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. Ryan

    Another brick has been removed from the catholic wall. Eventually everyone in the world will see that church for what it really is. A sick group of people who are more interested in keeping pedo priests preaching than doing any real good for the average person. Their days are numbered.... and they know it.

    May 17, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      The same regards can be said about the LGBT's. Perversionisms run the gauntlets of civilization's streams of bickering whineries!

      May 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  2. Don

    I am glad I went to a real collage.

    May 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      @ Ryan

      Death cannot be averted only the prolonging of Life is attainable! Can you see ths a little cleaer?

      May 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • dtboy

      Did the real "collage" teach you how to misspell "college?" LOL

      May 17, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  3. A Serpent's Thought

    Just how long has the USA had doctors to prolong one's Life? 150 years maybe? What ever did we do without us having doctors? Why need them now? To prolong the inevitable thing called death you morons!

    May 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Ryan

      I don't follow.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Epica

      I think that he means, why are Christians using Doctor's so much to prolong life when they know they are going to take their elevator to Jesus. Unless of course secretly they know there is no such thing and are just too scared to admit it and will do anything it takes to stay alive.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      @ Epica (Sorry Ryan but I posted to yo above)

      Not only Christians but also everyone can but prolong death's ever ongoing issues and ways!

      May 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • skytag

      Fruitcake alert.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Epica

      True, humans will continue to call for every little shred of extra life. I know for a fact I will, because when I die guess what is happening, nothing. When I go I am gone, no more thoughts, no more anything. So I know I will do everything to live as long as possible and enjoy life. Ergo I am not wasting my life in church praying for longer life when instead I could be at the gym extending my life for real.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • A Serpent's Thought

      @ Epica

      I think it has been shown that physical workouts do nothing to extend life. Remember George Burns among other elderly notables never went to the gyms and some Like George B smoked cigars and died after they passed the 100 year mark! I would rather die when I can no longer do the things to sustain me such as cooking and bathing and guitar playing and going out with friends. Do I know for surety one will be reborn after one dies here? No I can't say for sure. Nobody can! That's why Christian have faith but few remain faithful to the commandments and ordinances as written in the Gospels! I too am but a weaking when it comes to obeying such issues. My faith is very weak and yet I find fondness to believe more than doubt!

      May 17, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  4. Epica

    I wonder if the 200 students that are losing the coverage agree. Good thing the majority of students that don't use it support the college's moral decision! Or is it their financial decision, I can never get those two straight with christians.

    May 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  5. Robert

    Obama is becomming a fascist dictator. It's sad because he's not much more than an ignorant talking head, pushed through school to get in undeserved degree.

    May 17, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • skytag

      Rubbish. You have to be really brainwashed to believe such nonsense.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Ryan

      Robert – I wonder if you know the definition for the term "fascism"? A very quick Gov't 101 lesson for you. Fascism is the extreme right (the Tea Party is closest to this) while the counter opposite would be communism which is the extreme left. So, are you suggesting that Obama is part of the Tea Party?

      May 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • mb2010a

      tea bagger nonsense...

      May 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • dtboy

      @ Ryan – you're using the old, textbook, misunderstanding of the concept of Fascism. Fascism, would actually be extreme left, not right. As the political scale moves from right to left, you have more extreme levels of government oversight and power. The Tea party wants a reduction in government, not more. Therefore, Fascism would be more aligned with Communism, not a Republican form of government.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • willy

      Nice job. You made me look it up fascism 1 a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Ryan

      @dtboy- Nationalism, and seek to purify (via force or laws) the nation of foreign influences and those acts deemed immoral. Ok how is this not the Tea Party. By the way, this is the definition of fascism.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Uh...no

      @dtboy –

      I think you may want to crack open a poli-sci textbook; fascism is clearly aligned with the far-right. Have a read.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • skytag

      dtboy: Tea Party are the most unabashedly, easily brainwashed people I've ever met. As long as that's the case I don't care what they want.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • dtboy

      @Ryan – I'll remind you that Obama is the one that is attempting to nationalized healthcare and over-regulate other major industries via force. Government operates out of force, so the more it grows, so does its force. Again, the Tea party wants to reduce government, therefore force. Sorry, but again, you're reading the definition, but not applying the concept.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • dtboy

      @ Uh...no – that's your problem. Today's political science classes have no concept of government. Politics and Government are not one in the same. If you separate them out, you'll see that Fascism is on the left, not right.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Uh...no

      @dtboy- "Today's political science classes have no concept of government."

      With all due respect, that is just nonsense. Perhaps you should try some higher education.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Ryan

      @ dtboy; a natioanal heath care system is SOCIALISM not fascism. HUGE difference. Besides, the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act is not a health care system it is mandates for issurence co to follow. Read the law! Stop allowing Fox Bews interpret the law for you!

