April 9, 2012 — Cardinal Timothy Dolan and several other religious leaders appeared on Sunday talk shows yesterday to discuss the role of religion in politics, as well as federal contraceptive coverage rules, the Washington Post reports (Thompson, Washington Post, 4/8).
The contraceptive coverage rules implement a provision in the federal health reform law (PL 111-148) that requires health plans to cover preventive services without copayments or deductibles. The rules do not apply to religious institutions that have a primary purpose of inculcating religious values and that mainly employ and serve people of their own religion. The definition primarily applies to houses of worship and does not include religiously affiliated employers with more general missions, such as hospitals and colleges.
After many Catholic leaders said the definition was too narrow, the Obama administration announced that religiously affiliated employers will not have to offer contraceptive coverage for their employees, but their insurers will have to provide it directly to women at no additional cost. Although the changes satisfied some religious groups, including the Catholic Health Association, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has continued to call for an even broader exemption (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/15).
Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" said the Catholic Church "didn't ask for the fight, but we're not going to back away from it." He said the administration's modification continues to put the Catholic Church in "a very tough spot" (Taylor, "The Caucus," New York Times, 4/8). "You've got a dramatic, radical intrusion of a government bureaucracy into the internal life of the Church," Dolan said. He said religion does play a role in politics, but it should not be "too involved." Likewise, he said he does not "think the government and politics should be overly involved in the church" (Caldwell, CBS News, 4/8).
Bishop William Lori, archbishop-designate of Baltimore, in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" said, "What we've seen is an erosion of religious liberty." Lori added, "Our teachings had been accommodated, but now they are not being accommodated" (Washington Post, 4/8).
Evangelical pastor Rick Warren, who spoke at Obama's 2009 inauguration, on ABC's "This Week" also was critical of the contraceptive coverage rules. "The issue here is not about women's health," Warren said, "There is a greater principle, and that is do you have the right to decide what your faith practices?" (Roarty, National Journal, 4/8). Warren said he does not "have a problem with contraception," but he does support his "Catholic brothers and sisters who believe what they want to believe" (Washington Post, 4/8).