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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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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. as;ldkfj;aksl

    re·li·gion noun \ri-'li-j?n\
    A mass human psychosis that usually results in participants believing in incredibly silly crap and acting like total retards.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Macarius

      Bigot: someone who judges an entire group based on anecdotal evidence, their own personal fancy, or social prejudice.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Wonder Woman

      It appears you have an anger problem. You don't happen to be my former spouse. LOL

      May 17, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • IsaacNewton

      I hear they are going to do 'virginity' testson the females like the Muslims do.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  2. as;ldkfj;aksl

    If you want to be a church, be a church. When you try to spider out into schools and businesses therefor entering into the public sector....

    Then you need to leave your agenda and your high horse morals at the curb.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Danny H

      Morality is more than what religions believe. It is respect for others. Go ahead and let the government tell you what you want to hear and soon they will be telling you stuff you don't want to hear. Governmental authority is not always moral. Look at Caligula, Hitler, Mao, Stalin, etc...

      May 17, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • tony

      Religious governments are the worst and most murderous in history

      May 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
  3. Wonder Woman

    They have exercised their rights as a private intuition.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • MrBo

      That's not in dispute.

      The benefit of the decision is...

      May 17, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • tony

      I'd be more understanding if they stayed private enough to not take a tax exemption. I.e have all us non-believers pay for it.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
  4. Stevie D

    "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.'

    So, it's okay for their employees to use contraceptives, but not their students? Anyone else see that as a bit underhanded? I guess old adults at this school (those protected ivory-tower professors) are valued more than the young adults who get their education there. I sure hope the 200 students who get their health care through the school don't get sick!

    May 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  5. Thom

    If the college were true to its principles, it would drop health care for all members of its community including employees. But, like many things these days, the colleges' principles are only relevant when convenient. Moreover, the college’s moral backbone pales when compared to the principled stances Catholics have take over the centuries to the point of sacrificing their lives for principles

    May 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  6. qwert

    Who wouldn't drop their health care?

    I mean Obama forcing people to sacrifice their first born sons to schedule doctors appointments?

    It's not like this is over something as stupid as health care providing free contraception to anyone that wants it without forcing it on anyone that doesn't or something stupid like that.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • as;ldkfj;aksl

      re tard

      May 17, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  7. phk46

    The argument that this will increase the college's cost is BS. For one thing some suggest that offering this benefit *decreases* the overall cost to the insurance company due to a reduction of pregnancy benefits. Of course that assumes that the birth control benefits are used, so maybe the insurance company won't realize those savings and so won't be able to pass them on to the college. But if none of the policy holders use the birth control benefit, then the insurance company won't have any justification to increase the costs to the college.

    The only case where the college's assertion makes sense is if the birth control benefit is a net cost to the insurance company *and* the college's policy holders take advantage of it. In that case the college isn't convincing its students/employees to follow its wishes. Then it should improve the persuasiveness of its teachings or recruit "better" students/employees.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  8. as;ldkfj;aksl

    He said the school is retaining its health care plan for employees

    That's classy. We have morals and ethics that we'll push on the students but the employees have to have insurance no matter what .

    What a joke

    May 17, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  9. mark

    This is exactly why I left the Catholic Church many, many years ago. Control issues from the Church and their greed.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  10. halfbakedlunatic

    I can't imagine anything more idiotic ... except for the entire concept of a "catholic" college.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Wonder Woman

      You can't? I guess you don't get out much.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • tony

      Wonder shirks in mysterious ways

      May 17, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • IsaacNewton

      I agree with you...wonderwoman is just flapping her gums. The school has decided to cut off all health coverage for this one issue. My gosh, it doesn't mean the students have to participate in birth control or any of that other stuff. The Catholic Church operates with blinders on.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  11. Sagebrush Shorty

    Why should colleges have to provide health cars for students?

    May 17, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • momoya

      They don't have to.. Why would this college advertise its stupid, childish, and spiteful behavior for the whole world to see?

