Washington Times Editorial Notes College’s Victory over HHS Mandate

Following up on its judicial victory over the HHS Contraceptive Mandate, Thomas Aquinas College is the subject of a Washington Times editorial about the country’s battle over religious freedom:

While most Americans were Christmas shopping, a court in the District ruled that a small, liberal arts school in Santa Paula, Calif., won’t have to pay for the contraceptive devices, abortions and sterilizations of its employees. Thomas Aquinas College covers employees through an unusual self-insurance trust that is not church-sponsored.

Rather than strike down the entire mandate as a government intrusion into personal and religious freedom, as she should have, Judge Amy B. Jackson seized on this narrow distinction to rule that the one college is exempt because it would be directly involved in crafting a morally objectionable insurance plan. “In the case of a self-insured entity like Thomas Aquinas, the newly enacted regulations fall short of the mark,” Judge Jackson said. The Obamacare rules “compel the organization to take affirmative steps — to do something — that is in conflict with the tenets of its faith.”

The reason the College self-insures dates back to 1994, when the State of California enacted a law requiring insurance companies to provide contraceptive benefits. In order to avoid furnishing unethical coverage — while at the same time remaining in compliance with the law — the College became a member of the Reta Trust. A “self-funded benefit trust,” Reta provides for only those benefits that “are in compliance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services published by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.” Thanks to this arrangement, for nearly 20 years the College has been exempt from the California regulation — as it is now from the HHS Mandate.

Although grateful to be free of this burden, members of the Thomas Aquinas College community continue to pray for other Catholic institutions that are not so fortunate. As the Washington Times editorial concludes, “Religious institutions shouldn’t be required to jump through hoops. The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion must never be denied based on technicalities of interest only to certified public accountants.”

Posted: December 27, 2013