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. momoya


    May 18, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • Helena Hanbaskit

      Right on the money.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:51 am |
  2. Reality

    Some additional nitty-gritty:

    "Twenty-one states offer exemptions from contraceptive coverage, usually for religious reasons, for insurers or employers in their policies: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan (administrative rule), Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia."



    The Catholic hierachy do not believe in artificial birth control so why do they employ those who do? Did not the Supreme Court recently decide that religious organizations have the right to decide who they hire and fire? Bottom line: To reduce health insurance costs and to not be subject to Obama care regulations about supplying contraceptives, Catholic groups should simply not hire those who want contraceptives and fire those who demand such coverage.


    There are different opinions as to what a religion really is or what a non-profit is and therefore all non-profits should file Form 990's. At the moment, religious groups are exempt. To be fair therefore, there should be no tax-exemptions for any group and that includes the Democratic and Republican Parties. Faith and community initiative grant monies should also be cancelled and there should also be no tax deductions for contributions made to charities and non-profits.



    "The government must stay out of hiring and firing decisions by a religious organization, even if a minister sues for employment discrimination, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

    Religious freedom groups praised the decision, and especially the fact that it came from a unanimous court."

    And does not "Obamacare" (i..e the taxpayers) provide health coverage of students under the age of 26? Or at least allow said students to be covered under their parents' health insurance?

    May 17, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  3. ElectricLion

    If it's wrong to cover contraceptives and abortion, why is it OK to cover Viagra?

    May 17, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  4. mandarax

    "Atheists on the other hand read Marx and then proceed to murder over 50 million people." – Mark Blackadder

    Wow, I am SO glad you told me that, because I am an atheist and I've never read Marx. Now I know if I do, it will cause me to proceed to kill over 50 million people, so I will make sure to never read it. Because you're a Christian you know that books can be magic, so I will trust you on this one. Thank you for your wisdom, I almost put us all in terrible danger.

    May 17, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • Mike Blackadder

      Funny, it seems to me that you are the one who weighs each word that you read so carefully – as though they had magical qualities.

      You obviously care quite a bit about particular things that are said in the bible, but not what they mean, and what Christians understand these passages to mean. Ironically atheists see religion as the great evil due to its content, and are blind to the deficiencies of their own ideologies – even in light of historical evidence of what happens when society purges itself of religion and objective morality.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • momoya

      Holy sh!t the pure arrogance that comes of you dipsh!ts is soooooo disgusting.. It's like watching a pig roll in his own sh!t and then turn around and argue that he's smarter than you because he doesn't worry about anything else than his own sh/t.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • momoya

      My comment was for the arrogant azz, Mike, who thinks the entire universe is here so he can give a epic torturer bl.ow jo.bs for all eternity.. Seriously, what kind of dovchenozzle demands worship?!?!?


      May 18, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • HereticX

      Hitler was a Christian.... abate, a weird one obsessed with the Holy Grail.

      May 18, 2012 at 6:45 am |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    May 17, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • MikeP

      I imagine most doctors will reply to "Prayer is my HMO" with "It's your doctor, too... seeya!"

      May 17, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
  6. Paul

    "Hey look, we can steal a few more bucks from students by denying them health insurance, and we get to make a political statement at the same time while using the pathetic excuse it is for religious reasons, even while we are actually trying to make even more money. . .in the name of God. . ."

    May 17, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Mike Blackadder

      Actually it's a lot simpler than that. Catholics think it is wrong to use contraceptives and that it is wrong to kill unborn children. Therefore we say no to these things. Do you not think it would be convenient for Catholics to act like Obama and always embrace the newest most popular idea? It's another crazy thing about Catholicism to address morality objectively.

      May 17, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • momoya

      Well if catholics don't want to do that then they shouldn't do it.. No need to make everybody live by their stupidity.. I mean, a little birth control would mean we could actually feed most of the people on the planet, but nah, let's let massive disease and starvation do that for us.. It's god's will for so much torture to take care of things, that's what he's going to do to most of his creation for all eternity anyway, what's a few diseased and starving children to a fvcker like that?

      May 18, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Mike Blackadder

      momoya you've decided that you think contraceptives are good and you simply don't accept that Catholics have a different view. I happen to think that you are wrong, but that's not really the point. We're not talking about Catholics making people live according to their ideals, we're talking about the opposite where your version of what you think is right is being imposed on Catholics.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • momoya

      Nobody is imposing anything on anyone, as this decision proved.. The christian wackos are just being azzholes like normal.. What's your complaint? That this country sometimes passes laws that affect everyone?.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  7. HereticX

    It figures – keep the health insurance for the employees but cancel it for students. So they are using the students for their religious protest. Why don't they put their money where their mouth is and do the opposite – cancel employees' insurance and keep it in place for the students? Oh wait – it must be due to some female students might get birth-control pills. And God know the catholic faculty won't. Hardy har har har!!! I crack myself up. Catholic faculty won't. HA HA HA! I did it again!

