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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. Too Much

    A lot of atheists in here rambling on about restriction of freedoms and abolishing of religion. You are free to your opinions but religious people are free to theirs as well. To argue to such extremes leaves you no better than the religious extreme.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • tony

      Just As soon as the mainstream media gives us an equal opportunity "Atheism Blog" , we'll all move over to that. Any spare church billboards we can share while we're at it??? All the many I see are all on -sided.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • Too Much

      Tony, First, make your own blog if it bothers you that much. Second, billboards can be purchased by anyone with the money....so go do it if you're so inclined. And finally, you miss my point which is that there is no need to be so extreme....regardless of which "side" you're on.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Kalessin

      @tony- "Just As soon as the mainstream media gives us an equal opportunity "Atheism Blog" , we'll all move over to that."

      ~I think a "belief" also includes unbelief. Shoot, sometimes there are more atheists on here than believers of some faith. Or at least they are the most vocal.

      "Any spare church billboards we can share while we're at it??? All the many I see are all on -sided."

      ~Is someone preventing you from getting your own building to post whatever you want on a billboard? If not...what's the complaint?

      May 17, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • rcflyer8410

      Freedom of speech is important and should never be suppressed. I am not suggesting religion be abolished, but that it should be banned from matters of state, law, and governance. Protesting against gay marriage is a wonderful thing – it's great we live in a country where no view is suppressed. But when our government pushes for laws and amendments banning it, it becomes unacceptable. Majority means nothing – 40 years ago the majority would have consistently banned blacks from equal rights – yet, it doesn't mean the majority was right or had a basis for such an act.

      This situation is similar. We now have schools, businesses eliminating health care for their workers. This has a negative effect on society. Can they afford health care on their own? What if they are undergoing medical treatment for serious illnesses? All in the name of insanity and a belief with absolutely no evidence or basis in fact, we are hurting people That is no longer about free speech.

      All of this happens in the name of religion. While atheists may despise what religion stands for, we aren't out bombing buildings, blowing up abortion clinics, or attempting to implement new laws or amendments forcing people to believe as we do and act as we think people should.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • Too Much

      RC, you are at least making rational arguments. Atheists would be better served to engage the debate in the way you do vs. making raging blanket statements about how awful religion is. Both sides would be well served to engage in more reasonable debate.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • tony

      Only religious speech gets a tax exemption. Pay for your churches without my subsidy iif you want them that much.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  2. Vince Capece

    If the church obeys the law and offers the required healthcare, wouldn't their followers (who, we assume, believe the same as the church teachings) NOT partake in the offending items? The church shouldn't demand that the laws be changed, they should simply teach their followers NOT to use these products and services.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  3. LaTuya83

    Who cares? Typical religious hypocracy, they are sacrificing their staff and students' health care over religious doctrine. Shouldn't they be more worry about providing health care to their staff and studens?

    May 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      They are retaining coverage for their staff. Only their students' healthcare coverage is being dropped. Just more hypocrisy.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  4. McCave

    I'm surprised that CNN didn't find a way to say how great gay people are in this article!

    May 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  5. Thinks2010

    Isn't it interesting that this catholic school has decided to protest this policy by punishing its students but not its staff which most likely includes priests and maybe nuns. This is just more hypocrisy regarding the treatment of their priests vs the treatment of their congregations. When they dropped this coverage for students, did they also reduce their tuition to pass along this reduction in costs to the students?

    This will be a big deal for those students who are not supported by their parents or whose parents have no healthcare coverage. However, it should be no big deal for those students who are covered under their parents healthcare plans until age 26.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  6. Angela

    As a graduate of Franciscan University I can say I've never been prouder of my Alma Mater. Religious liberty means no one can force you to attend FUS... and the Government can't dictate Catholicism.

    Franciscan is simply standing up for what the Catholic Church has always taught...

    May 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • cwgmpls

      The Catholic Church used to teach universal healthcare. What changed?

      May 17, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • LaTuya83

      They were also supposed to protect the weak, i.e. children, but it turns out they are just a pedophile support group.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Jim

      You should be proud! They're doing the Christian thing clearly. This is how Christ would have wanted the school to act, deprive their entire staff of health care! No wonder I stopped going to Church!

