Pennsylvania Catholic Church officials praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision Monday that companies that hold religious objections to covering contraceptives for women may opt out of that new health law requirement.
In a statement issued through the Diocese of Scranton, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, which is the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and 10 Catholic dioceses, said religious liberty scored a victory with the decision.
“In its decision in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Products cases, the Court properly concluded that religious conscience of closely held businesses is to be protected from government coercion,” the statement read. “Further, the Court determined that the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate is improper as it forces a closely held company to pay for coverage of products and services that violate the owners’ firmly held religious beliefs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under authority provided in the Affordable Care Act, mandated coverage of sterilization, contraception and abortion-causing drugs in most employer health insurance plans.”
Diocese of Scranton spokesman Bill Genello said the PCC statement represents the position of the Catholic bishops across the commonwealth.
The PCC statement continued, “Religious ministries of service – such as charities, schools, health care facilities and institutions of higher education – are given, at best, second-class status under the law in the form of a still-murky ‘accommodation.’ Many religious entities, including Catholic dioceses, are challenging this mandate in federal courts across the country.
“The Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania express the hope that, in light of this ruling, the Obama Administration will do the right thing and withdraw the mandate as it has been applied to religious ministries.”
Church officials said that step would end the religious ministries’ litigation.
Meanwhile, at least one local insurer is waiting for guidance from the government on what the ruling means to the insurance industry.
“Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania is awaiting further guidance from the federal government on how today’s Supreme Court decision may affect our employer group customers,” said company spokesman Anthony Matrisciano.