    May 17, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  8. Mike Blackadder

    This is a prime example of the arrogance of the Obama administration, and the self-righteousness of the secular prog-ressive movement.

    The point of the exercise is to attack the values of Catholics, to bully them into being obedient to the secular messiah; to do the very thing that you all claim religious people are doing. The hypocrisy is shocking and intellectually pathetic.

    May 17, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • mandarax

      If it's arrogant and self-righteous to insure access to modern healthcare for all citizens, and to not let religious zealots block that access, then that's my kind of arrogance and self-righteousness.

      May 17, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Mike Blackadder

      Because its essential that Catholic organizations pay for people's contraceptives and abortions. As if people need so many condoms and abortions that they couldn't pay for them themselves. It's a fake controversy and an invented right that people need free access to these things. Meanwhile an authentic right that people have to act according to their own conscience must be sacrificed to assert the secularist value that everything about s-e-x ought to be free.

      May 17, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
    • momoya

      Oh please, Mike.. This is about a church acting like a spoiled three year old yanking her toys out of the sandbox if she has to share with little Nancy from down the road.. Yeah, decisions out of spite, what a collegiate way to make a decision.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
    • Mike Blackadder

      momoya, it's a decision based on principle. It may also be seen as a proper response to a law that is likely to found as unconst-itutional.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • momoya

      No, it wasn't, or they'd have discontinued all insurance for their teachers as well, AND given up their tax exempt status.. They wanted to be little whiny babies and they got to be just that.. Typical christian behavior.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  9. Marc from Florida

    This is total hypocrisy. The college will deny health care to students and faculty because these people will have a choice whether to use elements of the policy that the school does not like.. To me this is a political descision and the school should lose any tax exempt status it is allowed. I would suspect there are people working there who are not catholics. If there are not, discrimination in employment practices should be investigated.

    May 17, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  10. Casey

    The Catholic Church is dying out and rightly so. Just ignore it and it'll go away.

    May 17, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  11. Sam

    $30 billion goes to Israel each year from my Andy your taxes, I don't support that. Can I stop it ? No.
    My insurance money goes for whatever, can I stop it? No

    May 17, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • mikestatesvillenc

      Who is Andy? Who cares?!

      May 17, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  12. Redpeppertin

    Yeah a guy who so vehemently supports abortion rights doesn't know the value of human life. I wouldn't be surprised if he really didn't care if anyone had health insurance. Let alone people who believe in God.

    May 17, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
  13. Huh?

    How many of the college's employees & students aren't Catholic? The implication to me is that if you don't follow OUR religious beliefs, we won't give you the health insurance you want. It's one thing to say that followers of our religion shouldn't be forced to pay for violations of their beliefs...its something else for others to be withheld something that has no conflict with their beliefs. Either they need to fire all employees and dismiss all students who aren't Catholic (so they can say it's a religious issue for all that the insurance would cover) or follow the law (which by the way permits employees too opt out from the controversial parts of the coverage as sort of pointed out in the article).

    I'm not even going to mention the large percentage of American Catholics who violate this edict by using contraception on a regular basis...or the hypocrisy of Catholic hierarchy who went to great lengths to cover-up some very un-Godly behavior by a scary number of its priests

    May 17, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Guest

      Read it again. 95% are Catholic. Also it is a private school. If you don't like their policies, transfer or don't attend in the first place.

      May 17, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  14. celeyonn

    When it gets down to it, I doubt that Catholic parents will let their children become sacrificial lambs. If this becomes the norm for Catholic schools, then so much the better for other non Catholic schools and universities. Between this, womens rights,
    protected pediophilia, and the Popes rocket scientists proclamations - the Catholic church leaders are digging themselves
    into a world of hurt.

    May 17, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Helena Hanbaskit

      The influence of religion is clearly waning in the developed world. The US is behind the curve, but heading (thankfully) in that same direction.

      May 17, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  15. olepi

    CNN: please change the headline to read College drops health care plan FOR STUDENTS over religious objections.

    The staff and administration decided to keep their evil, tainted health care.

    May 17, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  16. Helena Hanbaskit

    Aren't the Franciscans the ones who burned Pueblo Indians alive just a few generations back? But this, THIS, is persecution.

    May 17, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Julian

      Helena Hanbaskit

      Aren't the Franciscans the ones who burned Pueblo Indians alive just a few generations back? But this, THIS, is persecution. No, persecution is the killing of innocent unborn children. What part of Thou Shalt Not Kill do you not understand?

