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. krehator

    Hey, can I disobey laws too just because I don't like them? Or is that just for Christian Conservatives?

    May 17, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Sure.

      Only if you can claim that your personal divine mandates are above the Constitution. Then it's fine.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  2. Corporations (and Churches) are not People

    The fallacy that the churches and "conscientious objector" employers are foisting on the public is, the right to be free to choose or not choose, is intended to be a right of the people. Not the employer. How many of the employees choose what health care they get? They don't- their employer does. Why is the moral, or even financial, rights of the employer, more important than the rights of the people? If an employer wants to provide health coverage, let them provide an amount, but let the people choose the plan. That is freedom.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  3. peterlwf

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    May 16, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
  4. Beadles

    Colin – you are hysterical! Thanks for the laughs.

    May 16, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      Yeah, people often find bigots hysterical.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • St. Serge of the Castro

      Prove he is a bigot.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      You got to be kidding me? Replace the word Catholic with any other group and he would have been shutdown long ago and rightly so.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Jim

      Everyone is a bigot in one way or another.

      big·ot   /ˈbɪgət/ Show Spelled[big-uht] Show IPA
      a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • St. Serge of the Castro

      That was a big fail, Bill. Colin is pointing out the absurdity of certain Catholic beliefs. That is not bigotry. You claimed he is a bigot. Provide support and examples.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:41 pm |
    • St. Serge of the Castro

      Why is it that whenever one asks a religious person for evidence, they usually vanish?

      Bill? Bill?

      May 17, 2012 at 12:14 am |
  5. Reality


    Condoms are available over the counter. Make the Pill available over the counter and there will be no more debate.

    Planned Parenthood can offer deep discounts for those who say they cannot afford said protection.

    Or better yet, put a pack of condoms and a box of Pills in cereal boxes. Unfortunately, that would not ensure the condoms and/or Pills would be used. Based on Guttmacher Insti-tute data, said condoms and/or Pills are currently not being used as they should. (one million abortions/yr and 19 million cases of S-TDs/yr because either the daily Pill was not taken or a condom stayed in the pocket.)

    Maybe selling Pill-enriched sodas??? Hmmm?

    Condom-fitted briefs for men?? Hmmm?

    The door is open for other ideas!!!

    May 16, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • Reality

      Make that: "AGE OF FOURTEEN OR OVER" 🙂

      May 16, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  6. Reality


    From the topic commentary: "The Roman Catholic Church opposes the use of contraception." It should read: "The RCC opposes the use of artificial contraception. "

    But let us address the real issue:

    The Brutal Effects of Stupidity:

    : The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill ( 8.7% failure rate) and male con-dom (17.4% failure rate) have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or co-ndoms properly and/or use safer methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.- Failure rate statistics provided by the Gut-tmacher Inst-itute. Unfortunately they do not give the statistics for doubling up i.e. using a combination of the Pill and a condom.

    Added information before making your next move:

    from the CDC-2006

    "Se-xually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in the United States. While substantial progress has been made in preventing, diagnosing, and treating certain S-TDs in recent years, CDC estimates that approximately 19 million new infections occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24.1 In addition to the physical and psy-ch-ological consequences of S-TDs, these diseases also exact a tremendous economic toll. Direct medical costs as-sociated with STDs in the United States are estimated at up to $14.7 billion annually in 2006 dollars."

    And from:

    Consumer Reports, January, 2012

    "Yes, or-al se-x is se-x, and it can boost cancer risk-

    Here's a crucial message for teens (and all se-xually active "post-teeners": Or-al se-x carries many of the same risks as va-ginal se-x, including human papilloma virus, or HPV. And HPV may now be overtaking tobacco as the leading cause of or-al cancers in America in people under age 50.

    "Adolescents don’t think or-al se-x is something to worry about," said Bonnie Halpern-Felsher professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. "They view it as a way to have intimacy without having 's-ex.'" (It should be called the Bill Clinton Syndrome !!)

    Obviously, political leaders in both parties, Planned Parenthood, parents, the "stupid part of the USA" and the educational system have failed miserably on many fronts.

    The most effective forms of contraception, ranked by "Perfect use" as opposed to the typical/actual failure rate noted previously.

