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. TAK

    This isn't a real college anyway. Maybe now students and employees who lose coverage will go elsewhere and this "college" will have to shut down. The students that transfer will end up healthier and get a better education. It's a win-win.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  2. tony

    Thanks for all the tax exemptions. But we can't afford both health insurance and gilding more walls of St Peter's.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  3. NotCool

    Who is really being punished here? The poor students who are already at a financial disadvantage. Wouldn't it have been better to teach the kids "Not everyone will share our beliefs, but we must learn to navigate the world and accept others in a Christian way".

    May 17, 2012 at 11:39 am |
  4. Mark Cerniglia

    The reporter of this article seems to be leaving out some important information in his attempt to skew this article. In the original version of this story that I read yesterday on another news site, the reporter was very clear to mention that the main reason was because the school was notified by their insurance provider that the cost of the student plan was increasing from $600 to $1200 beginning in this fall, and then $1800 in 2013. The insurance company stated that the increase was due to regulations from Obamacare that required the maximum coverage liability be increased to $100K. The school also mentioned their religious objections, but this is very much about cost.

    But liberals shouldn't act so surprised. This is exactly what you all want anyway. People and companies pulling out of private health insurance in order to slowly destroy the private health insurance market and leave only a public option.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • momoya

      You assume waaaaaaaaay too much about others motives.. It's pretty fvcking stupid of you.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Will H

      Having a standard for minimum coverage is reasonable (so it should be in the health care act). What did the $600 plan cover? Band-Aids and cough medicine? An auto accident and emergency room visit would quickly get you to $100k.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Mark Cerniglia

      Now now, no need to get offensive. I see all sorts of posts today with people assuming others motives, but no vicious attacks on them. But answer this, why would Mr Gilgoff leave out the financial information and solely focus on the religious aspect?

      May 17, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • momoya

      No need to get offensive when you generalize like your neighborhood bigot, either, Mark.. You ARE offensive.. You whipped it on out there in your first post, here.. Like most religious freaks, you want the right to offend with impunity, but the second someone asks you politely to stop being so harsh, you get all pizzy and don't want to be offended.. How stupid.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • lunchbreaker

      Quote from the article

      "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.

      The financial issue was addressed

      May 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  5. Will H

    If an individual owner was imposing his religious beliefs on the operation of a company everyone would be outraged. The Catholic Church does it and it becomes the churches right. That is wrong. They have no obligation to own and operate a college or health care facility, just as they do not have to own and operate a gun manufacturer. Anyone morally opposed does not have to participate. All scientifically proven, FDA approved pharmaceuticals and procedures should be available to patients and their doctors. If the church does not like it, get out of the business.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • dtboy

      Apparently, you do not know the difference between a right and a privilege. A "Right" does not mean morally right or wrong, but rather who must ask for permission to do something (privilege) and who does not have to ask (right).

      May 17, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • I'm The Best!

      100% agree with you Will H.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  6. Reality


    Condoms are available over the counter. Make the Pill available over the counter and there will be no more debate.

    Planned Parenthood can offer deep discounts for those who say they cannot afford said protection.

    Or better yet, put a pack of condoms and a box of Pills in cereal boxes. Unfortunately, that would not ensure the condoms and/or Pills would be used. Based on Guttmacher Insti-tute data, said condoms and/or Pills are currently not being used as they should. (one million abortions/yr and 19 million cases of S-TDs/yr because either the daily Pill was not taken or a condom stayed in the pocket.)

    Maybe selling Pill-enriched sodas??? Hmmm?

    Condom-fitted briefs for men?? Hmmm?

    The door is open for other ideas!!!

    May 17, 2012 at 11:30 am |
  7. iwlnilla

    They're going to take their ball and go home!

    I guess it shows how important they feel providing health insurance is. If we really dug, I'm sure we could find other ways this college "violates its teachings".

    May 17, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • carl

      yep I was thinking the same thing how about a little diddle kid's how about that catholic teaching and the man in the pointy hat !

      May 17, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  8. The Writeswift Blog

    I am not familiar with the Catholic bible or teachings but if the religion is at least as old as the Inquisition, when contraceptives and abortion pills never existed, then one can assume that the Catholic "teachings" currently being espoused do not come from original religious lore but from contemporary priests and popes who feel they have some God-given right to make reproductive decisions for their followers. Not good.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:29 am |
  9. Jay

    If they were really faithful, they wouldnt USE contraception... Offered or not. Its like.. Someone offers you crack. You can USE it or REFUSE it. But if you want it.. youre gonna get it.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  10. What?

    Student plan = voluntary
    Employee plan = mandatory contract
    They are not the same. So stop the hypocracy crap. Sounds like we need some HR lessons. If they are going to drop the employee plan, they have to get all of their legal ducks in an order. If nothing changes, those changes will be persued. There is a hope that the law will be repealed and that expense will not have to be undergone. Right now, it is not in effect and therefore there is no breach of conscience. Did all of you miss that line about the hope of a change?

    May 17, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • momoya

      Nobody is saying that the college didn't have the right to act like a spiteful 4 year old.. It's just dovchy, like almost anything the church does.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • lunchbreaker

      Then why not keep the student plan because they are hopeful for a change?

