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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.

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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. Greg

    I went to college there, and this is just one more in a long list of reasons to stop donating to this University. They consider themselves only answerable to Catholic law, and ignore "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's..."

    May 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • John Jacob Jinkleheimer Schmidt

      May I ask why you chose to go there? Was religion a more important factor in your choice than academic standing of the school? What drove your choice for that place? Were the pressures of your parents and family a big factor?

      Just curious. Not a knock on you. It's a choice I would not have made, so I wonder why some would make it.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Greg

      I went there a long time ago, and it wasn't quite as fanatical as it is now.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • John Jacob Jinkleheimer Schmidt

      Makes sense. Thanks.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  2. Sue

    I like how they canceled the insurance for students but not employees! Kind of defeats the purpose of saying it is against their religious beliefs (but only sometimes???).

    May 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Huebert

      Catholicism of convenience.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  3. n8263

    For the people who ask what is wrong with religion if it makes people feel better, this is a good example.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  4. Gerg

    Quite frankly, everyone shuold have access to health care. We, society, pays ten-fold to care for those who don't have healthcare insurance, but end up with hospital and medical care. The Franciscan school should make health insurance available to everyone, but based on choice, perhpas premioums attached to contraceptives, etc. However, one choice should not to deny health care coverage as the school has chosen to do.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Mike

      "Personal responsibility" is the term the right uses to mask "F*** you, I got mine".

      "I was on welfare and food stamps, did anybody help me out? NO!"

      Cognitive dissonance, stupidity and a lack of REAL morals, not hypothetical morals you aspire to from your Sunday school lessons are what plague the right these days.

      What I find wholly ironic is that I'm agnostic, yet I have more compassion for my fellow countrymen than any conservative I have ever met in my life; and the same is true for my other agnostic friends and acquaintances.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  5. Jennifer

    I wish the living had as much health care protection as the unborn by religious groups in this country. Once you are born, you don't deserve healthcare protection in this country unless it is on their terms. Instead of calling people pro-lifers, they really should be called pre-birther. Because if you are really pro-life, it would included the living.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Yup

      Your post makes absolutely no sense. Haha please don't drop out of school.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • n8263

      I understood what she meant.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Dave

      I completely understand as well. Yup, you are the one that should be going to school.....just not this one.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  6. Quite Sad

    I really do pity atheists. It's obvious from these comments how hateful, angry, and miserable many of your lives are. I can't imagine living such a hopeless life, for I also would be posting the same type of garbage that you all do. I'll pray for each and every one of you.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • xmxm

      I'm atheist, rich, very happy and moral. And I do not hate you. I just deny the existence of an imaginary cloud daddy.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Mr. Mackey

      Thank you for using the word many. I get tired of people lumping ALL of one group together. Sterotyping is bad, mkay. Thanks for the prayer also, not a believer, but I honestly appreciate the sentiment.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Dave

      So you are defending an organization taking away health care for people.....I think this proves the religious are the ones with the sad lives.
      I'm also an atheist, and I'm extremely happy with my life, great family, nice house, good job....and well educated....that last point it what's important. Education lets you see thru the sham of religion.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  7. ForGoodOfAll

    Catholicism will soon be a dead religion.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Faithful Catholic

      Catholicism will never die because biblically the "gates of hell will never prevail against it". The Bible is clear.

      May 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • MK

      Since when did the bible start being only a Catholic book??

      May 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
  8. DSay

    Good for them. Glad they did not sell out their beliefs.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Dr Neanderthal

      Yes, follow imagery friends teachings and be jerk to real human beings. sounds legit to me.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Mike

      I agree. Now they just have to forgo all modern medicine, vaccines, antibiotics; all science that contradicts the bible. They need to reassert the flat earth theory, stop eating pork and start cutting hands off thieves and then they will no longer by lying hypocritical psychopaths; they'll just be psychopaths.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Billy Akhbar!!!!!!

      Yes, it was truly a shame when they sold out their beliefs and stopped the Inquisition. They should have had the courage of their convictions and continued tortuirng and killing people for heresy and witchcraft.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  9. Pope on a Rope

    They would rather see people get sick and die than see a woman avoid an unintended pregnancy. Just as Jesus Christ would have preached.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Leslie

      That's Christianity for you!!!!!!

      May 17, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
  10. What

    Not okay to fund contraception but okay to play with little boys. Hmm I guess not much has changed since I last went to a Catholic Church.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
    • Trey

      I'm glad SOMEONE said it....