    1a. (Abstinence, 0% failure rate) – RCC approved
    1b. (Masturbation, mono or mutual, 0% failure rate)

    Followed by:

    One-month injectable and Implant (both at 0.05 percent)
    Vasectomy and IUD (Mirena) (both at 0.1 percent)
    The Pill, Three-month injectable, and the Patch (all at 0.3 percent)
    Tubal sterilization (at 0.5 percent)
    IUD (Copper-T) (0.6 percent)
    Periodic abstinence (Post-ovulation) (1.0 percent) – RCC Approved
    Periodic abstinence (Symptothermal) and Male condom (both at 2.0 percent) – RCC Approved
    Periodic abstinence (Ovulation method) (3.0 percent)- RCC Approved

    Every other method ranks below these, including Withdrawal (4.0), Female condom (5.0), Diaphragm (6.0), Periodic abstinence (calendar) (9.0), the Sponge (9.0-20.0, depending on whether the woman using it has had a child in the past), Cervical cap (9.0-26.0, with the same caveat as the Sponge), and Spermicides (18.0).

    May 16, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  7. Jon Stewart

    Hey, look, in the picture . . . that building, it looks just like . . . a vagina manger!

    May 16, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  8. critical thinker

    Obama should pass a law requiring Catholic priests to speak only English during church in the U.S.A. That'll get them blathering from the pulpit some more and maybe they'll forget about the contraceptive issue.

    May 16, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • Pope Indapizza XVI

      Sure, whatever. We just need other issues to deflect attention away from a certain non-issue that we don't want anyone to think about, so just never you mind, we have it all totally under control. Problem all fixed, just worry about contraceptives, never mind us.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • critical thinker

      The Pope reminds me of the Wizard of Oz...don't pay attention to what is going on behind that catholic curtain.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Jim


      May 16, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Cricket

      You are quite right, Jim. The Catholic Church has a long ugly history of bigotry against gays and women and Protestants and Jews and Atheists and indigenous South American peoples and Muslims and pagans, and just so many other groups.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:20 am |
    • Julian

      It appears Critical Thinker has never been in th Catholic Church. Masses are in English, unless it is Spanish or the language of the people in the parish. Nice try hotshot!

      May 17, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  9. A Catholic

    If 95% of the students are Catholic and the majority have given their approval of the College's stand on the issue, then what is the issue? It is a private school. They can do that. For those that are ignorant to the Catholic Churchs stance on Health care, they have been major supporters of Universal HealthCare, and initially supported the Health Care plan from the Obama Administration. The only thing that they asked for, was conscientious protections. You know...those protections that many used in Vietnam, when those that held religious objection to war, could use this to not be drafted. The Catholic Church asked for these protections to be upheld, so they would not be forced to go against ones beliefs. Obama told them he would and that he felt conscientious protection was "sacred". Then he threw them out for medical professionals and the US Catholic Church could not support him any longer (they knew they fell for it and they were going to get screwed). The Church gave its support too eagerly, they should have read between the lines, and made sure the president's words were truthful not pulled out of his "evolving" box. I feel that everyone loves Catholics when their not-too Catholic, but forbid those Catholics that step out of line and actually believe and live what they believe. Then they should be silenced.

    May 16, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • Colin

      You don't see anything deeply inane about basing 21st Century health care policy on the perceived $exual wishes of some hokey Bronze Age sky-god invented by ignorant Palestinian farmers 2,000 years ago?

      May 16, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Pope Indapizza XVI

      Our flock has long been conditioned to accept the inane. They love our hats and dresses. They believe the fashions somehow make us really divine. After they buy into that, they will buy into anything

      May 16, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      Why should we pay attention to anyone who thinks 1. It was the Bronze age 2000 years ago (It was the Iron Age) or that Jesus lived in Palestine (the Romans didn't rename it that until after the Jewish revolts.)

      May 16, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • St. Serge of the Castro

      Define it any way you like, Bill. It still originated in the ignorant peasants of the ancient Middle East, and it reads like it. The people are cruel, God is cruel, and the modern ways of behavior are MUCH better than the stonings for trivialities that your ancient book of mythology says God demands.

      I'll take the relativist humanist atheistic evils of not stoning people to death and no slavery any day.

      The Bible is mostly bad morality that no one practices today because it is to cruel and inhuman.

