Conservative media have continued to cover up the fact that many Catholic and other religious institutions have come out in support of the Obama administration's policy that ensures women have access to affordable insurance coverage for birth control while making sure no religious organization has to pay for this coverage. Their concealment of this fact came in response to evangelical Wheaton College's announcement that it will join a lawsuit against the policy.
Wheaton College Joins Lawsuit Over Health Care Law
Wheaton College: “Wheaton College Sues Over HHS Mandate.” In a July 18 press release, Wheaton College announced that it filed a lawsuit in the Washington, D.C. District Court opposing the Obama administration's decision requiring church-affiliated organizations to provide health insurance plans that cover contraceptives for women:
Today Wheaton College filed a lawsuit alongside The Catholic University of America in the Washington, D.C. District Court opposing the Health and Human Services Preventative Services mandate.
The mandate, which is a regulation under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, forces both institutions to violate their deeply held religious beliefs by providing access to abortion-causing drugs or paying severe fines. [Wheaton College, 7/18/12]
Right-Wing Media Only Highlight Religious Institutions Who Oppose Contraception Compromise
Fox's Bream: Religious “Leaders Say That Folks From All Different Religious Backgrounds .... Should Be Concerned About Any Administration That Would Limit Their Religious Freedom.” During the July 18 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Martha MacCallum and Shannon Bream provided statements by Wheaton College and Catholic University leaders claiming the contraception coverage is attacking “religious liberty.” Fox ignored the support of Catholic and other religious institutions for the contraception requirement. From America's Newsroom:
MARTHA MacCALLUM (co-host): And it's a challenge to the president's health care law. It's coming from a major Christian university and that is now set to file a lawsuit that challenges the part of the law that mandates birth control coverage in insurance policies. So this is the first non-Catholic entity of this size to take this action and that's why it is of special note this morning. Shannon Bream joins me now. She's live in Washington. She's got the details on this for us. What can you tell us about it, Shannon?
SHANNON BREAM (Fox reporter): Well, Martha, it was filed today in federal court by Wheaton College. Administrators there say although they have different objections than Catholic leaders do to the HHS regulation requiring employers to provide coverage for contraceptives in their health care plans, it's the bigger principle of religious liberty that motivated the college to get involved. Here's Wheaton President Philip Ryken.
RYKEN [video clip]: I think it's well known that Wheaton College is a Protestant institution. Where our convictions on theological matters and our differences with Roman Catholicism are pretty well known, but here's an area where we find common cause. And I think it highlights for the whole nation that this is not a narrow sectarian issue; it's really a fundamental issue of religious liberty, which is, after all, one of the first freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution.
BREAM: Wheaton College did not join the current lawsuits already filed by a number of Catholic institutions. This is a separate legal challenge, Martha.
MacCALLUM: So do Catholic groups, Shannon, think that this new lawsuit coming from a Protestant educational institution will bolster their effort to have this law overturned, or this part of it overturned?
BREAM: They do. Many of these institutions, like Catholic University, believe the more religious groups and different denominations that get involved, the better. Here's what university President John Garvey told us.
GARVEY [video clip]: The question of religious liberty and not just for Catholics but also for people of other faiths. And number two: that the fight is not really about contraception. You notice that President Ryken said, Evangelicals and Catholics have some differences on that point. But that they too have difficulties, conscientious difficulties in complying with the law.
BREAM: These leaders say that folks from all different religious backgrounds whether it's the Jewish faith, the Muslim faith, the Christian faith, all should be concerned about any administration that would limit their religious freedom. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 7/18/12, via Media Matters]
FoxNews.com: “Some Religious Organizations Complain The Administration Did Not Go Far Enough To Ensure The Rule Would Not Compel Them To Violate Their Religious Beliefs.” FoxNews.com reported that Wheaton College has joined Catholic groups in a lawsuit challenging the requirement for contraception coverage in the health care law, but ignored support for contraception coverage by Catholic and other religious institutions:
An evangelical college is joining Catholic groups in suing the Obama administration over the so-called contraception mandate.
Illinois-based Wheaton College announced Wednesday morning that it had joined The Catholic University of America in filing suit before District of Columbia federal court.
