The Becket Fund

  • February 8, 2013
    Guest Post

    by Leslie C. Griffin, William S. Boyd Professor of Law, UNLV Boyd School of Law

    The Obama administration recently offered more accommodations to the religious employers who oppose women’s reproductive freedom and seek exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employee insurance coverage extend to contraception and sterilization. The employers won two big victories. First, the definition of religious employer was expanded to include not only organizations where everyone shares one faith but also those that employ or provide services to individuals who are not members of the same religious community. Second, the employers will not have to provide the coverage. Instead, the insurance companies will independently contact employees and make separate contraceptive policies available to them at no charge. The insurance companies will cover the costs of this new arrangement and, presumably, pass them on to other consumers.

    The new rules are responsive to repeated and vociferous complaints about the president’s war on religion. As soon as the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, first announced that religious employers would be expected to provide contraceptive and sterilization coverage at no cost to employees, the nation’s Catholic bishops attacked the president for his unprecedented assault on religious freedom. Those critics ignored the fact that the idea of requiring employers to protect women’s equality by providing insurance was not new or unprecedented. Twenty-six states have similar laws, and the highest courts of New York and California upheld their women’s contraceptive equity statutes against First Amendment claims.

    With the federal act currently under challenge in 45 lawsuits, however, the administration chose to compromise rather than to press the legality of its actions on behalf of women’s equality. The strategy of compromise has been unsuccessful. Even the new accommodations have not satisfied the administration’s critics. The Catholic bishops still believethat the president should compromise even more by extending the exemption to secular, for-profit corporations run by religious individuals. And Kyle Duncan, the general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has sponsored much of the litigation against the mandate, stated that the new rules do “nothing to protect the religious freedom of millions of Americans.”

  • February 23, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Social conservatives, led, in part, by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, continuing to grumble about the Obama administration’s health care policy that requires health insurance companies to provide contraceptives to women, even those employed by companies with religious affiliations, are now looking to the federal courts to overturn the policy.

    The Becket Fund, a Religious Right legal outfit, sued the administration in federal court earlier this week arguing that the policy, a part of the Affordable Care Act, violates the religious liberty rights of Ave Maria University in Florida. Ave Maria, a Catholic institution, states that it “pledges faithfulness to the teachings of the Church,” and is “known for its exceptional academics, faithfulness to the magisterium of the Catholic Church ….”

    In a press statement announcing the lawsuit, Jim Towey, the university’s president, and former head of President George W. Bush’s faith-based office, claimed the “federal government has no right to coerce the University into funding contraceptives services that include abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization, in the health plan we offer our employees.”

    Towey further declares that under the administration’s health care policy Ave Maria would be required to pay for contraceptives, and therefore is “prepared to discontinue our health plan and pay the $2,000 per employee, per year fine rather than comply with an unjust, immoral mandate in violation of our rights of conscience.”

    In the same statement, the Becket Fund’s Kyle Duncan asserts that the health care policy forces the religious school to either betray its beliefs or dump employees’ health benefits.