      May 17, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • MrBo

      They don't have to, but keeping students healthy is actually a good idea. Unhealthy students are usually not as productive as healthy ones, and if you want to advertise yourself as a good college you need productive students.
      Most colleges provide health coverage, so by discontinuing it this college is putting itself at a disadvantage compared to other colleges.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      Yea....let their parents cover them.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  12. dkf

    If anything, this reflects very badly on the college.

    Who wants to go or work at a college that does allow for a service like health care to protect your life? This is like doing away with the police force or the fire department.

    I imagine that enrollment will drop and educators will quit. At least, I hope that happens.

    On another note, why doesn't the church just separate itself from the politics?

    The church can always fall back on the doctrines to at least to protect their followers lives and heath. If you have followers that provide and/or use contraception, abortion or sterilization THEN EXCOMMUNICATE THEM!!!

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

      fluke you! obama and fluke can pay their bills. harrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

      May 17, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Danny H

      All of you religion haters don't get it. And it isn't just the Catholic Church, but a lot of religious people consider abortion murder. Who are you to say that our belief that abortion is murder is wrong just because some laws allow abortion. And it isn't the employees that lose their insurance yet, the school said it is waiting on court rulings this summer from the Supremes. It is the students. And doesn't Obama's bill keep students on parents' insurance until age 26? Therefore, those students don't need school providing insurance anyway since they get it from their parents.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • Jerkamuffin

      So if my parents don't have health insurance, I'm screwed. Thanks.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Danny H
      Contraception is not abortion.
      If a man gets a vasectomy, is he a murderer?

      May 17, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Danny H

      The bill isn't for just contraception, but includes abortion causing drugs like the morning after pill also.

      Another thought, since when is providing health CARE, considered to be the same as mandating health insurance. They are unique and separate things. The objective was supposed to be to provide affordable health care. Insurance companies always take a cut so requiring insurance just reduces available dollars from care. If I were in charge, I would have done things to bring about more care to the people – lets get more nurses and doctors, pay for their schooling and require them to work in free clinics for 2 years for each year of school paid for by the government. That would be useful result from our tax dollars, not the waste of mandating insurance regulated by the government.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
  13. Cheryl Jefferies

    Un-manageable costs. Violation of religious freedom. Destruction of conscience. Welcome to ObamaLand, folks. I'm proud to be Catholic and glad someone had the guts to say no...enough...too much. ObamaCare cannot be borne. The cost is simply too high. Both in money and in freedom. I agree with this school. I don't intend to pay for ObamaCare, either...not the immediate cost. Not the fine. And, yes, I'm fully prepared to go to prison. Why should I be expected to violate both my political beliefs or my faith? Why should I be forced to violate my conscience? To please YOU? I think not. I do not require you to violate YOUR conscience. If you want an abortion, that's your problem. Don't expect or demand that I pay for it. If you think that's fair, you need a brain transplant, frankly. When did YOUR so-called "rights" supersede MY rights? You say you have the right to commit murder (have an abortion). Again, that's your problem. But, don't make it mine, too...no one has the right or the authority to make me pay for the murder you wish to commit. Any attempt to force that is nothing less than pure evil.

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

      Why do I pay taxes and exempt yours to subsidize your playing in this vile sandbox you call religion.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • momoya

      Oh my, yes, Cheryl.. This college acts like a spoiled four year old and you blame Obama.. You blame him when it rains too hard, too, doncha?

      May 17, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Timbo

      Have fun in prison, kook. Sadly, we'll be forced to pay for your prison time.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Jerkamuffin

      WHERE are these loonies getting the idea that they would pay for other people's abortions?

      By the way, PLAN B IS NOT ABORTION. It does NOT effect or terminate an existing pregnancy. Research, people.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Cheryl, Abortion is not murder and if it is not gotten through legal manners it will be gotten through backyard abortions which in turn will cost the system a tremendous amount more. How about doing the right thing and minding the happenings in your own bedroom instead of the bedrooms of others? How a person deals with their own body is strictly up to them, not you, not the church.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      And why should I have to pay car insurance just becuase some other people get into accidents?
      I am morally opposed to drunk driving, and yet I have to pay extra money becuase some college kid crashed his car after one too many beers? It isn't the government's place to force me to buy auto insurance!
      I am morally opposed to all forms of social programmes. If you want a place to live, go get a job you welfare bums. I'm going to stop paying income tax entirely so that I can be sure my dollars don't go to supporting lazy, shiftless unemployed people.
      I also find war and violence abhorrent, so I my conscience can't abide any percentage of income tax going to the military.
      Wouldn't it be a better country if everyone could opt out of paying their taxes?

