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U.S. Offers Religious Colleges New Accommodation on Contraceptive Insurance

The Obama administration on Friday offered a new accommodation to nonprofit religious organizations, including colleges affiliated with faith groups, that object to providing contraceptive coverage as required by the administration’s health-care law, Politico reported.

The administration has sought several times to ease the objections of organizations that, for religious reasons, oppose  providing coverage for contraceptives. But so far those accommodations have failed to satisfy religious colleges, several of whom have sued the administration over the rules.

Under the previous rules, faith-based nonprofit organizations could fill out a form notifying their insurers of their objections and allowing them to transfer the cost of paying for birth control to those insurers or third parties. But some groups had objected to filling out that document, saying that doing so forced them to violate their religious beliefs.

In July the Supreme Court granted Wheaton College in Illinois a temporary injunction stating that it did not have to fill out the contested form and saying that it could instead notify the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of its objection.

The new accommodation, released on Friday, similarly gives religious nonprofit groups the option of notifying the department that they object to providing contraception coverage. The government will then tell the groups’ insurers that they are responsible for providing the coverage at no cost to the group or its employees.

“Under pressure from hundreds of lawsuits, the government continues to retreat,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing Wheaton in its lawsuit, in a written statement. “After three losses in the Supreme Court and dozens of losses in courts below, the government continues to confuse the issues. The government issued over 70 pages of regulations, when all it needed to do was read the First Amendment.  We’ll be reviewing this latest attempt with each of our clients.”

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