      May 17, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  11. Nofah Kingweigh

    So, they cut off their nose, ears, eyes and mouth to spite their face. More proof that religion is toxic to civilization. Welcome back to the dark ages catholic supplicants.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Mike

      I agree with you but in all honesty if you're stupid enough to go to that school then you are getting what you deserve.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  12. Ray Sawyer

    What a crock. The "religious freedom" they want is the ability to deny health care because THE COLLEGE doesn't care for some of the choices that students or staff might make; it's not as though there is any requirement for people to use those contraceptive etc. services. Are they just afraid that many would seek care that is against their "principles"? Apparently polls do show very widespread use of such among catholics. Georgetown is another catholic college in the press today – under fire for inviting Secretary Sebelius, a lifelong catholic, to its campus – never mind the notions of free speech or of the open discourse that is, or should be, the hallmark of any university experience.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  13. hotairwarrior

    We must remember the Catholic Church took 500 years to recognize that the earth was not flat. It will take another 500 years for the Catholic Church to allow women the freedom to make up their own minds about healthcare / birth control. Here they are wanting to go back to the 1950's. Glad I am not Catholic.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • tony

      Right now the Pope is heading in the other direction.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
  14. CJA

    No now has to attend this school. OK if you are already a student there this sucks but if you are not a student then you can decide to attend or not. Good thing that now student can stay on their perent's plans until age 26. That should cover most students.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
  15. Kyle

    Sorry catholic church but your SCHOOL is a business not a church and the government has every right to regulate your business.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • bob

      It really shouldn't matter. Insurance should not have to provide contraception coverage buy a pack of rubbers or keep it in your pants.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Damn right they do. Once they entire the business arena then they follow business rules.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "Insurance should not have to provide contraception coverage buy a pack of rubbers or keep it in your pants."

      sigh, you are one of those that think this is all it boils down to arent you? no hope for some people

      May 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • John

      Kyle – "the government has every right to regulate your business."

      Socialist much? The best people don't go into government, they go into private business. Why would the best want to only have a potential maximum salary of $400k a year?

      May 17, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  16. Elton

    This is the way separation of church and state should work. The state works for the common good of all any any religiouys group that doesn't want certain benefits offered may take any legal action they want.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  17. InFormed

    The Catholic Church has NOT RIGHT to dictating social issues. I could care less if they did not like the compromise reached over health coverage. Frankly there should have been NO COMPROMISE at all.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  18. Perspective

    So the school intends to bring harm to innocent people by denying them the ability to afford to care for their well being because the school doesn't agree with something based off of religious dogma? Sounds like every other terrorist in the world.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
  19. merckx

    The hate from the believers here I am sure would make Jesus proud.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  20. Blizzard

    Why are the atheists on here so demeaning, angry, and mad? Btw claiming that atheism is the only belief that hold logic, reason, and intellect is absolutely laughable. Just an FYI....those who actually hold those attributes don't go around stating that anyone who doesn't agree with them is an idiot.

    May 17, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • InFormed

      Take a step back and ask yourself the same question again.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • mandarax

      This article is a good example of why atheists get angry. We are tired of fundamental choices being dictated to everyone based on narrow-minded religious dogma.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
    • Nofah Kingweigh

      May be for the same reasons all the religious zealots are so demeaning, angry, and mad. It's called "faith".

      May 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Blizzard

      @informed – I never made any claims about myself. Are you incompetent?

      @mandarax – So one small school deciding to drop healthcare is "dictating to everyone?" Again....that's laughable. Thanks for playin.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • tony

      How many "damned" names are you posting under???

      May 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Daniel

      Why are the atheists on here so demeaning, angry, and mad? 1:30pm

      12 minutes later

      @informed – I never made any claims about myself. Are you incompetent?

      @mandarax – So one small school deciding to drop healthcare is "dictating to everyone?" Again....that's laughable. Thanks for playin.

      See you in hell. thanks for playing.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Mr. Mackey

      By saying "the athiests" implies ALL or 100%. Saying ALL of any group (athiests are guilty too) are the same means you either lack a basic understanding of statistics or are a liar. Mkay.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Billy Akhbar!!!!!!

      Daniel: "See you in hell." Apparently Daniel expects to go to hell.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Daniel

      I'm told that everytime I disagree with another christian. So I'm expecting the response.

      May 17, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • mandarax

      @blizzard: "So one small school deciding to drop healthcare is "dictating to everyone?"

      Blizzard, are you so uninformed that this is the first time you have heard of the religious activism against contraception?

      Why is contraception even an issue? Religion
      Why is it controversial to teach fact-based se.x ed in school? Religion
      Why are people in AIDS-ridden parts of the world told not to use condoms? Religion
      Why are gay couples not allowed to marry? Religion
      Why can we not teach basic biological science in US schools? Religion
      Why can I not buy a beer on Sunday in my bible-thumpin' town? Religion
      Why must every politician work to out-Jesus each other rather than address important issues? Religion

      Need I go on?

      May 17, 2012 at 3:27 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.