      May 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Srl311rpm

      Good. I hope you and all of your cult friends (Catholics) get sick and die off.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • Davis

      This makes you proud? Really? I guess that FUS education wasn't too heavy on analytical skills and critical thinking.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  7. steve

    This is fine, also its fine to object to the birth control that so many were complaining about all they have to do is pay the fine because its more likely the State/Fed will end up paying for emergency coverage. This is what the health care law is supposed to do.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  8. TruthPrevails :)

    Aww look at all the angry little atheists get their p.anties in a bunch. Guess I'd get angry also if nobody took me seriously in the real world and I was a laughing stock. Kinda funny that you all are too pu$$y to say your beliefs in the real world and have to stand behind an anonymous computer to speak your mind. Shows what losers you really are.

    hahahahaha.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Scott

      Says Mr. Big Guy on the internet who did not even post his name. You are as hypocritical as they are you d-bag.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • tony

      Didn't you just steal mr. momoya's name in violation of the 9th commandment. No Heaven for you dude.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Scott

      I'm an atheist, and I proudly proclaim it publicly. What I find ironic, is that I am more polite, civil, and kind than you are, a religious person. Many people tout religion as the only way to maintain societal morality, but your scathing mean-spirited sarcasm clearly shows that to be fallacy. I see many Christians and generally religious people ironically touting their beliefs while at the same time displaying a sarcastic and downright mean demeanor. You do more than you know to further the case against your own belief systems. Furthermore, the administrators of this catholic school are taking away people's healthcare in the name of their god. That's pretty twisted. They are directly causing suffering in the name of religion.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Scott

      Two different Scotts by the way... only one of those is mine.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
    • UrBFFJill

      Hey, think whatever you want. I'm an atheist and I couldn't care less about catholics or other people of faith denying themselves healthcare in protest. Actually, I'd just rather that our healthcare sytem stop feeling sorry for these people and treating them anyway. If you want to be a martyr to the cause, you have every right to die in the waiting room, having been denied treatment because you refuse to participate in a system based on the principles of your faith.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
    • Brad

      A little unsure of your religion "TruthPrevails"? Why do atheists bother you, and other religious people, so much? It's very simple, they don't believe religion. Why can't you accept that?

      May 17, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Love when idiots steal user aliases and can't even get them right...how very childish!

      May 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      I am the real TruthPrevails and I am an Atheist and anyone who knows me well enough from this blog knows this. This is why CNN needs to change the way aliases are used on here. So I apologize for the fake wanna-be but it is nothing new on this blog.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  9. rcflyer8410

    And another note – it seems that the primary reason for dropping coverage was related to costs as opposed to moral convictions. Of course, the moral excuse is a better one to stand behind. Marble floors, expensive paintings, and new gold plated crosses (that god apparently needs) are expensive after all... we cant please god and provide health care!
    The reality is that most of the religious nut jobs are just 'fans' anyway. They love to talk about their imaginary friend and teachings of jesus – yet, not so good at following. The right wing in general – I wonder if jesus would favor policies that benefit the wealthy over social programs and health care for the poor? I wonder if jesus would have celebrated in the death of his enemy {Osama Bin Laden} when he taught the exact opposite?
    The reality is that most of these people probably never even read their book of horrors.. er... bible. They were indoctrinated as children, which unto itself was an act of being taught "what" to think as opposed to "how" to think. What makes anyone assume they are going to start using their brains and thinking now??

    May 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  10. Sunflower

    Personally, I think it appalling and VERY immoral to not cover your employees or students with health care... Much larger breach of morality and integrity in my opinion... Pompous asses...

    May 17, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  11. Smarterthanyou

    Religion has no place in schools, just like facts have no place in religion.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • tony

      There's a ambiguity here. How about "Religion should have no place in schools and no religion has any facts in place"?

      May 17, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Artanis

      Looks like someone doesn't know how either schools or religion work.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Thank you, Superintendant Chalmers.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  12. momoya

    Hey atheists,

    I dont blame you guys for being mad, hateful, and angry. HeII, what can you expect when nobody in the real world takes you seriously and you're basically a laughing stock. These forums are the only place you losers feel like you have the slightest bit of power. Hahahahaha.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • tony

      I feel an exorcism is needed here.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      You just embarrassed yourself with this post.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Johnny

      "These forums are the only place you losers feel like you have the slightest bit of power"

      Pot, meet Kettle.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • Wowsers

      Wow that sounds pretty Christian like - #10,000 reason as to WHY I'm not religious - they are the biggest two faced people you will ever meet - I would rather be an atheist than a Christian!! (and I'm not either)

      May 17, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Bet

      You posted this in another thread yesterday under another name. If you are going to troll, at least come up with some new material. You're just being lazy.

      "Lmao!!
      Hey atheists,

      I dont blame you guys for being mad, hateful, and angry. HeII, what can you expect when nobody in the real world takes you seriously and you're basically a laughing stock. These forums are the only place you losers feel like you have the slightest bit of power. Hahahahaha.

      May 16, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply"

      May 17, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • tony

      I think this is a case of name stealing.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • LaTuya83

      Hatefull? The most hateful people I've ever met were religious people, the most intolerant human beigns in the world. Catholic montra: " Do as we say, not as we do."

      May 17, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Bet

      You also posted this one. Which side are you on? Oh, right. Neither one. You just like to troll.

      "momoya

      Oh look, it's another fvcking moron who believes in invisible body parts (soul) and invisible diseases (sin) because a rib-woman talked with a snake and committed wrong before she knew she could even do wrong and so bratty little sh!t god had to sacrifice himself to himself to appease himself so that he doesn't torture more than 99% of his creation in his own private torture pit..