      May 17, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • What?

      "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"

      May 17, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • pourter

      Right, so why not let the students keep their health care and the hope that changes will be made. Or are they somehow less important. Like pawns in a clever little political game....

      May 17, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • TR

      With the majority of Supreme Court seats being held by Catholics, Obama doesn't have a chance on this. And when the Catholic Church starts enforcing their religious beliefs on the rest of the nation, they will reap the whirl wind from the Protestants, who they consider to be lesser beings religiously. Welcome to the English Civil War in America.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • momoya

      And the massive fallout will go to the atheists.. Sounds like a win-win to me.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:41 am |
  11. Paul Pegram

    So this catholic university drops STUDENT coverage but will maintain the SAME policy for its employees? What hypocrites!! If they are truly "faithful", they would kick out any student who has ever used any form of birth control........the catholic church is so republican – except for the death penalty which they just ignore in republican candidates.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  12. What?

    So, I get it. Many of you choose the mother over the child. I get it. Must be nice to play God like that.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • momoya

      If that's the best "argument" you can come up with then you should know that you shouldn't be playing on teacher's computer during nap time.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Birth control prevents pregnancy.
      So yes, most people will chose to support the woman over a hypothetical, potential child.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • What?

      No momoya, I just don't care to waste my brain power. It is not either/or solution. That is the issue. It is an us/we solution. Either between the Woman and who she is sleeping with or between the woman and the baby if present. We are never really acting in the moral bubble of ourselves although we like to think so. The contraceptive choice does damage. damage that is ignored and seen as irrelevant but is no less real. Go ahead and live as you want.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  13. Liberal Evangelical

    I'm especially astounded by the college's decision to drop coverage for the students as a protest, but they kept the coverage for employees. Seems like a double standard to me. If they really wanted to stand up to the "oppression", they need to go all in. Better yet, realize that a church was never designed to control people, but to allow people to connect in meaningful relationships. Just a thought.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  14. Doc Vestibule

    Most diabetes in the Unites States is due to obesity.
    Becuase sloth and gluttony are deadly sins, no Chrstian should get health insurance that covers insulin.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Perfect and glaringly true ana.logy. Way to expose the utter hypocrisy Doc.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Chuck

      Well, there's a difference between relieving an effect of sin – a good thing – in this case it is insulin for diabetes due to obesity from gluttony, and cooperating / being a cause of a sin – not a good thing – by paying for contraceptives.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  15. Bob Montoya

    Why do churches/ religious schools etc. receive tax exempt status? They are allowed to discriminate against women (medical procedure coverage), Gays, Lesbians and Transgenders (marriage, etc.) as against their moral beliefs? They receive insurance coverage (fire department, police support, roads, water, sewer, etc).- yes they are a broad form of insurance, via tax exempt status. I am forced to support their discrimatory doctrines which are against my moral beliefs by my tax dollars..

    May 17, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • bigdumbdinosaur

      Why do I have to support your health care via a federally mandate program like Obamacare? Pay for your own health care.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • C. Smith

      They are tax-exempt because they are non-profit organizations. This is no different than Planned Parenthood or any of the other non-profit organizations, with the exception that their tax-free status relies on them avoiding political speech (speech on semi-political issues such as gay marriage is acceptable, but they can't endorse a candidate or the like).

      As for them being allowed to 'discriminate' (is it really discrimination against a 'minority' if you refuse to pay for their actions?), this is because of the First Amendment. If you don't like the First Amendment, I suggest you stop using it yourself.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  16. believer

    I am Catholic and the catholic church's recent actions makes me grow increasingly uncomfortable with the church and it's leaders. As a professional woman and a mother of daughters, the church continues to alienate women. Women have been oppressed through out history by religion and politics and the church continues this legacy. It is time for women to be priests and hold decision making authority and senior positions in the church. It is time for the lay people and members of the church to have input to decisions and end the parent/child hierarchical nature of the church. I am infuriated by the recent attack on US nuns and seeing a panel of all male bishops protest the healthcare plan and contraception. Most catholic women in the US use contraception at some stage in our lives-it is impossible in today's dual income economy to be responsible financially for one's family not do do so. And I am infuriated why the church is not speaking out publicly about the lack of healthcare for 50 million americans, about launuching a needless war on Iraq, and now denying it's students medical coverage? Where is the morality in that? The catholic church has so much beauty and richness in it's tradiions, but it is time for change if it is truly embracing what Jesus taught. Amen.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • dtboy

      @ believer – God created man and man created government. Therefore, God commands man and man demands government. This is the proper order. However, if you allow government to make demands on the people, in regards to their religious beliefs, then the order is Government over man over religious decisions. This is a shift in the power hierarchy and dysfunction sets in. Be careful not to allow your personal interests to justify rearranging this "proper" order. This is not to belittle your concerns, but only to show how government must be servants of the people and not the other way around.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • pourter

      "The Proper Order?" wow that sounds scary. However, the government is not demanding Catholics use contraception. Nor is it demanding abortions. It's simply saying that people will have the option to use them. Should their religion dictate, for some strange reason, that they should not, then they have the religious freedom not to use them. So, if the school had any 'faith' in their students, they'd realize that their religiousness would stop them from taking advantage of those rights.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • dtboy

      @ pourter – it only sounds scary to an atheist. Believers already know the proper order in society. I'll remind you that we dictate to government, not government dictating to us. We live in a republic, not a democracy of majority rule. Does that sound scary enough?