The wave of lawsuits has so far been dominated by Catholic organizations. After the Supreme Court upheld most of the federal health care overhaul last month, those groups vowed to continue their legal challenge against the requirement that employers provide access to contraceptive care.
The announcement Wednesday marks the first time an evangelical group has joined that effort.
“In this case, we recognize we have common cause with the Catholic University of America and other Catholic institutions in defending religious liberty,” Wheaton College President Philip Graham Ryken said on a conference call.
In May, dozens of Catholic groups filed a dozen separate but related federal lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the requirement. Among the organizations were the University of Notre Dame, the Archdiocese of New York and The Catholic University of America.
The Obama administration several months ago softened its position on the mandate, but some religious organizations complain the administration did not go far enough to ensure the rule would not compel them to violate their religious beliefs.
Ryken accused the administration of creating “two classes” of religious institutions by providing an exemption for churches but not religious-affiliated colleges. [FoxNews.com, 7/18/12]
NRO: "Evangelicals & Catholics Go to Court Together Over The HHS Mandate." Writing at National Review Online's The Corner, editor-at-large Kathryn Jean Lopez claimed that Roman Catholics and Evangelical Protestants are coming together to protect “religious liberty.” Lopez went on to suggest that “every American who values religious liberty” should support Wheaton's lawsuit, but neglected to mention support for the contraception policy voiced by numerous Catholic and religious institutions. [National Review Online, 7/19/12]
In Fact, Catholic And Other Religious Institutions Have Voiced Support For Contraception Policy
Faith In Public Life: “Prominent National Faith Leaders Celebrate White House's Common-Ground Solution On Contraception Coverage.” A February 10 post on Faith in Public Life's website highlighted a statement by Catholic and Protestant leaders describing the Obama administration's accommodation as a “major victory for religious liberty and women's health.” The statement was signed by members of the Catholic and Protestant clergy, theology professors at Catholic universities, and other religious leaders. From the statement:
Today the Obama administration announced an important regulation that will protect the conscience rights of religious organizations and ensure that all women have access to contraception without a co-payment. We applaud the White House for listening carefully to the concerns raised by religious leaders on an issue that has provoked heated and often misinformed debate. This ruling is a major victory for religious liberty and women's health. President Obama has demonstrated that these core values do not have to be in conflict.
Specifically, this new regulation guarantees that no religiously affiliated institution will have to pay for services that violate its moral beliefs or even refer employees for this coverage. Instead, if a woman's employer is an objecting university, hospital or other religious institution, her insurer will be required to offer her coverage at no cost. This is a sensible, common-ground solution.
In recent days, sound bites and divisive rhetoric have too often pitted the faith community against sound science and public health. The previous regulations caused an unnecessary conflict between the administration, the Catholic Church and other religious institutions. We are encouraged that the Obama administration has developed a substantive solution that addresses the concerns of the many constituencies involved. We look forward to bringing the same level of passion displayed in this debate to other pressing moral issues that face our nation. [Faith in Public Life, 2/10/12]
Catholics United “Supports Obama Administration's New Compromise Regulation On HHS Contraception Rule.” In a press release, Catholics United expressed their support for the Obama administration and called on Catholic Bishops to do the same:
Today the Obama Administration announced that the President would be issuing a new regulation fully respecting the religious liberty of Catholic organizations while maintaining access to contraceptive services for all employees.
The new regulation will ensure that Catholic hospitals, universities and social service providers that are religiously opposed to contraception and sterilization do not have to provide or even refer for those services, while also requiring insurance companies provide contraceptive services free of charge to any enrollee who wishes to have the coverage. The objecting religious organizations would have no role in providing coverage or referring employees for services they would deem objectionable. The cost of the contraceptive coverage will be born by the insurance companies and will be offset by the long term cost savings associated with reduced need for maternity care. Using the standard of Catholic moral theology, this solution is acceptable because no Catholic or Catholic institution will be directly involved in what the church deems to be an immoral act.
