University continues opposition to health mandate

STEUBENVILLE – The president of Franciscan University of Steubenville remains opposed to the federal health care mandate and said the school will “continue our fight to live the faith we believe.”

The Rev. Terence Henry, TOR, made the comment Wednesday in a statement submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding the mandate, which requires health plans to cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures.

“As a faithfully Catholic university, Franciscan University cannot facilitate this mandated coverage without violating Catholic Church teaching on the sanctity of human life and the purpose of marriage. The Feb. 1 proposal would require Franciscan University’s simple act of contracting with an insurer to trigger automatic coverage for pills and procedures that we, as a Catholic university, find morally objectionable. Further, our employees cannot opt out of this automatic coverage, even when it deeply offends their religious beliefs,” wrote Henry.

“The proposed regulation will deny Franciscan University the freedom to exclude items that violate Church teaching and the consciences of our employees, the majority of whom choose to work at Franciscan specifically because of our faithfulness to the Catholic Church,” added Henry.

“Franciscan University asks that the Obama administration protect our rights of conscience and religious liberty as a Catholic institution-and, indeed, the rights of all Americans-instead of picking and choosing whose exercise of religion is protected and whose is not. We ask that it return to the long tradition in federal law of generous protection for moral or religious objectors, and restore our First Amendment right to religious liberty. If not, Franciscan University will have no choice but to continue our fight to live the faith we believe,” declared Henry.

“As a Catholic university, Franciscan University not only has a responsibility to teach what the church teaches about the dignity of human life and the right to life from conception to natural death, we must live out that teaching to the best of our ability. We cannot and will not allow the HHS mandate to compromise our witness and our Catholic educational mission.If the administration refuses to “restore our First Amendment right to religious liberty. Franciscan University will have no choice but to continue our fight to live the faith we believe,” stated Henry.

A federal judge ruled last week the federal government had sufficiently addressed the university’s concerns and dismissed a lawsuit filed last year by the school and other Catholic institutions.

“We will not stop fighting this unjust mandate, and we are in this for the long haul. We are very confident in the merits of our case, and we will continue to do everything in our power to protect our constitutional right to religious freedom.” said Henry in a prepared statement.

Henry also indicated the university will refile its lawsuit against the federal health care mandate at the appropriate time.

“Throughout our 65-year history, Franciscan University has educated people because we are Catholic, not because they are. And, again, because we are Catholic, Franciscan cannot provide coverage of drugs and procedures that violate Church teachings on the sanctity of life Under the HHS mandate and its narrow exemption, the government punishes us for reaching out to serve and employ those who do not share our faith,” Henry said in May 2012 when the university sought legal relief from the federal health care plan.

“Franciscan University’s mission is and always has been to teach from the heart of the Church. The Obama administration’s mandate is a grave threat to our ability to carry out that mission. It makes it impossible for us to operate freely as a Catholic institution without overbearing and invasive governmental interference,” he told reporters.

“Under no circumstances can Catholics be both in compliance with this new law and at the same time live the faith that we believe. Franciscan University will continue to stand with the Church in its opposition to this mandate. Our ancestors came to America because they knew that on these shores they would be free to faithfully live what they believed. This mandate is not only a grave infringement on religious liberty; it is a betrayal of those who sacrificed to make this country what it is today,” said Henry.

The university first signaled its public opposition to the Obama administration’s health care mandate in February 2012 when Henry said he was prepared to not comply with a federal mandate requiring employers to provide birth control measures as part of employee health care coverage.

“This is not just a Catholic issue. It is an issue for all people. It attacks our basic religious freedom. Some say we should lobby for an amendment. But that would be acknowledging the federal government has the power to decide our religious freedoms. This is a do or die issue for Americans,” proclaimed Henry.

“The Catholic Church has always been strongest when she is being persecuted. We must remain strong during this attack on the First Amendment and our religious freedom. We can’t compromise on life issues. It is important to to know this is not affecting just our religion. It harms all religions in our country where religious freedom is guaranteed by our Constitution,” Henry said last year.