      May 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Uh...no

      The Tea Party does not want a "reduction in government" ... what does that even mean? The Tea Party wants a reduction in spending, taxes, the national debt, and the federal budget deficit. That does not equate to a "reduction in government", it simply means they want to restrain federal fiscal policy. Again...some higher education would help.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • skytag

      @dtboy: "I'll remind you that Obama is the one that is attempting to nationalized healthcare and over-regulate other major industries via force"

      Obama made no attempt whatsoever to "nationalize" health care. That claim has no connection to reality whatsoever. If you believe that you are a brainwashed fool. It simply didn't happen. As for "over-regulation," regulation grows with every administration. Your use of emotionally charged rhetoric in saying "via force" tells me you know you have no argument. Were all the regulations added under the Bush administration voluntary?

      May 17, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  6. jojo

    They are against birth control, yet they abuse little boys. Nice religion

    May 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Jason

      They want to make sure that the priest have enough kids to choose from.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Catholics think they are Christians but they are not.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  7. Martin

    Now I wonder what would happen if they cancelled the employees health care plans for this supposed outrage. Were in the health care plan/law does it say you are required to actually take drugs for "women's health care issues"
    It doesn't they are just covered if you want to use them. If its against your beliefs then don't use what is offered.
    What is the REAL STORY behind this i wonder ??? I am thinking its support for women's health issues that is what they are against

    May 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  8. Hal 9000

    THIS IS NOT A FREEDOM OF RELIGION ISSUE. No one is making a catholic woman use contraception or get a hysterectomy!!! All that is being said is that if you have employees who don't share your religious view you cannot force them on them economically!!

    PROOF that this is right-wing BS. . . No one complained about making viagra available to priests. . . hmmmmmm curious omission??

    May 17, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  9. jdoe

    One more reason why we need universal health care. There's no reason why most people's health care should be dependent on where they work or go to school, and dependent on what their employer or school choose, or don't choose, for them.

    May 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • skytag

      Absolutely. This idiotic system is a holdover from WWII, when businesses started offering health care benefits to get around wartime wage controls. No other industrialied country in the world is stupid enough to rely on such a system.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  10. Education Is Kryptonite to the GOP

    Thanks to Obamacare these students will still be able to stay on their parents insurance plan until they are 26.
    Thank you President Obama. No thank you Pope Pious...

    May 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  11. Skatingcat

    I would love to know if this is one of those Catholic Schools/Colleges/Universities that HAVE clubs that cater to other religious denominations (eg. jewish, muslims, etc..) which I'm pretty sure are not necessarily in tune with catholic teachings. Has anyone ever thought about that before???!!!

    May 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  12. NauticalMan

    This does not pass the smell test to me. Most students are under the age of 26 one would assume and therefore covered under there parents health insurance. If the school is so determined to refuse President Obama's health care plan, cancel it for themselves and all their employees. Shoot yourself in both feet.

    May 17, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • annie

      The only problem is that the parents may not have health insurance themselves....

      May 17, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • jdoe

      They can be covered by their parents' plan only if they're still considered dependents, and of course only if their parents choose to cover them, have coverage themselves, are not unemployed, or work for an employer who doesn't provide coverage. I can see many college kids falling outside this criteria.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  13. JM

    I'm a Catholic, and these people are idiots. Many, like me, who believe in God and the sacrament are starting to think as I do, that being, OPEN, inclusive, and free of the judgement of the self-righteous who rarely practice what they preach.

    May 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  14. Sid

    Cristians never cease to amaze me with their stupidity. This cult has caused so much damage to the world already starting from Christ – the cult founder and is continuing to do so.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Beau

      More damage than Hitler and Stalin?

      May 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Schadenfreudean Psychologist

      You're right, Sid. Beau's wrong.

      Hitler was raised as a Catholic, btw, and buried on "holy" ground, despite an apparent suicide. Might makes rite, eh?

      May 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Native Pride

      I am not Catholic, but I will say they are the ones downtown providing food and shelter's for the homeless, They also have free clinics, after school programs and ACT prep courses. Not sure what you are doing to benefit mankind, but I am pretty sure it pales in comparison. Not saying all Catholic's are perfect, a bigot would describe an entire group of people based off a few bad ones.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • mandarax

      Beau, Hitler and Stalin weren't evil because they weren't Christian (Hitler claimed he was), they were evil because they were born between 10 and 90 degrees east lat.itude, and had mustaches. Don't you even understand correlation????

      Don't you understand what will happen if we let people born in Europe grow mustaches??? Evil will break out all over!