“Catholics United has been calling on both sides of this heated debate to work towards today's win-win solution,” said James Salt, executive director of Catholics United. “President Obama has shown us that he is willing to rise above the partisan fray to deliver an actual policy solution that both meets the health care needs of all employees and respects the religious liberty of Catholic institutions.”
Today's announcement will also be a test for the Catholic bishops, who have indicated that they are opposed to compromise.
“I am eager to see the response of the Catholic bishops, and I hope and pray in their wisdom they see the value of finding a solution,” Salt said. “If the bishops are unwilling to recognize the value of compromise, I suspect their opposition is more about playing politics than serving the needs of the people.” [Catholics United, 2/10/12]
- Catholics United: Lawsuits Over Contraception Mandate "An Insult To Those Who Actually Suffer Violence On Account Of Their Beliefs." In a press release responding to a lawsuit against the administration's contraception mandate, Catholic United stated that the lawsuit “serves a right wing political agenda on the part of the bishops rather than defending against a legitimate threat to religious liberty.” In the press release, James Salt, executive director for Catholics United, called lawsuits against the mandate “an insult” to persecuted Christians worldwide. From the press release:
Today, more than 40 organizations, including the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and the University of Notre Dame, filed suit against the Department of Health and Human Services contraception coverage mandate. Catholics United reiterated its position asserting that this suit serves a right wing political agenda on the part of the bishops rather than defending against a legitimate threat to religious liberty.
Given past silence on the part of the bishops and Catholic institutions over very similar, often more comprehensive, contraceptive health care mandates in 28 states, it remains a curious coincidence the bishops would choose to stand opposed to a Democratic administration in an election year.
“These lawsuits reflect a sad reality for American Catholics,” said James Salt, executive director for Catholics United. “The leadership of the Catholic Church is more interested in playing politics than it is in providing for the common good. To suggest our religious liberty is somehow compromised because employees now have access to contraception is an insult to those who actually suffer violence on account of their beliefs.”
Rather than working with the Administration for an amicable compromise, right-wing elements in the Church have stymied discussion for months. Rhetoric has been heated further by the false implication the Obama Administration would require employers provide abortion-inducing medication. [Catholics United, 5/21/12]
Association Of Jesuit Colleges And Universities “Appreciates The Compromise That President Obama Has Made To Accommodate Religious Institutions In Regard To The Birth Control Mandate.” In a press release, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, a coalition of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, wrote that it “appreciates the compromise that President Obama has made to accommodate religious institutions in regard to the birth control mandate under the Affordable Care Act.” From the press release:
The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) acknowledges and appreciates the compromise that President Obama has made to accommodate religious institutions in regard to the birth control mandate under the Affordable Care Act. We commend the Obama Administration for its willingness to work with us on moving toward a solution, and we look forward to working out the details of these new regulations with the White House. [Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, 2/10/12]
Leadership Conference Of Women Religious: Obama Admin's Policy “Respects And Honors The Conscience Rights Of Religious Institutions.” In a press release, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, said it is “grateful that President Obama and the administration listened to the concerns raised about providing effective healthcare coverage in a way that respects and honors the conscience rights of religious institutions.” From the press release:
The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is grateful that President Obama and the administration listened to the concerns raised about providing effective healthcare coverage in a way that respects and honors the conscience rights of religious institutions. We believe the resolution the President made is a fair and helpful way for us to move forward.
We are grateful to the many individuals and organizations who courageously voiced their concerns on this critical matter and worked together to find a resolution. Such collaboration and mutual respect model an effective way for our country to deliberate on the many complex issues we face.
LCWR supports the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act so that the urgent needs of the uninsured can be met. [Leadership Conference of Women Religious, accessed 7/19/12]
Interfaith Coalition: “Religious Leaders Support Contraception Coverage Under Affordable Care Act.” A post on Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice's website highlighted a statement “affirm[ing] the value of birth control as morally good for both individuals and society” and “rejecting the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' claim that 'religious freedom' is being compromised by the Affordable Care Act coverage of contraception.” The statement says that contraception is a “matter of individual conscience. Individuals -- not employers -- should be responsible for making choices about birth control.” As of July 2, the statement was endorsed by more than 200 religious leaders from major denominations. From the statement:
As religious leaders, we affirm the value of birth control as morally good for both individuals and society. As many religious traditions teach, the decision to become pregnant and have children is one of the most important commitments people make. These decisions affect our whole society and require responsible policies that involve us all, whether we experience the sacred joy of parenthood ourselves or we are partners in creating a culture of loving care.
