Matthew Bowman

When the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently put forth their new health coverage mandates, people of faith – and particularly people of faith who operate and work for faith-based organizations – saw the pro-abortion administration’s handwriting on the wall. For included in the mandate is a requirement that all insurance plans, and the people who pay for them, provide free coverage for drugs and devices that can destroy early embryos.

These include items such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), “emergency contraception,” and several other drugs, as well as a newly approved method called “ellaOne,” which can induce early abortions after an embryo implants in the womb. The mandate also compels coverage of sterilization methods, contraception, and counseling in favor of all these things.

The burden such a mandate places on Christian groups is hard to overstate. Social service agencies, schools, businesses, health care providers, and maybe even churches will be required to pay for activities that go against their faith and practice. And although the mandate has an addendum ostensibly intended to exempt groups with religious conflicts by exempting religious employers, the exemption is so narrowly worded that very few groups will be able to opt out.

For example, HHS will only consider offering an exemption to an entity that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a church or religious order or a direct activity thereof. This discretionary “exemption” essentially declares that Christians and Christian groups cannot serve in the world, but must only preach to their own choirs or else abandon their religious freedom. No one should be forced, as a cost of serving society, to participate in anti-life practices that violate their religious beliefs.

Moreover, as Ron Johnson, director of the Arizona Catholic Conference put it, “This exemption does not go far enough in protecting the conscience rights of not only Church entities — especially those that may be involved with charitable work or health care work — but also private businesses.”

Matthew Bowman

Matt Bowman is senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, an alliance-building legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.