May 16th, 2012
04:25 PM ET

College drops health care plan over religious objections to new law

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – A Catholic college in Ohio has apparently become the nation’s first to drop its health care plan because it opposes parts of the federal health care law signed by President Barack Obama.

The Franciscan University of Steubenville posted on its website last week that it is discontinuing its health care plan.

“The Obama Administration has mandated that all health insurance plans must cover ‘women’s health services’ including contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing medications as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” the university says.

“We will not participate in a plan that requires us to violate the consistent teachings of the Catholic Church on the sacredness of human life,” the statement says.

The coverage includes emergency contraceptives such as Plan B, which can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, but not drugs like RU-486, which can end an early pregnancy.

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The school is also dropping its health insurance plan for students because the new health care law requires employers to provide more robust coverage, making it more expensive, said Tom Sofio, a spokesman for the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

“It was our own moral reasons and then the rising cost of health care because of the act,” Sofio said, explaining the university’s decision.

Sofio said school officials are not aware of another college that has dropped its health insurance plan out of disagreements with the federal health care law.

A spokeswoman for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing three religious schools that are challenging the health care law, said that she was also unaware of another college that had taken such action.

A spokeswoman with the Health and Human Services Department, charged with implementing the new health care law, said Wednesday that the department had no comment on the school’s decision and that it does not keep track of changes to college health insurance plans.

The Obama administration faced a firestorm of controversy from many religious groups this year over a proposed rule that would require employers to provide no-cost contraception coverage to their employees.

In what it called a compromise, the White House revised the rule to require health insurance companies – not employers – to provide contraception coverage, mollifying some Catholic critics. Other Catholic groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are not satisfied by the revised rule.

The Roman Catholic Church opposes the use of contraception.

“We’re paying the health insurance company, and if they provide abortion-causing drugs, that’s against our religious beliefs,” Sofio said Wednesday.

About 200 of the Franciscan University of Steubenville's 2,500 students rely on the university health care plan, which costs about $50 a month, Sofio said. He said the school is retaining its health care plan for employees because it is hopeful that legal challenges to the health care law will prevent much of it from taking effect.

Sofio said that the school sent letters about its decision to students and parents in April and that it has received overwhelming support from both constituencies. Ninety-five percent of students at the university are Catholic, he said.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Politics

soundoff (1,561 Responses)
  1. CULT

    The catholic church is against birth control because they want more children to molest.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • TLUC

      oy...the atheists can claim this one

      May 17, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Huebert

      We don't want him.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  2. revolting peasant

    I bet they were losing a lot of money providing the student package at $50 per month. This is a way out of that obligation while blaming Obama. Meanwhile, I hope the students transfer out. If nothing else, it is a big waste of time and money going to a mediocre Catholic college.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  3. m

    I think many of you are missing the point. Whether you agree with the Catholic Church's stance on such issues is irrelevant; the point is that the government has no right to force them to provide health coverage that puts them in a position where they aid people in things they feel is completely sinful. This is an attack on religious freedom and a breach of the separation of church and state, and I say this as a non-Catholic who doesn't agree with all such RCC teachings at stake here. Our government is becoming too intrusive...

    May 17, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Abe Lincoln


      May 17, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • revolting peasant

      You are missing the point. Our government is committed to equal opportunity. In my opinion, the solution could be to end the practice of having employers supply health insurance. Then people could opt to buy insurance from providers who offer the services they want and need. However, as long as inusrance is provided by teh employer, the employer shoudl be mandated not to discriminate on the servcies it offers based on religious bias.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • blaqb0x

      They also have the religious freedom to not take tax exceptions if they don't follow the same rules as all other employers.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  4. JimmmyNelson

    Praise Jesus!

