The Corner

The Fleecing of Religious Liberty

Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard (and former ambassador to the Holy See), John Garvey, president of Catholic University, and Robert P. George of Princeton, and Carter Snead, among others, are with Yuval, too

 Today the Obama administration has offered what it has styled as an “accommodation” for religious institutions in the dispute over the HHS mandate for coverage (without cost sharing) of abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraception. The administration will now require that all insurance plans cover (“cost free”) these same products and services.  Once a religiously-affiliated (or believing individual) employer purchases insurance (as it must, by law), the insurance company will then contact the insured employees to advise them that the terms of the policy include coverage for these objectionable things.

This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy.  It is certainly no compromise.  The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust.  Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.

It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not “paying” for this aspect of the insurance coverage.  For one thing, it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers.  More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual.  They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy.

It is morally obtuse for the administration to suggest (as it does) that this is a meaningful accommodation of religious liberty because the insurance company will be the one to inform the employee that she is entitled to the embryo-destroying “five day after pill” pursuant to the insurance contract purchased by the religious employer.  It does not matter who explains the terms of the policy purchased by the religiously affiliated or observant employer.  What matters is what services the policy covers.

The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization.  This is a grave violation of religious freedom and cannot stand.  It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept as assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick.

Finally, it bears noting that by sustaining the original narrow exemptions for churches, auxiliaries, and religious orders, the administration has effectively admitted that the new policy (like the old one) amounts to a grave infringement on religious liberty.  The administration still fails to understand that institutions that employ and serve others of different or no faith are still engaged in a religious mission and, as such, enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.



John Garvey

President, The Catholic University of America


Mary Ann Glendon

Learned Hand Professor of Law, Harvard University


Robert P. George

McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University


O. Carter Snead

Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame


Yuval Levin

Hertog Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center



Jean Bethke Elshtain

Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics in the Divinity School, Department of Political Science and the Committee on International Relations, The University of Chicago


Tom Farr

Director of Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Georgetown University


Richard W. Garnett

Associate Dean and Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame


Patrick MacKinley Brennan

John F. Scarpa Chair in Catholic Legal Studies and Professor of Law, Villanova University


Gerard V. Bradley

Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame



Paolo Carozza

Professor of Law and Director, Center for Civil and Human Rights, University of Notre Dame


George Weigel

Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies, Ethics and Public Policy Center


Gilbert Meilaender

Duesenberg Professor in Christian Ethics, Valparaiso University


President Timothy O’Donnell



Dr. William K. Thierfelder

President, Belmont Abbey College


Steven Smith

Class of 1975 Endowed Professor of Law, San Diego University


Jacqueline M. Nolan-Haley

Professor of Law and Director, ADR & Conflict Resolution Program, Fordham University        


Michael Stokes Paulsen

Distinguished University Chair & Professor of Law The University of St. Thomas


Prof. Alan Mittleman

Professor of Modern Jewish Thought

The Jewish Theological Seminary

Rabie Meir Y. Soloveichik

Director, Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought, Yeshiva University


Micah J. Watson

Director, Center for Politics and Religion and Assistant Professor of Political Science, Union University


Helen Alvare

Associate Professor of Law, George Mason University


Michael Moreland,

Associate Professor of Law, Villanova University


V. Bradley Lewis

Associate Professor of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America


Matthew J. Franck

Director, William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution, the Witherspoon Institute


Kristina Arriaga

Executive Director, The Becket Fund


Christopher Tollefsen

Professor of Philosophy, University of South Carolina


Rusty Reno

Editor, First Things


Ryan Anderson

Editor, Public Discourse


Patrick Lee

Professor of Philosophy, Franciscan University of Steubenville


Francis J. Beckwith

Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies, Baylor University


William Imboden

Assistant Professor, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas


Patrick Fagan

Senior Fellow and Director, Marriage & Religion Research Institute


Gerald R. McDermott

Jordan-Trexler Professor of Religion, Roanoke Collegee


Austin Ruse

President, C-FAM


Ramesh Ponnuru

Senior Editor, National Review


Donna Bethell

Chairman of the Board, Christendom College


Father Jonathan Morris

Author, Televison Analyst

Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, NYC

Father Terence Henry

TOR President of Franciscan University of Steubenville


Marianne Evans Mount

President, Catholic Distance University


Robert D. Benne

Director of the Center for Religion and Society, Roanoke College


William Edmund Fahey

President, The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (NH)


Michael Novak

George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy and Public Policy, American Enterprise Institute


Bernard F. O’Connor

President, DeSales Unviersity


Thomas S. Kidd

Associate Professor of History and Senior Fellow, Institute of Religion, Baylor University


Joseph Knippenberg

Professor of Politics, Oglethorpe University


Maggie Gallagher

Institute for Marriage and Public Policy


Robert C. Odle, Jr.

Partner, Weil Gotshal and Manges


Nancy Matthews


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