      If you carefully consider how your God behaves, you will realize he is a sick and brutal, unjust, shallow, demanding his followers be the worst form of sycophants, and just downright mean and intolerant. Your God cannot be – it is childish and ugly and impossible.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  10. Colin

    The theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:

    (a) Astronomy;

    (b) Medicine;

    (c) Economics; or

    (d) Catholicism

    May 16, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  11. Colin

    You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking serpent if you are a:

    (a) historian;

    (b) geologist;

    (c) NASA astronomer; or

    (d) Catholic

    May 16, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Larry of Nazareth

      But it was a really cool talking serpent.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      The Catholic Church does not teach creationism.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Yes, but . . .

      Maryland Bill is correct – the official position is theistic evolution, but it raises an interesting problem: if humans evolved, Adam and Eve is impossible, and the Bible is wrong. If you want a good giggle, read how the Catholic Church tries to explain that absurd contradiction of evolution and Adam and Eve as real historical people.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      The Catholic Church hasn't officially defined how the Biblical Account was made manifest in our world (heck, as soon as it tried, science would probably change how humans evolved, so its kind of hard to reconcile Theology with a moving target). All that Catholics need believe is that Man (as in full human beings with a soul) were a special creation of God and that at some point the first Man and Woman sinned against God.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  12. Guest

    Who the heck is Ave Maria University? Being from Florida, I had never heard of them. Quack School, google it... That discredits this Ohio University IMO cause I never heard of them either. Funny how Faux made a no name University front page news.

    May 16, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Larry of Nazareth

      Oh yeah, and now your going to tell us you have never heard of Our Lady Of The Voluminous Buttocks University either, right? Ignorant atheist scumbag!

      May 16, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
  13. Phil the Love

    I notice it states that only students will lose coverage. Not the employees. I guess they can use all the contraceptives they want. Now get to bangin'

    May 16, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • momoya

      What?!? So are you glad and proud that this school acted out of spite like a bratty 4 year old or what?

      May 17, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  14. Colin

    If I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me, I am:

    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;

    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly

    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or

    (d) your average Catholic.

    May 16, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  15. CRC

    Get obama out of our lives!

    May 16, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      more Obama please. woohoo! Obama 2012!!!

      May 16, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • Righteo

      Do tell me exactly how he has been in your life. What exactly is different about your particular life that is due to President Obama? Name the specific changes you personally have experienced.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Righteo

      Still waiting, CRC. How exactly has Obama you personally? Provide details.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
  16. Colin

    Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:

    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;

    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;

    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or

    (d) nothin more than their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.

    May 16, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Mayflower

      Bigotry and arrogance all rolled up into one self-righteous package. Your mother must be so proud!

      May 17, 2012 at 12:44 am |
  17. Wanderer

    Obama is going away in November, far, far away.

    May 16, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      don't bet on it. you're gonna cry yourself to sleep when Romney gets stomped.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
    • TRighteo

      Romney's already a zombie candidate. He's still walking around, but his candidacy is dead dead dead.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
  18. Jean

    So, the students would use contraception if it were available to them? Aren't these Catholic students who know that they are not supposed to use contraception. The only way to prevent them from using contraception is to make sure that they don't have access to it? Apparently, the students weren't listening during religious education. God giveth man free will...and the Church taketh away.

    May 16, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      christians can't trust their flock to be good christians. they have to remove the choice. lol, some convictions.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  19. Colin

    Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am

    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker

    (b) A mafia boss

    (c) A neighborhood drug pusher; or

    (d) A Catholic Priest.

    May 16, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
    • Bootyfunk


      great post. lol.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Fran

      Wow! That was clever and the TRUTH.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • MarylandBill

      They actually do pay taxes and most probably have contributed far more to society than you ever will.

      May 16, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Mayflower

      One of the 49%, and probably a Democrat. I just paid your water bill and rent. You should thank me.

      May 17, 2012 at 12:46 am |
  20. The Franciscan University for the Superobedient and the Ultraconformist

    We at Franciscan are proud, PROUD of our brainwa . . . uh, indoc . . . uh, education system to turn your children into CathBots! Amongst our outstanding programs are "removing all capability for independant thought," "advanced docility towards Catholic scandals," "absolute political obedience," "not minding when the Church does something horrific to your children" and of course, our famous "looking down on all non-Catholics as the doomed scumbellies that they are."

    When it comes to creating a Catholic intellectual elite, we at Franciscan pride ourselves on creating the cutting edge of the beach ball.

    May 16, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      Ouch! The truth hurts!

      May 16, 2012 at 10:19 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.