Now that the dust has somewhat settled after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), it is important to consider what effect the Supreme Court’s decision has on churches.
The main impact for churches is that, in upholding Obamacare, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) mandate that employers provide contraceptive and abortifacient coverage for their employees is still in effect. The HHS mandate is one part of Obamacare but it is the most direct threat to religious freedom posed by the law. Under this mandate, employers must provide coverage in their health insurance plans for contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs such as “Plan B,” also called the “morning-after pill,” as well as a new drug named “ella” which is commonly called the “week-after pill.” This mandate is imposed on employers regardless of their religious beliefs against such drugs.
Unless Congress repeals Obamacare, the law and the HHS mandate are here to stay. Here are some important take-aways for churches.
Not just a Catholic issue
Churches must understand that the HHS mandate is not just a Catholic issue. While the Catholic Church is particularly in the crosshairs because of its religious beliefs against contraception, the HHS mandate specifically requires coverage of more than just contraceptive drugs. It also requires coverage of abortion-inducing drugs that every evangelical Christian should oppose.
Churches are exempt
Churches are exempt from the HHS mandate. An exception in the law protects churches from having to provide healthcare coverage for their employees that include contraceptives or abortion-inducing drugs. The exemption, though, is rather narrow and basically only applies to churches or integrated auxiliaries of churches.
Many religious organizations are not exempt
The exception in the law that exempts churches does not exempt many religious organizations, including those reaching out to the poor and needy. Church, parachurch, and other religious ministries that have more than 50 employees are in danger of being subjected to the HHS mandate, regardless of their religious beliefs. Christian businesses are not exempt from the HHS mandate.
Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuits against the HHS mandate will continue
Alliance Defending Freedom is currently involved in three separate lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate. The lawsuits are on behalf of two Christian colleges, Louisiana College and Geneva College, and a Christian business, Hercules Industries.
There are several more lawsuits pending on the same issue in different courts. These lawsuits will continue and, after the Supreme Court’s decision, are even more important.
What Must Churches Do?
There are several things that churches must do in light of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding Obamacare.
1. Be informed and aware of the direct threat posed to religious freedom by Obamacare. Alliance Defending Freedom has put together a great two-minute video that exposes this threat. Share this video with your congregation. We also have a resource page on our website that explains Obamacare and the HHS mandate.
2. If your church has a ministry with more than 50 employees or you are part of a religious organization with more than 50 employees, be aware that the HHS mandate that is part of Obamacare may apply. If you are concerned about the application of the HHS mandate, contact Alliance Defending Freedom to evaluate your situation.
3. Provide support to Christian business owners in your congregation that are subject to the HHS mandate and help them know how best to stand against this direct assault on religious freedom.
4. If you are a pastor, preach a sermon that helps your congregation know and understand the HHS mandate and its application to people of faith. Help them understand that this HHS mandate is not just a Catholic issue but is a direct threat to the religious freedom of all people of faith.
5. Support Alliance Defending Freedom and our efforts to have the HHS mandate declared unconstitutional. Put bluntly, these lawsuits are very expensive and we need your financial support and your prayers. You can give online at this link.
The church must be engaged on this issue. As Alan Sears, president and CEO of Alliance Defending Freedom, succinctly put it, “If the federal government can succeed in forcing people to violate their faith, it will have the power to force anyone to do anything.” That’s how stark the battle lines are. The voice of the church must be heard on this issue. It’s time to speak up.