      May 17, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Helena Hanbaskit

      I clearly understand it better than those Franciscans that burned real, living, fully-formed people alive. I will not be preached to about morality by a supporter of the Catholic church.

      May 17, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest


      And yet in the bible Leviticus is full of verses stating laws, many of which the penalty for is death. Death rquires someone to kill the offender. Do you see the contradiction?

      May 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • mandarax

      I declare Julian "refudiated!"

      May 17, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Mike Blackadder

      Again, the hypocrites speak...

      I won't be spoken to about morality from a Catholic. Could I possibly be any more self-righteous and closed minded?

      Re Leviticus; Christians can read Leviticus without taking it literally. Sin is the path to death, to real death – which is separation from God- the worst thing that can happen. Catholics discern scripture in light of the coming of Christ. We don't literally think that you kill people.

      Atheists on the other hand read Marx and then proceed to murder over 50 million people. Many of whom for the crime of believing in God and not believing in the maxims from communist elitists. Hypocrites.

      May 17, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
    • Helena Hanbaskit

      So, let me see if I understand you. Christians worship a book that gives explicit commands to kill people and how to divide up their property and women (as if there's a difference!), but Christians are smart enough to know not to follow it. However, if a non-believer simply reads a book that says nothing about killing anyone at all, they will not be able to keep themselves from murdering millions of people. And you're calling others hypocrites?!? You're a hypocrite AND an idiot. You're a freakin hypocridiot.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • Helena Hanbaskit

      And btw, I said I wouldn't be preached to by any supporter of the Catholic church, not any catholic. If you will abide pedophilia, genocide, withholding condoms in Africa, etc. without protest you cannot remotely claim the moral high ground.

      May 17, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • mandarax

      Hypocridiot! I love it.

      May 17, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Mike Blackadder

      Helena – Christians worship a book. No, sorry it's already clear that you don't understand. I'm not going to bother explaining this particular point to you further. My original reply explains this sufficiently.

      Now let me explain the point about Marx, Leviticus and hypocrisy. The argument is that Christians are contradicting themselves because they are against killing unborn children, yet we apparently believe that we are commanded to kill people for other reasons. I make the obvious point that Catholics do not actually take verses from Leviticus as literal commandments (as you falsely suggest). We are not troubled by what you imagine is a contradiction between Leviticus and God's commandment not to kill. Surely we know that God doesn't want us to kill each other.

      Atheists on the other hand read Marx and begin communist movements that deny the existence of an objective truth, that justifies suffering and death of huge numbers of people for the sake of the larger good being the communist state and it's ideals.

      You are deceived by appearances. The bible appears to promote violence in selected passages, but the very fact that Christians analyze scripture with the underlying belief that there is such a thing as an objective truth and morality we don't have the freedom in our doctrine to falsely interpret passages from Leviticus to justify killing while ignoring Christ and the ten commandments. As you say, Marx appears to talk about ideas that are good, and you don't notice the essential elements that are missing from his ideologies – such as the rightful place of humans under God and in relation to one another – the recognition of imperfect and sinful nature of humanity, the inherent dignity of created things. And therefore, being deceived by appearances you don't even see the connection between this ideology and the reality of communism.

      You suggest that the bible teaches violence and maybe you imagine Marx does not. History is not on your side. It is hypocritical to claim we ought to fear Christians in light of the bible when speaking as an atheist whose ideologies culminate in Marx.

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

      Holy Sh!t Mike, you are extremely disgusting individual!!!!! Man, you and your terrorizing, lying torturing god sure are a perfect pair.


      May 18, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • Helena Hanbaskit

      @hypocridiot: What's your obsession with Karl Marx? You know, there is nothing about not believing in deities that requires you to study 19th century social philosophers.

      Let me ask you this, if atheism leads to moral debauchery and mass killing, how do you explain Norway? It has about the highest percentage of non-believers of any country in the world. It also has among the lowest crime rates, lowest rates of teen pregnancies, the best education systems, and the highest reported individual happiness in the world. The same is true of much of Europe. Why aren't they reading Marx and killing each other?

      May 18, 2012 at 12:22 am |
    • Mike Blackadder

      As If momoya. Hitler is supposedly an example of Christiany? Don't you think his ideologies may have been more influenced by modern ideas (of the time) like eugenics and purity of the race through genetic selection; the types of arguments that Christians made a point of opposing?

