Will Hundreds of Pastors and Leaders Face Jail Next Year?
AUGUST 6, 2012 10:06PM
By Raul Rivera
“I’d rather go to jail,” were the words of a very prominent pastor. He was talking about a new requirement of the Affordable Care Act that became mandatory for ministries that are not churches on August 1st. Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that ministries that provide their employees with healthcare coverage had until August 1st, 2012 to also add contraceptive coverage in their insurance plans. However, as part of the announcement, she also stated that ministries could get a 1-year exemption if they submit a written request based on religious reasons. The real problem comes with what happens after August 1st, 2013? The statement says they have “until August 1, 2013, to comply with the new law.”
The exacts of what the new law will require
The requirement comes from 42 USC 300gg-13(a)(4). It imposes penalties for non-compliance. The penalties are enforced by the IRS as found in sections 4980D and; 4980H and also by the Human Services Secretary as found in 29 USC 1132. Unless the courts declare this requirement to be an infringement of the first amendment guarantee of religious freedom, I see a serious confrontation between the church and the state. The law will require ministries to pay for coverage that includes contraception, including birth control pills, implants, and sterilization procedures.
What the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services intend to do
I am completely flabbergasted at our government’s complete lack of understanding of faith. Faith is not something you can set aside just because government threatens you. In fact, faith defines the very character and fabric of individuals. How can we be expected to set aside our faith and beliefs just because we are given one additional year? In a statement that woefully lacks sensitivity, Kathleen states that the extra “year will allow these organizations more time and flexibility to adapt to this new rule.” She then immediately follows by saying, “We intend to require employers that do not offer coverage of contraceptive services to provide notice to employees, which will also state that contraceptive services are available at sites such as community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support.”
Possible hope for a court victory
A Catholic family that owns a Colorado-based for profit business sued in federal court and argued that forcing them to provide insurance coverage for drugs that induce arbortions, sterilization and contraception violated their religious beliefs and First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. On July 27th, 2012 , District Court Judge John Kane issued a ruling in favor of the Catholic family. The ruling raises hope that the Supreme Court may act and declare this provision as unconstitutional because it overly entangles government in matters of faith. Additionally, Congress may act to remove this provision from the Act.
I’d rather go to Jail
Standing on Acts 5:29, Pastor Rick Warren bravely proclaimed, “I’d go to jail rather than cave in to a government mandate that violates what God commands us to do. Would you? . . .” In all the years that I have been in the ministry of church compliance this is the first time that a law has been passed that will require many Christians, under penalty of law, to engage in practices that violate their conscience and sincerely held beliefs.
Never in our history has the church faced government opposition like today! The law will force some to simply drop coverage and pay penalties each year, while for others, the law will force them to have to live in direct disobedience to the laws of the land which makes their future uncertain. Life in America is starting to look like the book of Acts.