    May 17, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  5. Doc Vestibule

    Why do Catholics oppose birth control?
    The condemnation of birth control stems from a their belief that God wants humans to spew forth as many cro/tch critters as possible in order to populate heaven and to "be fruitful and multiply" (gen 1:28).|To purposely countermand God's will to breed like rabits is to lie to the Holy Spirit in the same way that Ananias and Saphira did in Acts 5 : 1-11 when they held back a portion of their gift to God. God's slaying of that couple is one of the few instances of divine wrath in the New Testament.
    They also belive that many forms of birth control, like IUDs and the pill, are actually forms of abortion and therefore consti.tute murder.
    There is also a heavy emphasis on self-denial as a path to righteousness amongst Catholics, this stemming from Matthew 16:24 in which Jesus says "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
    For Catholics in terrible marriages, God allows separation (and therefore lifelong abstinance) but not divorce.
    It was the apostle Paul's opinion that it was far better to be single and abstinent, but marry if you can't control your loins.
    "To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion." (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)
    There is also the old fear of witches and warlocks and their ungodly potions which God condemns in Gal. 5:20 and Apoc. 9:21. Today's sorcerers are pharmaceutical biochemists.
    But most of all, the scripture cited by Catholics in regards to contraception is Genesis 38:9.
    In that uplifting story, God commanded a fellow named Onan to impregnate his sister in law.
    They repeatedly got jiggy, but Onan kept pulling out at the critical moment. For this transgression, God killed him.
    Contrarily, the Vatican teaches the concept of Primacy of Conscience.
    "Man has the right to act according to his conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters". (catechism of cath. church)
    The quid pro quo is that Catholics are expected to develop their conscience based on obedience to the infallible dogmatic tenets of the Magisterium. In other words – Catholics are encouraged to make their own judgement calls when it comes to morality, but you'll still go to hell if you disagree with their edicts.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  6. Ed

    No one is in "need' of contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing medications nor are they a part of "women's health". If women just kept their legs closed – that would solve the "need" and "women's health" issues. If they choose not to close their legs – well they can pay for their own contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing medications. If they can afford it – many liberal groups that can give it out for free and about time they put out THEIR money.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • pourter

      Wow Ed. Are you a virgin?

      May 17, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Educate yourself before spewing stupidity on an issue that you are quite clearly narrow-minded about. Contraception is not just about preventing unwanted pregnancy but more so about numerous other health issues women face. It is up to the individual as the what they do with their body, not the church.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • pourter

      Oh and Ed, usually when a woman choses not to keep her legs closed, there's someone between them. Often that's a man. So it's not like this is an issue about just women. But I guess it's easier to keep em all bare foot and pregnant by treating them like promiscuous second class citizens.

      Now, go finish your cave drawings!!

      May 17, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  7. John Galt

    Good for them, it is their right. Statistically speaking there are more known pedophiles living near you who aren't priests and the comparative percentage of pedophile priests to the general population is almost non existent. You are not required to send your kid to a catholic church. However, our government does require you to send your kid to school. Guess what....there are more pedophiles there.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @john galt
      But when a teacher is caught molesting a student, the school board doesn't simply transfer teh teacher to another district.
      That teacher goes to jail.
      1. In 1962, The Vatican relased the 'Crimen Sollicitationis', which outlined how the church is to handle accusations of se.xual impropriety against clergy.
      The stickiest point for most people is that not only was the doc.ument itself Top Secret for decades, it explictly stated that anybody involved in this type of investigation, including the accuser and potential witnesses, are sworn to secrecy regarding any and all details, upon penalty of excommunication (a fate worse than death for the devout).
      This preoccupation with secrecy significantly slowed the investigative process – the backlog of referrals to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for action against se.xually abusive priests is so large that it takes 18 months to get a reply.
      According to the John Jay report, 918 of 1872 (49%) substantiated allegations of abuse against Catholic clergy were addressed by sending the priest off for psychiatric counseling and then moving him to another parish, with nary a whisper to law enforcement. This number does not include priests relocated for reasons other than charges of se.xual impropriety.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • pourter

      Hmmm...the article didn't mention pedophiles. But thanks for reminding us about pedophile priests. Funny that the Catholic church does little or nothing about those guys, but protecting the health of it's students through contraceptives is a huge problem.

      Oh, can you let us know where the pedophiles are so we can avoid those schools. You seem to have it all figured out.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:32 am |
  8. pourter

    I dont' see the problem, just because contraceptives are covered doesn't mean anyone has to use them. So if their students are as devout as they claim, none of them will use the contraceptives anyway, so its not an issue.

    But it is true, Jesus is very concerned with what you're doing in the bedroom. Every sperm is sacred.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  9. Salty Bob

    Im fine with Catholic followers ditching their health insurance on moral grounds, and when they are all dying in agony and pain I hope their morals or imaginary god will sooth the pain away as they die. And when they are all gone we get this great nation back.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • mike

      Hate to break it to you, but most of those t-bagging lunatics out there aren't Catholics...

      May 17, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Abe Lincoln

      I wonder who the "we" are that you are referring to? And who are you going to get it back from? Mr. Obama's far left administration?

