By Timothy Dolan
..On Jan. 20, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a decision that would force practically all employers, including many religious institutions, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations and contraception. There was a miserly religious exemption, for the parish church, for example, but it provided no protections for institutions such as Catholic charities, hospitals and universities. The regulations struck at the heart of our fundamental right to serve those outside our faith community. The regulation also gives no consideration for the individual faithful in the marketplace.
People of every political persuasion and creed, or none at all, saw how wrongheaded this was. They came together and stood united against this attempt to deny or weaken the religious freedom upon which our country was founded.
On Feb. 10, the administration issued the final rules. By their very terms, the rules were reaffirmed "without change," despite the language of "accommodation" issued by the White House the same day, leading to more questions than answers. The mandate to provide the controversial services remains. The exceedingly narrow exemption for churches remains. Despite public outcry, all the threats to religious liberty posed by the initial rules remain.
Clearly the administration has attempted to reduce the free exercise of religion to a "privilege" arbitrarily granted by the government. The exemption is too narrowly defined because it does not exempt most nonprofit religious employers, the religiously affiliated insurer, the self-insured employer, the for-profit religious employer or other private businesses owned and operated by people who rightly object to paying for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception. And because it is instituted only by executive whim, even this unduly narrow exemption can be taken away easily...