The ability to decide when and under what circumstances to have children is critical to the health, happiness, and stability of women and families across the globe. We believe in expanding the availability of health care resources--especially to those individuals and communities whose options have been disproportionately limited by income, race, or other factors. As religious leaders, we support public policies that make birth control more economically accessible.
We believe that decisions about birth control are a matter of individual conscience. Individuals -- not employers -- should be responsible for making choices about birth control. To preserve both fairness and religious freedom, institutions that employ and serve the general public should not be allowed to discriminate for religious reasons. As religious leaders, we call for public policies that protect each person's ability to access and use birth control according to their own conscience and religious beliefs. [Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, accessed 7/19/12]
Moreover, Recent Polls Show Catholic And Other Religious Voters Support Insurance Plans That Cover Contraception
Public Religion Research Institute: “Catholics Generally Agree With The Distinction Made By The Obama Administration Between Churches And Religiously Affiliated Institutions.” A poll released on June 27 by the Public Religion Research Institute found that “roughly 6-in-10 Catholics report that religiously affiliated social service agencies (59 percent), colleges (60 percent), hospitals (59 percent), and privately owned small businesses (58 percent) should be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception at no cost”:
Catholics generally agree with the distinction made by the Obama administration between churches and religiously affiliated institutions: roughly 6-in-10 Catholics report that religiously affiliated social service agencies (59 percent), colleges (60 percent), hospitals (59 percent), and privately owned small businesses (58 percent) should be required to provide health care plans that cover contraception at no cost. In contrast, less than half of Catholics (47 percent) say churches and other places of worship should be required to provide this coverage. [Public Religion Research Institute, 6/27/12]
Hart Research Associates: “Voters Overwhelmingly Support Affordable Access To Prescription Birth Control Without Cost As An Obstacle.” A June 20 poll by Hart Research Associates found that nearly three in four voters agree that cost should not be an obstacle to using birth control, including 66 percent of Catholic voters and 58 percent of evangelical voters. From Hart Research Associates:
Voters overwhelmingly agree that people should have affordable access to prescription birth control and cost should not be a barrier to using the most effective form of birth control.
Nearly three in four (73%) voters agree and more than half (55%) strongly agree that we should do everything we can to make sure that people who want to use prescription birth control have affordable access to it and that cost is not an obstacle. Fewer than one in four (23%) voters disagrees with this policy goal.
While specific audiences are especially supportive of this policy approach -- including women (80% agree), independents (78%), and younger voters age 18 to 34 (84% agree) -- a broad consensus emerges around this core goal. Even a majority of pro-life voters (54% agree), Catholics (66% agree), and Evangelical Protestants (58% agree) embrace this policy aim.
The report about the poll included the following graph:
[Hart Research Associates, 6/20/12]
A Federal Judge Already Dismissed A Similar Lawsuit Against Contraception Policy
Lincoln Journal Star: “Judge Tosses Out Contraception Lawsuit Filed By Nebraska, Six Other States.” The Lincoln Journal Star reported that U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom dismissed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging the contraception rule. The all-Republican group of attorney generals came from Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Nebraska:
A federal judge has dismissed a federal lawsuit in which Nebraska and six other states tried to block part of the federal health care law that requires contraception coverage.
U.S. District Judge Warren Urbom of Lincoln dismissed the case Tuesday, saying the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the action challenging part of the Affordable Care Act.
“Today's decision completely disregards the federal government's continued shell game when it comes to this rule,” said Attorney General Jon Bruning. “Essentially, this decision asks millions of Americans to watch and wait for their religious liberties to be violated. Obviously, we're disappointed with the ruling, and we will consult with our co-plaintiffs to assess our next steps.”
The attorneys general for Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas joined Bruning's challenge of the contraception rule. All are Republican. [Lincoln Journal Star, 7/17/12]
Research intern Benjamin Levine contributed to this item.