Obama's administration decided to delay for one year the health care provision that mandates that businesses provide their workers with health insurance.
"We recognize that the vast majority of businesses that will need to do this reporting already provide health insurance to their workers, and we want to make sure it is easy for others to do so. We have listened to your feedback. And we are taking action," explained Mark J. Mazur, assistant secretary for tax policy, on the website of the Treasury Department.
In response, GOP Senator Rob Portman of Ohio argued that the delay is proof that the health care law is "more onerous and complex" than the administration has tried to portray it as.