WASHINGTON, D.C., August 22, 2014 —Russell Moore, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, responded to the new guidelines for non-profit religious organizations and closely held for-profit companies released today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
“Here we go again. What we see here is another revised attempt to settle issues of religious conscience with accounting maneuvers. This new policy doesn’t get at the primary problem. The administration is setting itself up as a mediator between God and the conscience on the question of the taking of innocent human life.
“When it comes to these contentious issues I don’t necessarily expect those who disagree with us to ask ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ But, in this case, asking ‘What Would Jefferson Do?’ would be a good start.”
The full rule has not been published yet, but it appears to retain the two-tier status for religious groups, with “houses of worship” exempted from the mandate, while other religious organizations and certain for-profits are required to notify the government they cannot comply. In addition, the government will continue to require insurers of “non-exempted” organizations to provide abortion and contraceptive drugs and devices to their employees.
A second proposed rule will stipulate the regulations for defining what constitutes a closely-held for-profit company, a move in response to the government’s loss in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., case earlier this summer.
Today’s guidelines mark the eighth time in three years that the HHS has revised its original mandate.