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Protest Letter Sent to HHS Secretary About Two-Class Religious Scheme

The federal administration has created a dangerous two-class system of religious organizations by the way it is dealing with the religious-freedom implications of the health insurance contraceptives mandate.

The administration has written into the federal regulations a very narrow definition of an exempt “religious employer”—a religious organization that is exempted from having to include all FDA-approved contraceptive services in its employee health insurance. Essentially only churches are considered to be religious enough to get this full religious freedom protection. Faith-based service organizations—because they don’t restrict themselves to “inculcation of religious values,” typically serve not only people of their own faith but the broader community, may hire people beyond their own religious community, and are not classified by the IRS as “churches”—are not exempt. The administration has promised some kind of “accommodation” for them, but no detailed plan has been proposed, and in any case the accommodation will be less than an exemption. 

Thus the administration has now created a two-class system of religious organizations: churches are exempt; faith-based organizations that serve the broader public do not get the same degree of religious freedom protection.

On June 11, a letter protesting the two-class system was sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The letter, organized by IRFA, carries the names of nearly 150 leaders and supporters of faith-based services, representing both Protestant and Catholic organizations. Signatories include colleges and universities, associations of schools, legal organizations, church leaders, and domestic and international service organizations.

Photo credit: AIM Newswire