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USCCB: New proposed rules on mandate still violate religious freedom

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People walk near U.S. Capitol in Washington
People walk near U.S. Capitol in Washington. (CNS photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — New proposed regulations governing the contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act continue to violate basic principles of religious freedom, said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In comments filed March 20 with the Department of Health and Human Services, the USCCB raised a series of concerns, among them being that the new proposals keep in place “an unjust and unlawful mandate” regarding the provision of contraceptive and other pregnancy services and that the rules provide no exemption, or accommodation, for “most stakeholders in the health insurance process, such as individual employees and for-profit employers,” who have moral objections to such coverage.

Other objections raised in the comments include:

— An “unreasonable and unlawfully narrow” exemption for some nonprofit religious organizations, primarily houses of worship.

— Limited accommodation for religious employers that continues to require those employers falling outside of the government’s definition to “fund or facilitate objectionable coverage.”

The comments state that the concerns being raised are the same as those addressed when the rules governing the Affordable Care Act were first proposed in 2011.

The 24-page statement was filed during the 60-day comment period established by the Health and Human Services after it introduced the new proposed rules Feb. 1. The deadline for comments is April 1.

The document was filed for the USCCB by Anthony R Picarello, associate general secretary and general counsel, and Michael F. Moses, associate general counsel.

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