Florida Religious Groups Say Revised Obama Abortion Mandate Still Falls Short

By: Eric Giunta | Posted: June 29, 2013 3:55 AM

Birth Control and Rosary

On Friday, the Obama administration published its final version of a controversial contraception-abortion mandate on all religious employers, and Florida's religious liberty activists say it still falls short of key First Amendment protections.

“Not a whole lot is new, it's a lot of the same-old, same-old,” Emily Hardman, communications director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, tells Sunshine State News. “It doesn't solve the religious conscience problems because it still makes our nonprofit religious organizations gatekeepers to abortion.”

The Becket Fund, a nonpartisan public interest law firm dedicated to defending religious freedom, is representing Ave Maria University, Hobby Lobby, and dozens of other for-profit and nonprofit organizations which have conscientious objections to subsidizing employees' abortions, sterilizations and contraception. Hardman tells SSN the firm has three criticisms of the mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):

-- It forces nonprofit religious charities that are not connected with a house of worship to provide employees with insurance that covers contraception, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs, which the Obama administration claims constitutes “preventive health care.”

-- Self-insured religious groups are required to hire administrators that pay for abortifacients and contraceptives.

-- For-profit business owners who object to these drugs and procedures are not eligible for any exemption

The final version of the mandate extends the deadline for compliance from Aug. 1 of this year to Jan. 1, 2014. Employers who do not comply with the mandate by that date will be forced by the Obama administration to pay up to millions of dollars in fines.

"It's shameful, just shameful,” Bill Bunkley, who represents the Florida Baptist Convention on the Florida Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (of which he is also president) tells SSN of his first impressions after having skimmed the new rule, which runs to 110 pages. “We had 400,000 comments [from concerned citizens] that went in, an unprecedented number of comments that got sent in on this rule and as far as I can see it looks like they were quickly discarded, dispatched to the trash bin, because for all the promises and all the rhetoric, nothing much has really changed.”

When the rule was first proposed in 2011, it only offered exemptions to houses of worship and to charities that predominantly hired and served members of a particular sect. A February revision eliminated the last two requirements, but still restricted the exemption to charities that were affiliated with a house of worship. Catholic and Evangelical Christians have insisted that most of their religiously-affiliated charities do not meet this qualification.

“It's almost like the president and his people have taken a pair of scissors and cut out the religious freedom language of the First Amendment,” Bunkley says. “Men and women of faith must really take note of what's happening here. What some would call it the religion of the Left is going to take way the rights of faith-based individuals unless they wake up right now.”

The bishops of Florida's seven Catholic dioceses are still studying the lengthy rule in greater detail before making definitive comment on it, says Dr. Mike McCarron, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We are gratified that we have some additional time before [the mandate] is effective, that will give us an opportunity to take a look at it and give it careful analysis,” McCarron tells SSN. “If it does continue to contain the provisions to which we have moral objections – abortion, sterilization, and requiring that employees are provided contraceptives – then we're going to have serious difficulty with that.”

Hardman says the ball is still in the Obama administration's court, and there's an easy solution that would appease over 200 plaintiffs represented by her firm.

“The solution is simple: grant the exemption that the U.S. Constitution requires, to not force people to violate their conscience,” she tells SSN. “That's all we've been asking for from the beginning.”

The contraception-abortion mandate is the Obama administration's implementation of provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, “Obamacare”), which requires HHS to define what kinds of health services employers must be forced to provide their workers. Dozens of lawsuits challenging the mandate on religious freedom grounds, litigated by the Becket Fund and by others, are making their way through the federal courts.

The Becket Fund is named after St. Thomas Becket, a 12th century archbishop of Canterbury murdered by agents of King Henry II of England for the cleric's opposition to state interference in the Church's internal affairs. 

Reach Eric Giunta at egiunta@sunshinestatenews.com or at 954-235-9116.

Comments (12)

3:51PM JUN 30TH 2013
Religious groups should in no way comply with the HHS mandates. The state is NOT above the church! No, this one size fits all mentality by Obama must be disobeyed!
10:12AM JUL 1ST 2013
I have a Pastor friend whose conscience and beliefs are that all we have to do is ask God for forgiveness for any kind of sin and we're forgiven. Therefore he wants to open not for profit halfway houses for drug addicted pedophiles. The law says pedophiles can't locate within a certain distance of schools and some local communities have zoning laws about where they can be placed.