      May 16, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |"

      May 17, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • Get Real

      This "@momoya" is a lying, stealing, idiotic Christian troll.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  13. Mark

    Every time CNN posts a story about the Catholic Church and the government mandate, it provides cover for people to espouse long-standing prejudices against Catholicism and Catholics.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Roman Catholic

      Amen!

      May 17, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • or....

      it also helps confirm long-standing negative facts about the Catholic Church.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  14. tony

    Education is the cure for religious suspension of disbelief. It also helps unseat lying politicians and religious "leaders".. No wonder the churches and the GOP want's to rid the unwealthy andthus un-empowered portion of the population of it.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  15. JOE

    And the Catholic Church wonders why people have left in droves.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Roman Catholic

      No, we don't.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Bet

      @Roman Catholic

      That's why the catholic church is losing its membership. They don't care about anything but money, power, oppressing women and molesting little kids.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Roman Catholic

      @ Bet

      Did you read the story? It is about the Church's care for morality in healthcare. So, I guess you should add that to you list of things the RCC cares about - oh, and your salvation too. I just said a prayer for you. That will probably upset you; sorry.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Betty

      This is to the person who said the Catholic church is losing its 'membership' – Christians do not have a membership. Christians have a relationship with Jesus.

      May 18, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  16. Howie

    Further evidence that religion should be banned in the free world.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Mac

      Just to confirm what you're saying, Howie. You're saying that because we live in a free society where people can do, say and feel what they want: we should forbid the free and open practice of religion?

      May 17, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • Techie

      Howie is the kind of person that gives liberals a bad name and he doesn't speak for all of us. Howie is a "progressive liberal" not a true liberal.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Artanis

      That sounds about right. The free world can't have terrible things like freedom of belief in it! Those monsters, believing whatever they like in this land of freedom!

      May 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Jadugara

      Sorry Howie,...but you used the words "religion should be banned" and "free world" in the same sentence, which makes little sense... It's not much of a "free world" if you ban the practice of folk's personal belief systems...

      Conversely, however, the ridiculous excuse used by the Catholic Church, that "it goes against their ethical beliefs" to pay an insurance company if the insurance company provides contraceptives is moronic... After all, they could use that foolish logic to also say "we refuse to give a paycheck to an employee (Catholic or non-Catholic) because they can then take that money (which is now theirs) and use it to buy contraceptives".... And yet,...the Catholic Church has already stated that they have no say in what private individuals do with their own money... Since it has been voted already that corporations now have the rights of private individuals, then the church should have no problem giving them money, after which the private individual corporations should provide whatever services they wish... After all, once the church gives them their money, that money no longer belongs to the church...

      May 17, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  17. wabob62

    Just another way to get out on providing health coverage ,give vouchers to employee's this way it will be their desision. But they will not do that becuase all relgions have to control you especialy catholics , Marry out side their church and you are living in sin, unless they bless it and you agree to raise your kids catholic. they put the H in hipprocrate.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • A Good Speller...

      hipprocrate? desision? employee's? relgions? I take it you did not attend any college, Catholic or otherwise... 😉 (PS – Commas don't end sentences. Periods do.)

      May 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  18. Truth

    I can't stand republicons but I despise libtards.

    May 17, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • tony

      I can't stand names that have no definitions.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
  19. BOBBY

    O but they are "keeping it for their employee's pending the outcome of litigation" typical hypocritical catholic crap.. They are keeping it for employees because the would LOSE THE EMPLOYEES, disgusting

    May 17, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  20. Claire

    Birth control pills are not just used for contraception they are also use to treat many female reproduvtive organs ailments. They regulate hormonal imbalance which help relieving painful periods, abundant periods, irregular periods.... They decrease PMS symptoms, they treat endometriosis, they relieve polycystic ovarian syndrome. They can also decrease the risk for both endometrial and ovarian cancer by more than 70 percent after 12 years. They even help treat acne in some cases. It looks like to me the Catholic church does not value women's lives very much. May I add that their covering up of rampant pedophilia in their ranks shows that the head of church has prioritized their sicko priests over children too. Funny.... The catholic church never had any problem with Viagra. Not only religion should be kept out of government, school but also Sciences. This college is making a big mistake. I hope it reconsider its idiotic and misinformed decision...

    May 17, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Roman Catholic

      The Church has always allowed and even encouraged the use of medicine for the ailments you mentioned (as long as they are used properly, i.e. only for actual ailments). The Church does not have a problem with viagra in principle because it can cure an ailment; when it is misused in order to boost a man's libido beyond what is natural or when they are used outside of marriage, the Church *does have a problem with Viagra*.

      You called the college's decision idiotic and misinformed. It sounds like your view is rather misinformed (but you don't sound idiotic.)

      May 17, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
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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.