ST. PAUL, Minn. – The federal government’s birth control mandate is like forcing a Jewish or Muslim employer to provide pork sandwiches to its employers, the Minnesota Catholic Conference said Friday.
President Barack Obama on Friday announced religious organizations will no longer be required to offer free birth control to female employees next year, amending a policy aimed at tempering intensifying political backlash over religious freedom. Under the new rule, insurance companies, not religious organizations, will be required to offer contraception for free to the employees.
“The result will be that religious organizations won’t have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly,” Obama said.
Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, the head of the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops, says it’s a good first step but it’s too soon to tell if the revision will address the objections of the church.
The Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in the state, voiced the same hesitation Friday.
“We are awaiting the details and are reserving judgment, but today’s amendments do not seem to be a true reversal of an unwise and unjust policy,” MCC executive director Jason Adkins said. “Although a step in the right direction, this ‘compromise’ still appears to ignore the First Amendment rights of individual business owners and other non-institutional PPACA payers who, for moral or religious reasons, object to providing contraception, abortion drugs, and sterilizations.”
Adkins said the rule is still a “religious freedom issue, not a contraception issue.”
“No one’s access to contraception is threatened,” he said. “Any employer who wants to provide contraceptive coverage to employees is free to do so, and anyone can get it at the drug store. Instead, the HHS mandate is like forcing a Jewish or Muslim employer who is kind enough to provide lunch for her employees, to provide pork sandwiches, too.”
“We hope that the Administration will continue to hear the concerns of so many Americans who have stood together across the ideological, religious, and partisan divides in defense of our first freedoms so that a just solution is reached.”