So can I count on you to sign the petition giving his church an exemption from the laws other businesses and institutions have to follow so he can open them where he wants? And if he wants to open one next to where your children or grandchildren live or go to school, he can count on you to speak up in support, right? After all, the state is NOT above the church!
Hostile Elite vs Gullible White Cattle
7:20PM JUN 30TH 2013
How loathsome conservatives have become. Crying in utter helplessness. this is not left vs right, GOP vs Dems, Socialism vs liberty. This is war against White people.

Why do hostile globalist elite defend Israel as a Jewish ethnostate with Jewish only immigration, but ravage White majority Europe/North America into a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Gulag with non-White colonization?

The world is 93% non-White, only 7% White. But 3rd world colonizers, Muslims, Sikhs, Hispanics, are aggressively advancing their agenda to annihilate gullible Whites, just as China annihilates Tibet.

How long will gullible Whites cuckold for murderous anti-White elite, who confiscate our guns, infiltrate/subvert our banks/FBI/CIA, indoctrinate White kids in academia/mass media, plunder White jobs/wages, & butcher White soldiers in bankrupting wars?

"Native" Americans invaded from East Asia. Yellow & Brown races committed 10-times more genocide, slavery, imperialism than Whites. Since Old-Testament, Whites have been victims of Jewish/Crypto-Jewish, Turkic, Muslim, N.African imperialism, slavery, genocide.

Gullible Whites should reject subversive ideologies- libertarianism, feminism, liberalism- & reject hostile slanders of racism. Peace to all humanity, but White people must organize to advance their interests, their fertility, their homelands. Spread this message. Reading list: goo.gl/iB777 , goo.gl/htyeq , amazon.com/dp/0759672229 , amazon.com/dp/1410792617
5:48PM JUL 1ST 2013
5th use of this spamming, racist commentary about a war against whites on SSN . . . . interesting that these racist comments keep showing up above my comments, despite being reported to SSN as a violation of their terms of service concerning racist comments ("You agree not to upload, post or otherwise transmit any User Content that is offensive to the online community, including blatant expressions of bigotry, racism, abusiveness, vulgarity or profanity.") . . . . . but then, I no longer believe in coincidences here . . . maybe they just don't believe that the above is a blatant expression of racism . . . either that, or they just don't believe "their" readership considers it to be offensive. . . . . . wonder which it is . . . .

Pathetic . . .
4:23PM JUN 30TH 2013
Obviously not an American, nor an American patriot . . . our democracy does not bow to "YOUR" church's laws, beliefs or desires . . . if you want a state that bows to a religion, go live in Iran . . . or the Vatican . . .

Pathetic, anti-American sentiment . . .
9:42PM JUL 1ST 2013
Agreed. Interesting that m o t h e r g o o s e is a proscribed term but straight from the Aryan Brotherhood is fine stuff.
9:21AM JUN 30TH 2013
the same rules should apply to all business. exemptions for religious beliefs are a nightmare. religious groups are already exemptions from many things as long as they are primarily that " religious groups ", if they are business groups in disguise then they should play by the same rules as everyone else.
12:44AM JUN 30TH 2013
Pandora's Box has long been opened, especially with W, a liberal Democrat wolf in disguise, as are the other Bushes, especially Jeb, same as Marco Rubio. I won't address some of your reductio ad absurdum arguments, waste of time. So, my objection against abortion for convenience is at variance with your sanity and common sense? Gosh, I thought it was because of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." As far as nullification of Obamacare, who has waivers of compliance? Teacher unions, public employee unions, other private unions, illegal immigrants- ooh didn't mean to offend you with that term, sorry! Undocumented liberals, there that's better. Obamacare is a train wreck in motion and you know it. I suspect Frank is a current/former government employee with a pension...? Obama supporters get waivers from Obamacare, why do they need or want waivers? And please, cite in the Constitution where it says "...to not force people to violate their conscience . . ." Extremely pathetic attempt at spin, as usual. And lastly, why is "prohibiting the free exercise thereof" such a hard sub-concept to understand? A woman does indeed own her body, I agree 100%!!! However, a baby owns it's own life, 100%. The mother does not own the baby's life and has no right to end it. Perhaps my bio-science and system development background is affecting my view, and yes I know you have some galactic degree, I don't care. The life-cycle of a thing starts as a "seed" and then grows to a "being". That is the "human life-cycle." I learned in Ag class (in a FL high school) that the life-cycle of an organism begins with the seed. If you kill the seed, you kill the thing that it would become. Is it that hard to understand? Why not abort at six months old, or three years old, or ten years old, if the mother chooses to do so? Deliberately obtuse, which tells me, Frank, you have an agenda.
10:42AM JUN 30TH 2013
"So, my objection against abortion for convenience is at variance with your sanity and common sense?"