      May 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • annie

      Pretty much all religions have their good and their bad, their fanatics and their mainstream, etc. However, they all tell their followers to love and be tolerant, and many do not do either. When it comes to the health care plan, why don't the churches rely on their teachings to "keep" girls off birth control? Even if their school doesn't "provide" it, they can still get it, so the teachings should be more important to them. In this particular case, the catholic church cut off its nose to spite its face. The school elected to deny coverage of disease, etc., just because of these few items that they could rely on their teachings about. I would say that their actions are against christianity, not supporting it.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • annie

      Stalin was also raised a christian and then became an atheist as a communist.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • cwj

      By the official rules of the internet I hereby declare you the loser of the discussion.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  15. Nelly

    If the world ever comes to an end, it will be because Religion.

    I am against wars but my taxes found all sorts stupid wars the Us gets involved in.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Nelly


      May 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  16. Peter Pearson

    This is hypocritical and grandstanding because we all participate in lots of things we don't agree with simply by virtue of paying our taxes. Give me a break.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  17. ParisSun

    I love seeing someone take a stand. But it does seem as though they are doing this for monetary reasons. They are still keeping healthcare for the employees but canceling for the students. By doing this they undermine the moral stance. They just seem like they are using this issue for cover to get rid of student healthcare.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • jbcal

      I think they stated that they were ending coverage for students because of the expense.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • sarah

      They said it was for both reasons. But I have a feeling it was more for monetary reasons.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  18. derp

    How christian of them to strip their employees of health coverage over politics.

    Jeebus would be so proud.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Peter Pearson

      I love the logic of your statement. Thanks.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Beau

      It is not about politics, it is about exercising the freedom to choose what they provide. You of all people should know that freedom of "choice" is for everyone, not just women.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • jbcal

      I thought they were ending coverage for the students not their employees.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Martin

      Big difference between provide and forced. No one is being forced anything it is being provided for those that wish to use.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • skytag

      Beau, where is the "freedom of choice" for their employees and students? Can those people choose which insurer provides their benefits? Can they chose what their plans will cover? Spare us the "freedom of choice" argument. It's only freedom of choice for employers and organizations, not individuals. We need to get employers and organizations out of the business of providing health insurance. It's a really dumb idea.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  19. 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 religious involvement in politics?

    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 is a woman not allowed to make her own decisions about pregnancy? Religion
    Why are pedophile priests protected from prosectution? 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 can textbooks be rewritten to revise our country's history? Religion
    Why must every politician work to out-Jesus each other rather than address important issues? Religion
    and so on....

    Meanwhile, the religious community is not even required to demonstrate whether or not their beliefs are even remotely true. Because it's "faith" and "beliefs" there is some weird expectation that it should be so special and so precious that it is above criticism – that we are not allowed to question it at all. It's not above criticism, and as people continue to realize that you can bet you are going to hear a lot more questioning and a lot more criticism.

    May 17, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Beau

      Actually religion created marriage, and gays want to redefine it. Also, you fail to realize that without freedom of religion, whatever religion it is, you will end up with a Fascist society. Stalin and Hitler are examples of what happens when you suppress the freedom of religion.

      May 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • mandarax

      Marriage goes back too far into prehistory to know where it came from, but it was certainly not a product of the Abrahamic religions – it clearly predates them by thousands of years and is common in parts of the world which were never influenced by it. Behavioral ecology "gave" us religion.

      Your other claim is too simple-minded to bother with, and has been refuted too many times for you not to know better.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Beau

      O.K. mister Harvard. Have fun deciding what is best for mankind. Hey, why don't you become a dictator and tell every Christian, Muslim, and Jew they must work in camps?

      May 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • mandarax

      I bet the irony of what you just said compared to my original complaint is completely lost on you.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • bee

      Beau, marriage in America is a grant of legal rights from the government. If you get married in a church and don't do your paperwork, you're not legally married. If you don't get married in church but do go through with the requirements, you will be legally married.
      freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. just because your religion dictated a way of life it does not follow that american law must adhere to the specified outcome or abridge the rights of those who don't follow the same religion.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • sane

      Beau, you are a riot.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Beau Skipped too much school

      Please get a vasectomy, before you accidentally spread your ignorance...

      May 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  20. Snow

    I guess it is ok for religious universities to blackmail govt by threatening to cause problems for its students.. coz, um, god approves it that! and the students who "support" this move, well lets see the first day they get sniffles and have to run back to mama and papa for treatment..

    May 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Peter Pearson

      Remove their tax exempt status?

      May 17, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Jason

      Remove it then raise their taxes to offset the cost their decision has on society.

      May 17, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
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About this blog

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.