Catholic CEOs Paint False Definition of Religious Liberty with Lawsuit

Washington, DC—The Secular Coalition for America today expressed disappointment that the Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive rule continues to be used to promote a false definition of religious freedom by some religious employers seeking to push their religious beliefs on employees.

On Monday, Legatus, a group of Catholic CEOs of secular companies in Michigan filed a federal lawsuit against the HHS rule that requires insurance coverage for contraceptive care. The group is seeking a court ruling to permanently block the implementation of the HHS rule. The stated mission of Legatus is “[t]o study, live and spread the Catholic faith in our business, professional and personal lives.”

Among other claims, the group says that the HHS rule puts “coercive pressure” on the employers to “change or violate their religious beliefs.”

“Legatus is asking the government to place the religious beliefs of the employer over the individual religious beliefs of the employees, and they are doing it under a smoke screen of religious persecution,” said Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “True religious freedom allows for individuals to make personal moral and health decisions for themselves.”

In March, this issue was considered by the U.S. Senate: the Blunt amendment—a bill introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) —would have allowed employers to exclude any insurance benefit they deem immoral or “contrary to their religious beliefs,” but was clearly rejected by the legislators.

Since first announcing the rule, the Obama administration announced that employees of religiously affiliated employers would be able to obtain contraceptive services free of charge, directly from insurance providers—ensuring that these employers are not actively involved in the process. It is unacceptable  for employers to act as a “big brother” and second guess health care best practices.

Rather than infringing on the employers’ religious freedom, the HHS rule actually supports the religious freedom and rights of individual Americans by allowing each person to decide for herself and himself whether contraceptive coverage is appropriate in their life—and not forcing them to follow the religious views and perspectives of their employers—or anyone else.

In addition to cost saving benefits, there is ample scientific data that represents medical benefits of contraception for women who are contraindicated for pregnancy, as well as demonstrated preventive health benefits from contraceptives relating to conditions relation to conditions other than pregnancy. (e.g. treatment of menstrual disorders, acne, and pelvic pain).

The use of preventive services—such as all FDA approved contraceptive methods as recommended by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) guidelines and researched by the independent Institute of Medicine—result a healthier population and reduces health care costs by helping individuals avoid preventable conditions and receive treatment earlier.

 “Every American is entitled to their personal religious beliefs and practices, but they do not have the right to impose them on others –including their employees—or ask for privileging from the government,” Rogers said.

There are many different religions with varying views on what is acceptable when it comes to health care, but to build public policy around any particular religion would not only be unconstitutional, it would also be impractical and negatively affect those of different faiths or none.  Christian Scientists for example, do not believe in modern medicine, opting instead to be “healed” by prayer. Scientologists do not believe in the use of pscychiatry. When you allow employers to pick and choose what health benefits are available to employees, based on the employers personal belief, many main stream medical procedures and medications will be up for debate. It is impossible to respect the beliefs of every religion when it comes to setting public policy—nor is it fair to employees or the general public.

The Secular Coalition continues to assert that an employer being able to deny its employees the full range of preventative health care benefits is not religious liberty—especially when those employees may not share the employer’s religious beliefs. True religious freedom allows individuals to decide what is or is not appropriate within their religious tradition. The religious beliefs of employers deserve no special treatment or exemption from government regulations which have a strictly secular purpose.


CONTACT: Lauren Anderson Youngblood, SCA communications manager …….. 202-299-1091 ext. 205 or [email protected]

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