Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America — the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization — welcomed the Obama Administration’s release of revised regulations for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act with regard to the Act’s “mandate” for the provision of contraceptives and other specific women’s health services.
The Affordable Care Act initially required all employers to cover contraceptives as part of a larger package of preventive health benefits for women. Last February, the Obama administration proposed a limited exemption to houses of worship and a limited accommodation to faith-based nonprofits.
Yet, the Orthodox Union and other religious organizations remained deeply concerned about the proposed regulation as its exemption for religious entities (including houses of worship) was defined very narrowly — with the government defining what constituted religious activity worthy of full exemption — and the policy would have created a “two tiered” system for religious liberty.
Orthodox Union leaders raised these concerns in a meeting with President Obama last June.
According to preliminary reports today, the proposed revised regulations will offer broader protection for religious nonprofits that object to the mandated coverage of contraceptives. For houses of worship and their related organizations, the revised proposal eliminates what would have been the damaging precedent requiring that, to be exempt, such entities must only employ and serve people of their own faith. For other religious nonprofit entities, the revised proposal allows them to “self certify” that they are a religious organization and object to providing such coverage on religious grounds. In such cases their employees would receive a stand-alone, private insurance policy that would provide contraceptive coverage at no cost. The faith-based employer would not “have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds.”
In reaction, Orthodox Union Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament issued the following statement:
“Today’s reports of a revised policy proposal from the Obama Administration regarding the “contraceptives mandate” are encouraging. Orthodox Judaism does not share the same religious view toward the use of contraception as our Catholic and other Christian friends, but we resolutely share the same passion and commitment to religious liberty and the principle that the government must respect and accommodate religious liberty, even in the service of other laudable policy goals. We appreciate the Obama Administration’s ongoing effort to resolve this balance properly and, reportedly, its abandonment of what would have been a very harmful precedent. We look forward to examining the proposal more closely and filing formal comments with the Administration in the coming weeks.”