Recently, I contacted the sponsors and co-sponsors of some proposed legislation here in New Jersey to express my concerns about its negative impact upon the Catholic Church and other religious entities.  For many decades, the Catholic Church has been a strong advocate for comprehensive health care reform. That advocacy was captured in a letter that the U.S Catholic Bishops sent to members of Congress 10 years ago – in 2009:

“All people need, and should have access to, comprehensive, quality health care that they can afford, and it should not depend on their stage of life, where or whether they or their parents work, how much they earn, where they live, or where they were born…. health care reform should truly be universal and it should be genuinely affordable.”

Today, the Catholic Bishops of New Jersey continue to support affordable health care for all with special attention given to the poor and marginalized. The Catholic Church, however, a long-time voice calling for universal health care, would be punished by the State of New Jersey by legislation described as “intended to improve health care for citizenry.”

S3813/A5510 would amend the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and, therefore, is an “anti-discrimination” bill, not really a health care bill.  As such, S3813/A5510 appears to be a “backdoor” attempt to force religious organizations that provide and administer health insurance benefits to violate their deeply held religious beliefs. 

Additionally, S3813/A5510 redefines pregnancy to include termination of pregnancy.  How could ending a pregnancy be defined as pregnancy?  New Jersey law allows for abortion, and the State Fiscal Year 2020 Budget provides millions of dollars of State funding for Planned Parenthood, which is the major abortion provider in New Jersey and elsewhere.  Why is it deemed necessary to redefine pregnancy under amendments to the “Law Against Discrimination?”

 As written, S3813/A5510 has conflicting language because the current LAD provides religious employers with an exemption as to employment:

… it shall not be an unlawful employment practice for a club exclusively social or fraternal to use club membership as a uniform qualification for employment, or for a religious association or organization to utilize religious affiliation as a uniform qualification in the employment of clergy, religious teachers or other employees engaged in the religious activities of the association or organization, or in following the tenets of its religion in establishing and utilizing criteria for employment of an employee …

The proposed language in S3813/A5510 would eliminate any benefits that the existing LAD religious employer exemption provides.  Catholic entities would be required to include funding for abortions and gender modification therapies in their health care insurance programs. S3813/A5510 would, in fact, establish the State of New Jersey as the determiner of how and what Catholic entities in New Jersey believe and practice.  Whatever happened to the so-called “separation of Church and State?”

This proposed legislation is nothing more than another thinly veiled assault on religious freedom masquerading as “health care reform.”