Catholic groups are gearing up to challenge an Obama administration requirement that they include birth control in their employee health plans, according to a report Thursday in the Baltimore Sun
“Most civilized nations have allowed deeply held convictions by religious groups in these areas to be respected,” Baltimore Cardinal-designate Edwin F. O’Brien told the Sun. “I don’t know why our president is not doing so after speaking [in the State of the Union speech Tuesday] so wonderfully about compromise and all of us working together and joining together.”
Catholic officials told the Sun they believe that if the requirement that church employee health plans must cover contraception and sterilization is allowed to stand, it could threaten the protection of other moral beliefs and practices, including the church’s stand against abortion and same-sex marriages.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for implementing the requirement under the new healthcare reform law, has already rejected a request that Catholic groups be exempted.
The requirement, however, does not take effect for another year, which gives the church time to consider whether to mount a court challenge, lobby Congress for an exemption, or wait to see if the Supreme Court overturns Obamacare.
David Cloutier, an associate professor of theology at Mount Saint Mary’s University, told the newspaper the Catholic Church has a lot to lose over the issue because its teachings against the use of birth control play a crucial role in its moral message. He said the government requirement blurs the line between church and state.
“The state telling the church that it must provide services that the church believes are immoral is the dividing line that doesn’t really have a clear precedent,” Cloutier, who is also the editor of catholicmoraltheology.com, was quoted as saying.
“Once you cross this line, then [churches and religious groups] are obviously concerned that the government could force them to cover abortions for their employees; that the government could make them acknowledge same-sex marriage for their employees,” he said.
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