I know you are asking Frank but I can answer. No, you have every right to be against abortion for convenience. But no one is asking you to have or perform an abortion on demand. Nor pay for one. That's not what the contraceptive mandate is about.

And Obamacare may be a train wreck but its premise is more pro-life than a law against abortion would be. Besides, how can a person have a right to life if they don't have a right to timely health care?

And if a woman should be forced to use her body and money to promote the life of a potential person because it owns its own life, then why shouldn't you and other men have to use your body and money to promote the life of an actual person. Don't they own their own life too? So instead of demeaning Obamacare, shouldn't you be advocating we improve it- and shouldn't you be advocating we make organ donation mandatory?

Otherwise, after reading your explanation of the life cycle of seeds I find it ironic you would fight access to contraceptives. After all, they do not kill the seeds. All they do is keep the seeds from being fertilized and planted until the "farmers" are ready, willing, or able to tend to a garden.

Otherwise, you ought to know that just because a seed is fertilized and planted there are no guarantees it won't wither and die despite the best intentions of the people who planted it. As well as you should know a fertilized egg is not the same as a 3 year old plant. Nor is it the same as a seed that over 6 months was able to develop into a plant.
5:09PM JUN 29TH 2013
Yes, once again sanity and common sense abounds in its absence because, at least to some, "The solution is simple: grant the exemption that the U.S. Constitution requires, to not force people to violate their conscience" . . . . .

So, under this premise, if my religious conscience includes ANY of the following, I should be able to have an exemption from the government from requiring my group to cover:

- Blood Transfusions (Jehovah's Witness)
- Glasses (The Body of Christ)
- All medical treatment except through faith healing (End Time Ministries & many others)
- All medical treatment except through snake handling & strychnine drinking (Church of God variations)
- Most medical care, including vaccinations, except through Christian Science practices

There are many such examples, but this concept goes beyond just the Affordable Care Act, because if religious conscience compliance is a valid nullification concept to reject federal requirements, then Pandora's Box is opened, potentially allowing the unilateral rejection of:
- War & military funding (Quakers)
- Social Security & taxes of any type
- Funding to educate women (Taliban)
- Homosexual equal rights (Catholics)
- Any/all federal laws (all I have to do is have my religion say "no"), except, perhaps, for my own individual version of religious law consistent with my "conscience" (e.g. Sharia law)

Yes, all our laws should be subject to a legal requirement to "not force people to violate their conscience", regardless of what that leads to. . . . or who it harms . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
9:29AM JUN 29TH 2013
If you're going to conduct business than the same rules should apply that other businesses have to follow.

Besides, it's a slippery slope. If they're allowed special exemptions on their "religious beliefs" then everyone should be. Plus what's next?

No maternity coverage for unwed mothers? Or for the female partner of a gay couple? No coverage for AID's contracted through homosexual behavior?

And since the new Pope says it's a sin to waste food, how much longer before he openly declares over eating is a sin too and no more coverage for obesity related diseases and disabilities? After all, gluttony is one of the 7 Deadly sins.

And further, should we allow female mutilation to be a covered expense under the grounds of religious freedom? Maternity care for married 10 year olds? Etc.
8:30AM JUN 29TH 2013
How can any person who is anti abortion also be anti birth control? Proper use of the latter will prevent the former.

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