      May 18, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • momoya


      You realize that your question was the equivalent of asking a rabbit why it chews its own turds (instead of its cud, like the bible says) and expecting an answer with charts and graphs from the little fella?. I mean, really, what is Mike really going to say other than, "Dem dam natheeeists are kinna mean but I growl real gud and real loud so I think I kinna scares 'em up a little bit sumptimes!"

      May 18, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • momoya

      You see what I mean, Helena, the little fella can't even understand a very, very, simple cartoon.. I guess lies are all we should expect from such an idiot.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • momoya

      @ Mike

      Yes, mike, that's exactly what that video said.. You got it.. *snicker*

      @ Everyone with a 2nd grade education or higher

      Watch the video to see just how stupid Mike is to have made that comment..

      May 18, 2012 at 12:34 am |
    • Helena Hanbaskit

      @momoya, don't worry, my expectations aren't high. Although I would also like to hear his explanation of why a perfect book inspired by God has to be so carefully interpreted to avoid the literal meaning of it's own text.

      Cool animation, btw. Seemed a little campy at first, but it's pretty hard-hitting!

      May 18, 2012 at 12:40 am |
    • Mike Blackadder

      No I didn't bother watching the cartoon.

      I'm presenting you with coherent arguments and you reply by saying I am a disgusting individual, a hypocridiot and a liar. I think you guys could do better than that. Its okay to bash Christians by extracting passages from the bible, but it is disgusting to mention the fact that the greatest mass extermination of humanity (and in modern times) was at the hands of atheists. This is simply a fact. You are unable to acknowledge this.

      Christians on the other hand are able to acknowledge failures of Christiianity throughout history, by the simple knowledge that we are humans, we sin, and sin is harmful.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:46 am |
    • Mike Blackadder

      Helena, you can't get past literal interpretations of things that you read? You will have difficulty in the general sphere of literature. Particularly ancient literature. What a waste of time. Off to bed. I'll say a prayer for you.

      May 18, 2012 at 12:51 am |
    • momoya


      I would say that there's a big difference between the atheist of today and the person who sets himself up as a god with very special privileges is a special kind of evil very similar to the god we imagine.. Atheism has no doctrine, so it can't be blamed for mass murder.. Atheism is merely a stance on ex.istence.. You can be a good atheist and a bad one just like you can be a good christian or a bad christian.. The sticking point is the WHY.. Why do people murder on your co.mmand?. If they're murdering for you because you've told them they'll get some special ex.istence with an unproven being for all eternity, then you're accomplishing your evil by blatant lies.. Nobody knows what happens after death, and religion lies to people when it tells them it does know.. If it was obvious, we wouldn't be debating it.

      Religion does really fvcked up things like tell people living in resourceless land to not have s3x and not use contraception.. Instead of those people having a stable existence with a controlled population from one form of subsistence to the next as will finds a way to provide, those people live like co.ckroaches in filthy gutters dying of ma.lnutrition and rampant disease.. That's disgusting!! It sickens me that we allow you religions to cause such needless suffering!! You should find it disgusting.. When you don't, and it's because of some stupid belief in a fvcking retarded myth fairy tale, then you'd better believe I'm angry.. I'm angry at your stupid myth slowly killing hundreds of thousands of infants that have no ex.istence other than pain–all because you don't want a piece of plastic between a man and a woman doing what every man and woman try to do because it's the second strongest drive in human ex.istence.. I'm sick of you.. You disgust me.. Stop causing more pain, this world is tough enough!!

      May 18, 2012 at 1:02 am |
    • Helena Hanbaskit

      Wow, I was just lectured by a man who appears to honestly think not believing in gods makes you read Marx and then kill people. Also chastised for name calling by the man who called me a hypocrite and incapable of abstract thought. He said he will say a prayer for me though. Knowing that, I'm gonna pay attention and see if anything happens. Meanwhile, g'night Mark, I will think a thought for you.

      May 18, 2012 at 1:03 am |
  17. chael

    So when did it change from people offering you a given amount of money and benefits to work for them or to join them in some way to that of us demanding things and expecting the others have to provide it no matter what.

    May 17, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  18. WC

    Yeah, screw the students, let em die! You go Catholic church!!!!!!!

    May 17, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  19. demrules

    For some reason the Catholic Church still thinks it's the national religion of the United States. These Catholic leaders are arrogant and does not genuinely care about the health of it's employees nor students. Apparently they don't trust their Catholic followers to not violate their "beliefs" behind the closed doors. That's why they have confessions. They want to intervene in every aspect of peoples lives because of their insecurity. Meanwhile, the bodies of mobsters and children are being discovered buried in the Vatican. They need to fix home first!

    May 17, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  20. sayer

    The students should go to planned parenthood for women's health services. Oh, wait, if Romney is president they're f'd.

    May 17, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29
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.