President Obama’s contraception-coverage rule could open the door for the federal government to deny grants to Catholic refugee and relief services that refuse to offer birth-control insurance coverage, a spokesman for the Catholic Church said Thursday morning, telling a congressional hearing American clerics still have “massive concerns” with the proposed administration mandate.
“We contract for services, and we bring to those services some moral convictions, and we shouldn’t be at a disadvantage because we bring moral convictions to the table,” said Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., testifying at a House hearing on religious freedom under the Obama administration.
Speaking for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he compared the contraception mandate to forcing kosher Jewish delis to sell ham sandwiches.
“The question is this: Can a customer come to a kosher deli, demand to be served a ham sandwich and, if refused, bring down severe government sanction on the deli,” Bishop Lori said. “In a nation committed to religious liberty and diversity, the answer, of course, is no.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, invited Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and evangelical leaders to testify in a Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on religious liberty, although much of the hearing was focused on the most recent contraception compromise rule the administration released last week.
Under the rule, employers must offer their employees health plans that cover contraception without charging a copay or deductible. While the administration initially said that only churches could be exempted from the mandate, it broadened the exemption to include religiously-affiliated charities, schools and hospitals after a firestorm of protest from Catholic officials.