Position PaperAffordable Care Act
On February 15, 2012 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued final regulations under the Affordable Care Act (1) requiring almost all new health insurance plans after August 1, 2012 to cover “all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and [related] patient education and counseling” (the “Preventive Care Mandate,,).(2)
In a substantial departure from prior federal law, HHS’ regulations define “religious employer” narrowly to include in essence only churches and other houses of worship. As a result, many religious nonprofit organizations do not fall within the definition and accordingly will be required to provide insurance coverage for Plan B, ella, other FDA-approved contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures, and related education and counseling.
The regulations apply to employers generally. Churches and other houses of worship are exempt from the mandate. However, a private company headed by a person with strongly held religious convictions and religious nonprofit organizations (or what we might refer to as para-church groups) are not exempt. Examples of such entities that are not exempt are Christian and other faith-based K-12 schools and colleges, religiously-affiliated hospitals, Gospel Rescue Missions, religious drug rehabilitation programs, prison ministries, and religious charities.
Thus, many non-church, religious nonprofit organizations and devout owners of for-profit organizations will be forced to participate in the provision of these drugs, procedures; and services to their employees. Currently, the penalty to the employer for non-compliance will be approximately $2,000 per year per employee.
It is the position of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church that these regulations constitute an unprecedented overreach by the federal government and an infringement upon religious liberty and rights of conscience guaranteed by the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.(3)
We acknowledge not every part of the Preventive Care Mandate offends the conscience of all believers. The Evangelical Presbyterian Church, for example, does not take a stand against artificial means of contraception. However, we do profoundly object to abortion on demand (see “Position Paper on Abortion,” http://www.epc.org/about-the-epc/position-papers/abortion/). Others, like many of our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, object to artificial contraception.
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church encourages its members to pray fervently and humbly to our God for the protection of our religious freedoms.
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church strongly and respectfully objects to this government overreach and infringement of the Free Exercise Clause. It humbly requests the Department of Health and Human Services to rescind the offending regulation.
If the Department of Health and Human Services does not rescind the regulation, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church requests the United States Congress to take appropriate action to ensure the protection of religious liberty and rights of conscience.
Where deemed advisable by the Committee on Administration, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church will join asamici curiae in pending or future civil actions to ensure the protection of religious freedom and rights of conscience.
Adopted by the 32nd General Assembly
1. Enacted in 2010, the Affordable Care Act consists of two laws: (1) the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Pub. L. No. 111-148); and (2) the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (Pub. L. No. 111-152). A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in National Federation ofIndependent Business v. Sebelius, prior to the end of the court’s term (June 29, 2012). These cases challenge the constitutionality of the Acts. 2. The regulations mandate health care plans provide free access to Plan B (known as the “morning-after pill”) and ella (known as the “week-after pill”) as part of “all FDA-approved contraceptive methods.” Each is an abortifacient drug. HHS classifies Plan B and ella as contraceptives. 3. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (emphasis added) Amendment I, United States Constitution.
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