New protections for religious liberty draw praised from experts.
Under the interim final rules released Friday, non-profits, small businesses, and even some publicly-traded companies can apply for a religious exemption to the mandate, if they establish that complying with the mandate would violate their religious beliefs.
The new rules “substantially expand the scope of that religious exemption,” Greg Baylor, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chair of the U.S. bishops’ religious liberty committee, said in a statement that the new rule “recognizes that the full range of faith-based and mission-driven organizations, as well as the people who run them, have deeply held religious and moral beliefs that the law must respect.”
The guidance also reiterates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in that it “does not permit the federal government to second-guess the reasonableness of religious beliefs,” Joshua Mercer, co-founder of CatholicVote.org, told CNA.
This is significant because certain Catholic colleges did not receive religious exemptions from the contraceptive mandate, Mercer said, yet the government should have honored their religious objections. “It’s up to our bishops to decide a university is sufficiently Catholic or not, not our federal government,” he said.