The Edmond Sun

March 26, 2013

AG seeks broader religious exceptions

Special to The Sun

EDMOND — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt joined attorneys generals from 12 other states Tuesday in asking the federal government to expand religious exemptions regarding contraceptives.

On Tuesday, the AGs sent a signed letter asking U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to adopt broader religious exceptions to the agency’s mandate requiring businesses and nonprofit organizations buy insurance for contraception and related services.

In order to implement the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the federal agency mandated last year that all employers and insurance companies — including those with religious and conscience-based objections — must provide coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures including the “morning-after pill” and the “week-after pill.”

The letter is a public comment on proposed regulations to address faith and conscience-based objections that were raised regarding the original mandate.

It identifies several problems with the proposed regulations under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires “strict scrutiny” of all actions of the federal government that burden the exercise of religion. The regulations give only some nonprofit religious organizations an exception to the mandate, even though there is no compelling reason to treat religious organizations differently.

Lastly, the regulations provide no exception to the mandate for for-profit business owners who object on conscience grounds.

Oklahoma and attorneys general from the following states signed the letter: Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.