Church leaders react to proposed birth control rule change

2:24 AM, Feb 2, 2013   |    comments
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For a year, the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville has fought to practice their religion not only inside the church walls, but outside too.

The diocese says their ministry extends past the cathedral to schools, hospitals, and charities.

"For us that's absolutely a part of who we are as a church," said Father David Boettner.

A fundamental principal of their beliefs is that contraception is immoral.

Friday, the Obama Administration announced they were broadening their definition of "house of worship" in the Affordable Care Act. The Health and Human Services proposal would allow church-related organizations to opt out of offering contraceptives in their health care plans.

That's something the church itself was already allowed to do.

Father Boettner says it could be a step in the right direction, but he still has concerns.

"It's at least an effort and we hope it's a sincere effort to move in that direction," Father Boettner.

But there's one group who feels left out of the compromise: individual business owners who have religious objections to the law.

Ben Johnston, owner of Marino Therapy Centers, he's forced to violate his conscience by offering his employees birth control coverage.

"I think I should have the right to exercise my conscience, the same as my employees do, and not have to pay for that," Johnston said.

More than forty organizations have sued the government asking for exemption.

"I'm not big enough to sue somebody. If I could join one perhaps I could participate that way, but I'm just left with the frustration that I have to deal with everyday," he said.

With parishioners struggling, Father Boettner says he can't be satisfied with the proposal.

"It still isn't complete," he said.

He said the diocese will continue to look into the proposal to see exactly how it will affect East Tennessee's organizations.

According to a Health and Human Services press release-- the new rules allow religious organizations to separate contraceptive coverage so that they do not have to pay for birth control but women can still have access to it through a third party.

These are proposed rules and have not gone into affect. They are open to public comment through April.


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