Secular Coalition Condemns HHS Contraception Mandate Final Rule

WASHINGTON, DC—The Secular Coalition for America today condemned the decision by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to broaden the exemption for religious institutions.

The changes will broaden the religious employer exemption to include all non-profit organizations that qualify as a “religious employer.” Furthermore, the changes put the religious interests of a few employers ahead of immense health and social benefits for all Americans. The rule changes will have a significant impact on American women across a wide spectrum of the workforce.

“This disappointing rule change sets a terrible precedent for religious interference in individual choice,” said Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “This exemption gives employers the ability to impose their particular religious beliefs on employees, infringing on the religious freedom of potentially millions of Americans.”

In April, the Secular Coalition submitted comments expressing strong opposition to the rule changes for “religious employers” regarding preventive healthcare services. The comments were signed by a coalition of 12 organizations representing atheists, agnostics, humanists and other secular Americans.

In February 2012, the HHS announced final rules regarding exemptions to contraception requirements that exempted Houses of Worship and other “religious employers.” However, in February of 2013, pressured by religious groups including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the HHS rescinded three out of four requirements needed to comply with its earlier definition of “religious employer” broadly expanding the number of qualifying exempt institutions.

In the comments submitted in April, the Secular Coalition opposed the rule changes on several points:

-The Cost-Free Contraceptive Coverage Requirement Is Constitutional

-The SCA’s Suggested Alternatives are More Appropriate and Clear than the Proposed Rule

-Any Employer Exemption Imposes the Employer’s Religion on Employees

-The Proposed Exemption Change Will Deny Thousands of Women Contraceptive Coverage

-The Proposed Rule Leaves the Exemption Open for Abuse

-The Eligibility Requirements for the Accommodation are Vague and Overly Broad

The Secular Coalition urged the Administration to keep intact the four-pronged definition of “religious employer” proposed in earlier drafts of the rules. The previous definition adequately accommodated religious institutions, by insuring that women employed by nonprofits with an expressly religious mission employing a majority of people of the same faith, could obtain contraception directly from the insurance provider.

CONTACT: Lauren Anderson Youngblood, SCA Communications Manager at [email protected] or (202)299-1091 ext. 205, cell (202)630-9725

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