It decides to broaden the Safe Harbor to include organizations like Wheaton College.
5. February 1, 2013: Admitting now that the exemption for houses of worship is too narrow, the Administration decides it might extend it to groups that serve and hire people of all faiths.
6. June 28, 2013: Temporary Enforcement Harbor, Part 2: The Administration admits that the mandate burdens religious organizations, and so it extends the Safe Harbor for another six months (now totaling two years).
7. July 2, 2013: The narrow exception is made a little broader.
The “houses of worship” exception will now to be extended to some groups that serve and hire people of all faiths.
HHS also creates an “accommodation” for other religious organizations.
8. July 22, 2014: Prompted by its losses in the Supreme Court, HHS announces that the current accommodation will be changed, and new proposed regs will be issued to “augment” it.
Where do things now stand with respect to for-profit, closely held corporations that don’t want to be forced to cover the full range of contraceptive and abortifacient drugs and devices in their employee health plans?
One positive outcome is that the Administration finally concedes that families do not lose their religious freedom when they open a family-owned business.
One negative outcome is that the Administration couldn’t care less.
The new proposed interim rule allows some religiously-motivated, for-profit corporations to be granted the same accommodation previously offered only to religious non-profits.
The procedure for submitting one’s objection to the mandate will change, too.
Rather than submitting a self-certification form to its insurance carrier (or 3rd party administrator) listing its religious objections to providing contraceptives/abortifacients, both non-profit and for profit companies will be required to send a letter to (what’s likely to be a circular file at) HHS which states their objections to the mandate.
Such letters will have no functional purpose except to let the owners go on record as objecting.
The upshot will be that employees and their dependents will still be guaranteed coverage for contraception/abortifacients “for free.” But now, the cost will be borne by taxpayers rather than borne in part by the employer.
Lastly, the proposed interim rule invites comments on how narrowly the Administration can apply the Hobby Lobby ruling.
They assume that the decision does not apply to publicly-traded corporations, but hope to limit its application to the least possible number of family owners in closely held corporations.
Many commentators have referred to the Administration’s various convoluted and grudging concessions as being a shell game.
And that’s true insofar as the Administration is concerned.
But there’s nothing amusing about the game the Administration has been playing to see how far they can go in eviscerating the constitutionally guaranteed religious liberty of Americans organized as non-profit and closely held for-profit companies.
Susan E. Wills is Spirituality Editor of Aleteia’s English edition.