Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – criticized the decision announced late last Friday by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services denying requests to respect the conscience of religiously affiliated organizations in what benefits they are compelled to provide in their employees’ health insurance plans.
The Affordable Care Act requires that employer-provided health insurance plans must include contraception and related “preventative” services to employees free of charge. The law provides an exemption from this requirement to houses of worship and other religious institutions whose primary purpose is religious.
A diverse coalition of religious groups and institutions petitioned the Administration to expand this exemption to include a broader spectrum of religiously affiliated institutions. On Friday, the Obama Administration declined this request and ruled that, after one year, religious entities that employ people of other faiths on their staff or provides services to people of other faiths must include contraception and other preventative services in their employee insurance plans.
OU Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament issued the following statement commenting on the Administration action:
In declining to expand the religious exemption within the healthcare reform law, the Obama Administration has disappointingly failed to respect the needs of religious organizations such as hospitals, social welfare organizations and more.
Most troubling, is the Administration’s underlying rationale for its decision, which appears to be a view that if a religious entity is not insular, but engaged with broader society, it loses its “religious” character and liberties. Many faiths firmly believe in being open to and engaged with broader society and fellow citizens of other faiths. The Administration’s ruling makes the price of such an outward approach the violation of an organization’s religious principles. This is deeply disappointing. The Orthodox Union will support legislation in Congress to reverse this policy.