      May 17, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • momoya

      No, the citizens dictate how the government should act, not believers.. Atheism is growing faster than all other religions.. What will you say when believers are no longer in the majority?? More like, "let us worship as we wish in peace" and less "you can't tell us what to do, we can order you around and follow whichever laws we feel like following" then.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • pourter

      hmm...all this talk of dictating. And you assuming i'm an atheist because I don't agree with you. Thats whats scary.

      May 18, 2012 at 1:44 am |
    • pourter

      hmm...all this talk of dictating. And you assuming i'm an atheist because I don't agree with you.

      May 18, 2012 at 1:44 am |
  17. Harold

    Well, I see this site is populated by lefty nutters. Good luck with that.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Mark in Atlanta

      Compelling point, Harold. You obviously have a lot going on upstairs. And... here's a comment about the story, since that what the comments section is for. It's certainly the school's option deny healthcare coverage to their entire community because they are in a huff about birthcontrol, but they shouldn't be suprised if many, including Catholics like me, think their priorities are mixed up.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  18. bigdumbdinosaur

    I see no reason why any college or university should offer health care insurance to students. Let mommy and daddy pay for it. After all, under Obamacare, insurers are forced to cover children up to age 26 on their parents' policy, so that would take care of the majority of the students. Plus with the university not paying the premium difference per student, they can control costs and perhaps keep tuition hikes from getting out-of-hand.

    It sounds to me like this university is being smart about it. They are getting rid of an unnecessary expense, while staying true to their beliefs.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • momoya

      It sounds to me like they're acting out of spite, just like a 4 year old taking his ball and going home.. It's basically what they admitted.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • bigdumbdinosaur

      It sounds to me like they're acting out of spite...

      How many times do you plan to post that weak argument?

      I'm not a Roman Catholic and I don't subscribe to the Catholics' beliefs, especially regarding contraception. I see this as a smart business decision. All that school owes its students is an education, not health care.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • momoya

      As many times as I need to.. It's not an "argument" by the way, it's a statement.. Learn the difference.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Leah

      Well Bigdumbdinosaur,

      Since you're not a woman, you have no say in this matter! It is not a matter of religious freedom as much as it choice. The Teabaggers are all about taking away a woman's choice. Yes the Obama Health care gives the option (choice) of parents adding their children to their health care insurance, or not THIER CHOICE! Now this religious school has taken away women's choice...this is all about control, religious control. Next will be the right wingers issuing arrest warrants for women who have miscarried. As I stated before, if you're not a woman, you have no arguement in this issue!

      May 17, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • jake

      Leah – weak argument.

      Just because a car was invented doesn't give you the right to drive, just because a pill was invented – doesn't give everyone the right to that either.

      If you don't want babies, have some discipline over your va$ina.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Ken

      @Leah Because I'm not a woman my vote doesn't count anymore or am I just not allowed to have an opinion? Reverse chauvinism is alive and well.

      I can tell you there are plenty on women that disagree with you on the matter of what should and should not be covered. As far as I know my vote still does count, the only thing that doesn't is your opinion.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • jake

      leah, and how do you know bigdumbdinosaur isn't a woman?

      May 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  19. Bruce

    I’m sure if this was the decision of a Muslim College here in the United States those of you spouting religious freedom would be yelling louder about Sharia law taking a hold in the US. This stance by the Catholic Church is so archaic it defies reason, especially their opposition to the use of birth control, which makes this protest seem to be more of a political move by the church to push more people into the Republican Party while treading on the backs of Woman’s Health Care

    May 17, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • C. Smith

      On the contrary, if it were a Muslim college, it wouldn't even make it into the news.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • momoya

      What point are you making C. Smith? thanks .

      May 17, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Bruce

      I disagree, if a Muslim College here in the US denied anything to Women because of their religious beliefs it would be huge news, and the Conservatives would be falling all over each other in protest!

      May 17, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Ken

      I'm not Catholic but I believe they have the right to make this decision. Muslims, Hindu, Budist, Christian doesn't matter, they shouldn't be required by law to support something they feel is morally wrong.

      I disagree with them on birth control, that doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to decide for themselves.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  20. lunchbreaker

    If the Catholic church sees contraception is a sin, then the issue is whether or not people actually get contraception. If the 200 students were true Catholics they would not get contraception, so it doesn't matter if it is coverd or not. The churches problem is that members of thier congregation don't agree with thier own church.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • C. Smith

      Actually, that is also a violation of Christian beliefs. If you help a person sin, you are as responsible for their sin as they are. If you give people the option to sin, you tempt them, and Christ says it would be better had you never been born than for you to tempt someone into sin.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • momoya

      I agree.. Catholics should have never been born.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:28 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.