      May 17, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  10. Publius Novus

    But Roman Catholic teaching on just war did not inhiibit the Franciscans from setting up an Army ROTC program in 2010.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  11. Deedles

    Nothing more than scape-goating the Affordable Health Care Act to save money. Norps, you are so right.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  12. Alex

    I can't see this college hanging on to many of its employees without a health coverage benefit. What a stupid thing to do. Perhaps the college plans to pay for its employees and students medical needs in cash? If so, its not gonna stay open long - and frankly good riddance.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • pourter

      no, this guy was just on TV. He said that only 10% of their students opt into their health care program. When the interviewer asked about catholic women overwhelmingly supporting contraceptives, his retort was, if the majority of americans supported murder, it wouldn't make it right.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Huebert

      They kept employee health coverage only students lost it.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Abe Lincoln

      Standing on principle may be hard to understand but it is the right thing to do. Mr. Obama is trying to dictate to churches what they should believe and promote. He is tearing down the so called wall of separation of church and state.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • pourter

      No he's not. He's not forcing the school to force students to have health care. What the government (no just Obama cause he cant' just make things happen all on his lonesome)is saying is if you offer health care, it can't exclude certain kinds of health care.

      Unfortunately the Catholic church's teachings are archaic, based on oppression and teaching from books written before any understanding of modern science or human rights.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  13. Doug

    I found this article very misleading. Only the student healthcare plan, which almost NO ONE takes (less than 1 out of 10), is being cut, and that is not mentioned unitl the second-to-last paragraph. To say the school is dropping "its healthcare plan" is simply untrue. Reading through the comments, a large number of readers believe all the healthcare has been dropped.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • majorlazer

      The article states, "The school is also dropping its health insurance plan for students..." The key word here is "also."

      May 17, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • majorlazer

      ...meaning the use of also confuses the article.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  14. Primewonk

    Tom wrote, " The law forces Insurance companies to provide coverage for contraception that is paid for by consumers that don't subscribe to the belief of using contraceptives like the Catholics. In other words, a catholic who does not believe in using contraceptive has to pay additional insurance costs to cover the added benefit of providing contraceptives. Remember that additional costs of providing a new service is passed on to all subscribers of that insurance policy across the board."

    This is the core concept of insurance. To pool resources and spread risk. So, according to your line of thought, I do not want to pay for Catholics to get statins to treat hyperlipidemia, and I do not want to pay for Baptists to get glipizides to treat their diabetes. These are diseases caused by them having an unhealthy lifestyle. It is clearly a sign from god that they should be vegans. I will not pay for them get these drugs so they can keep eating bacon cheeseburgers. If they want these pills, they can pay for them themselves.

    Sound fair?

    May 17, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  15. Cindy

    That is even better. Perhaps people will stop sending their children to brainwashing school and people will stop working at that college of brainwashing into supernatural beliefs. Anyone foolish enough to believe in the supernatural sky fairy and the fairyettes is living a lie. But go ahead it makes you feel better. Geez, I'm just waiting for people to get their head out of the clouds. Life is what it is. We are just another species on this planet.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  16. B

    So the Church doesn't wan to give ANY money to insurance companies, if just some of the companies customers obtain contraception with insurance? Ok, so why should ANY Catholics donate to the church, when some church money is used to hide pedophiles and rapists within the clergy?

    May 17, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • mike

      DING DING DING!!!!

      Nail on the head.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:22 am |

      thats a bad comparison that would be like saying the bible says gays are bad, but then they ignore the part about mixing fabrics in clothes or the part about its OK to own slaves... oh wait thats what they do... nevermind

      May 17, 2012 at 10:22 am |

    a catholic college? i am sure they give their students a great education. hell when they pick and choose what they want to believe from the bible how could they teach a good class? Imagine what the science department must be like, or do they not have one?

    May 17, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Say what you will about the Catholic Church – at least they're not as blind as the Baptists anymore and are willing to admit the true age of the universe and the reality of evolution.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • mike

      Some catholic universities are actually pretty damn good. Notre Dame ring a bell? Also...DePaul, Loyola (Chicago), Loyola (LA), Marquette...there are a ton of good ones.

      There are also some really stupid ones, apparently...

      May 17, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  18. mike

    So, they are "protesting" by screwing over their students?


    May 17, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Thats better than what they do to the alter boys.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  19. Isis

    This college is sick...in the head.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  20. Norps

    Typical "Compassionate Conservatism" cutting off those in need to make a statement about your outdated and irrelevant values.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:16 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.