Casey Calls on President Obama, HHS to Reverse Course on Conscience Provisions that Harm Catholic Institutions

Casey: Religiously Affiliated Organizations Shouldn’t Be Forced to Violate their Religious Beliefs

WASHINGTON DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on President Obama and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to immediately reverse course on a new ruling that would force Catholic institutions to violate their religious beliefs. The ruling would force Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage to their employees that violates the tenets of their faith.

In his letter, Casey wrote, “I have strongly supported efforts to provide greater access to contraception.  I believe, just as strongly, that religiously-affiliated organizations like hospitals and universities should not be compelled by our Federal government to purchase insurance policies that violate their religious and moral convictions.”

In Pennsylvania there are 15 acute care Catholic hospitals, 25 Catholic nursing facilities, 8 Catholic Charities agencies, 29 Catholic Universities and colleges, and over 15 other Catholic-sponsored service organizations including hospice, home health, assisted living and senior housing that could be impacted by this decision.

The full text of Casey’s letter, calling on the Obama Administration to reverse this policy is below:

February 3, 2012

The President

The White House

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

I am writing to formally express my opposition to the recent decision from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to require religious entities to cover contraception in violation of their religious beliefs, as a part of the preventive services benefit under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  I believe that HHS has made the wrong decision on this issue.

The decision will have an impact on religious employers such as the 15 acute care Catholic hospitals, 25 Catholic nursing facilities, 8 Catholic Charities agencies, 29 Catholic Universities and colleges, and over 15 other Catholic-sponsored service organizations including hospice, home health, assisted living and senior housing that employ and serve all Pennsylvanians regardless of religious faith.

I have strongly supported efforts to provide greater access to contraception and I also believe, just as strongly, that religiously-affiliated organizations like hospitals and universities should not be compelled by our Federal government to purchase insurance policies that violate their religious and moral convictions.  Finally, I believe that these two objectives do not have to be mutually exclusive.  Reasonable people can find common ground on this issue, and I am happy to work with your Administration to achieve that objective.

Viable options to correct this problem, which I offered in my earlier letter, include rewriting the definition using the principles behind the “church plan” exemption found in Section 414(e) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), which was developed specifically to avoid church-state entanglements in religious governance relative to pension, health and welfare plans offered by religious entities.  Another option would be language based on the religious exemption to the contraceptive mandate in the appropriation that covers the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program.

Again, I urge you to direct the Department of Health and Human Services to take immediate action to correct this decision which will erode the conscience rights that have been protected by every Congress and Administration for decades.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator