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A commitment to life-affirming care and religious liberty

While Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby has been having its high-profile day before the highest court in the land, another local entity has now entered the legal fray over the government’s controversial HHS mandate.  As reported in the last issue of the Sooner Catholic, the Oklahoma-based Catholic Benefits Association has filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma to challenge the mandate that requires nearly all employers to provide employees with health insurance that covers contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and related counseling.

The Catholic Benefits Association (CBA), of which the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City is a member, contends in its suit that the HHS mandate violates the religious liberty of Catholic employers who are morally opposed to the use of these drugs and services on religious grounds.  The use of these drugs and services are, in fact, contrary to official Catholic teaching.  The mandate imposes an unacceptable burden on those who are being forced to violate their consciences in order to fulfill the law with its immoral mandate. The flaw in the government’s attempt to reconcile these differences is rooted in its effort to define who is “religious enough” to qualify for an exemption from this burdensome mandate.   The government essentially has reduced religious liberty to the freedom to worship.  Religious liberty and the freedom to worship are not equivalent. The freedom to worship, for example, is not unheard of even under some totalitarian regimes. The full robust meaning of religious liberty enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution and in our Catholic tradition is much broader.  

 

Under the current exemptions being doled out by the administration, parishes and dioceses with an explicit religious purpose are exempt.  Houses of worship are exempt.  But those Catholic entities which put faith into action in service to others are not exempt.  Separately incorporated Catholic schools are non-exempt.  Catholic charitable and service agencies are not exempt.  Catholic health care entities are not exempt.  The Little Sisters of the Poor who care for the aged are not exempt.  These Catholic entities are not exempt because they will not and cannot limit the scope of their outreach to serving only Catholic or employing only Catholics.  They live out the Gospel mandate to serve one and all in the name of Christ as an expression of our Catholic faith and Christian charity.

The Catholic Benefits Association already has more than 200 members from across the United States.  They include Catholic dioceses and archdioceses, Catholic schools, Catholic non-profit, charitable and health care entities.  But the membership also includes for-profit Catholic businesses which desire to provide morally acceptable and life-affirming health care coverage for their employees. Though many similar suits have been filed seeking religious liberty protection from the burdensome demands of the HHS mandate, this is the first class-action lawsuit.

Through its subsidiary, the Catholic Insurance Company, the CBA has also arranged for health provider networks to assist Catholic employers in providing comprehensive quality health care that honors the dignity of the human person.  For more information on the CBA please visit their website at lifeaffirmingcare.com

Please join me in praying for the success of this important legal action and the many other initiatives whose aim is to strengthen and preserve religious liberty, our first and fundamental freedom.  Saint Thomas More, pray for us!