If you listen to Catholic radio, you’re probably aware of the HHS mandate that requires Catholic organizations to provide (and pay for) insurance coverage for their employees that includes contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization procedures. The HHS mandate is actually a regulation set forth in the Federal Register and it was promulgated pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (PPACA). Obviously this violates our conscience and is an infringement on religious freedom. Over 100 plaintiffs (mainly Catholic dioceses or organizations) have brought lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of this mandate. Every single U.S. Bishop has issued statements about the problems with this mandate.
A lot has been said about this mandate and how the federal government is impinging on our freedom of conscience and limits who we are allowed to serve (i.e. we can only serve fellow Catholics if we want to take advantage of the religious “exemption” to this mandate). Recently I saw an article in our own Catholic Times that made me wonder about the economic impact of this mandate. What will this mandate do to Catholic organizations? What about Catholic business owners? How will it affect jobs?
Remember those lawsuits I referenced? Well, the federal government has argued in court that if you start a business and engage in commerce, you leave your religious liberty/first amendment rights at the door. (Newland v. Sebilius)1 In my humble opinion, that’s an attack on the job creators in our country. If you don’t comply, you’ll be fined/taxed/penalized $100 a day per employee. Someone with 50 employees would pay $5,000 a day or over 1.8 million dollars a year.
So business owners and the Bishops of the Catholic Church (who did not ask for this fight), are left with some hard decisions. Do we violate our conscience? Do we close down all Catholic hospitals despite the fact that 1 in 6 people hospitalized are served by a Catholic hospital? Do we close down Catholic Charities that provides “housing services to 497,732 people, adoption services to 38,829, addiction services to 81,866, and pregnancy services to 93,542, not to mention 110,268 home-delivered meals and 1,420,492 fed in soup kitchens”?2 Do we pay the fines? That will put us out of business in a hurry. Will all of the people who work in Catholic hospitals and institutions lose their jobs?
Shutting down the institutions that serve the needy and putting those who create jobs out of business is not a way to help the poor or grow the economy.
1 For example, the Administration’s brief opposing the preliminary injunction argued that the “Plaintiffs’ free exercise claim fails at the outset because for-profit, secular employers generally do not engage in any exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment.” http://blog.heritage.org/2012/07/29/judge-issues-preliminary-injunction-on-behalf-of-business-owner-in-hhs-mandate-fight/
2 October 7, 2012 issues of The Catholic Times, page 3. Article written by Don Clemmer, Assistant Director of Media Relations, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. See http://usccbmedia.blogspot.com/2012/04/catholics-care-catholics-vote.html