      May 17, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  14. Dave

    This is simply showing the true color of religion. Hope this serves as a warning, this is what religion will do to our society! I expect this University to shrink and disappear in a number of years as a result.

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

      prez is a muslim? does that not count? fluke you and the biden you rode in on

      May 17, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      @shut_up: The president is not Muslim, he is christian. Your ignorance on the matter is evident.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  15. Rev. Schaeffer

    When I attended FUS I wasn't allowed to live in the campus dorm because I was over 25. I didn't complain about it, I worked full time to support myself in addition to the double major course load. I got six hours sleep every other night. They didn't provide me with insurance either. Come to think of it, neither did my job. I was injured pretty badly during my stay and I had to pay those hospital bills myself. I wish contraception had been my only health concern. I didn't go to a top tier college so they'd take care of me like Mommy used to, I went there to learn. There are a lot of factors that go into choosing a college and not all of them are going to have programs and policies that you agree with. That's just life. If you want higher education, this is a great school (consistently ranked in the top 100 in the nation) at half the cost of the Ivy League. If you want comprehensive health insurance on top of that, get a job.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • momoya

      The world has changed since your experiences with college.. But I don't have a problem with anything you said.. I do however find it absolutely WONDERFUL that this religious college has acted like a spiteful four year old.. It gives atheists and anti-religionists like me something to point to as a shining example of religions acting like immature babies about stupid sh!t..

      May 17, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Danny H

      Well said. Too many people expect others to take care of them instead of individuals working for what they get out of life. It doesn't take a frickin' village. It takes self determination.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  16. j

    It was OK to do business with the insurance companies that provide plan-b and contraception to other customers, but not anymore.

    Such hypocrites.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  17. Bryan

    religion + conservative politics = morons. I feel like I live in 16th century Italy.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • tony

      Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. Especially if their have "organized", i.e not so stupid, ambitious leadership

      May 17, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Roscoe Chait

      You are right about that.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Wonder Woman

      You appear to have an anger problem.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  18. cwgmpls

    The Catholic church has long been a proponent of "universal health care". Now, their true colors are showing, and we see what they really want is "universal adherence to Catholic doctrine". Most rational thinkings, even a majority of private industries, recognize that the only way to get healthcare costs under control is to find a way for everyone to have health insurance. Well, in order to know if everyone has health insurance, we have to start by defining what "health insurance" means. Having one definition for Catholics and one definition for evangelicals and one definition for atheists will not result in universal health care.

    This is not about Catholic's concern for human welfare. This is about Catholic's renewed attempt to impose their dogma on everyone else. Everyone else is not buying it.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • tony

      And all the other religions that have "leaders".

      May 17, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Roscoe Chait

      The Catholic Church is one of the biggest reasons why we have severe overpopulation and a contaminated food supply. Narrow-minded 16th Century thinking will destroy the human race.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Danny H

      Insurance is not the issue, it is health care. Get insurance out of the picture and solution.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • cwgmpls

      Danny H - Get insurance out of the picture, and we still have to define what "heath care" means. If Catholics are going to exclude modern, commonly-accepted women's health practice from "health care", they will have a fundamentally different definition of heath care from everyone else. They are not advocates for health care if they have a distorted definition of what it means.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  19. tony

    Time to render their Tax exemption from Caesar, back to Caesar.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  20. tony

    Owing to an unexpected increase in the cost of new collection plates, we have decided to stop taking collections from now on.

    May 17, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • momoya

      lol!!

      May 17, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • tony

      "M". Loved your cartoon about rejection!

      May 17, 2012 at 11:46 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.