Basic Misconception about HHS Mandate

by Ed Whelan

USA Today’s house editorial today on the HHS mandate contends that the Catholic Church “is attempting to apply its view of contraception to non-Catholics,” “to impose [its] religious values on those of other faiths,” and “to limit birth control coverage for non-Catholics.” Those are libelous falsehoods.

The various Catholic organizations that have challenged the HHS mandate in court are acting to vindicate an elementary principle of religious freedom that is enshrined in the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act — namely, that the federal government must satisfy a very high standard before it can burden a person’s, or an institution’s, exercise of religious liberty.

As I have spelled out, the Obama administration is attempting to dragoon Catholic institutions into facilitating their employees’ (and, in the case of universities, also their students’) use of contraceptives and abortifacients even though there are plenty of alternative means, less restrictive of religious liberty, by which the Obama administration could effectively pursue its goal of marginally increasing the already ubiquitous access to those drugs. That’s a flat-out violation of RFRA.

If and when the lawsuits succeed, Catholics and non-Catholics will have the same ready access to contraceptives and abortifacients that they had before the HHS mandate was made final. 

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