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DENVER (CBS4) – The president’s health care plan is a hot topic this campaign season. Now some Catholic schools worry they might have to close because of the fines that come with violating part of the law on religious grounds.
They were words that cast a pall on a bright new school year: “Unless the federal health care insurance requirements are changed, fines will force the closure of our school.” It’s a warning straight from the pen of St. Thomas More’s Rev. Andrew Kemberling.
“It would be crushing for the students. It would be crushing to my children, and I think it would be a real loss for the community as a whole,” St. Thomas More parent Nicolle Martin said.
The chancellor of the Archdiocese of Denver, James-Daniel Flynn, says parents don’t need to start brainstorming their educational options.
“We’re not anticipating closing any parish or school ministries in the Archdiocese of Denver,” Flynn said.
But he says the concern for other Catholic institutions across the country is real.
“There are so many Catholic institutions which don’t fit the religious employer exemption, and we’re just scared for what will happen when they’re forced to leave the scene,” Flynn said.
The issue is the contraception mandate in the new health care law. Employers that don’t comply could face fines of up to $100 per day for every employee. Chancellor Flynn says that leaves Catholic institutions with two choices.
“Either compromise their conscience and do something, which violates the fundamental tenets of our religion, or pay fees, which will range into the hundreds of thousands every year,” Flynn said.
He says schools in the Denver archdiocese will likely qualify for the religious exemption from the law because it is a predominately religious employer. But Martin says it’s the principle that troubles her.
“I find it breathtaking. I find it an unprecedented power grab by the federal government the likes of which our culture has never seen,” Martin said.
Local Democratic officials say they believe there’s a misunderstanding of the current law. They say “for religiously affiliated institutions like this one, the cost of covering contraception will shift to insurance companies at no additional charge to consumers. The best thing to do is to take a step back to understand how this new policy really works.”