Headlines about "Church-sponsored plans"

Gathered from the web by the editors at BenefitsLink.com.
Court Rejects Hospital's Church Plan Exemption, Allowing ERISA Lawsuit to Proceed
"This case presents a critical issue for church-affiliated organizations that, in reliance on the church plan exemption, have not designed or operated their pension or welfare plans in accordance with ERISA's trust, fiduciary, and other requirements. Rollins appeared to be an outlier in 2013, but this case suggests momentum may be building. Although both decisions are only at the trial court level, they are noteworthy for their narrow interpretation of the exemption, and because they cast doubt on the practice of relying on IRS determinations of church plan status." [Kaplan v. Saint Peter's Healthcare System, No. 13-2941 (D.N.J. Mar. 31, 2014)] (Thomson Reuters / EBIA)

Another Federal Judge Rejects 'Church Plan' Exemption for a Catholic-Affiliated Hospital
"[T]his decision ... has broad implications for employers who currently rely on the church plan exemption based on the entity's 'association' with a church. If these plans are not church plans, they will be subject to ERISA and face allegations of ERISA violations. With two district courts now rejecting application of the church plan exemption to non-profit hospital systems that are affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, we await decisions in the three other pending church plan cases." [Kaplan v. Saint Peter's Healthcare System, No. 13-2941 (D.N.J. Mar. 31, 2014)] (Alston & Bird, LLP)

Courts Question Law Leaving Pension Participants Ineligible for PBGC Protection
"New rulings against Catholic hospital chains on both coasts have intensified a faceoff between religiously affiliated employers and workers who are alarmed by the companies' efforts to avoid insuring or funding their pensions.... While the rulings hinge on a little-known bit of law, the debate over so-called 'church plans' could affect some of the nation's largest hospital networks and thousands of people counting on them for retirement benefits." (Associated Press)

[Opinion] Decision in Saint Peter's 'Church Plan' Case Is Victory for Workers and Retirees; Lawsuit Against Hospital Can Proceed
"This is a great victory for the 4,700 Saint Peter's employees and retirees, many of whom worked their entire careers counting on a federally guaranteed pension ... While there are still many steps to go in the legal process, the Saint Peter's decision makes plain that Congress only exempted plans established by churches from the law. This makes sense since only those plans are backed by churches." (Pension Rights Center)

Court Decides Pension Plan of St. Peter's Healthcare System is Not a 'Church' Plan
"Although both sides put forth multiple levels of arguments depending on how the court would rule (legal arguments, factual arguments, and constitutional arguments), the court started and stopped with the parties' legal arguments as to exact meaning of the definition of the church plan exemption found in ERISA.... In addressing the many contrary IRS rulings, including the one issued for the Saint Peter's plan, the court found that because the plain text of the statute is clear, it had no reason or need to defer to the opinion of the IRS.... The court further found in rejecting the IRS letter issued to the plan, 'the IRS private letter ruling is conclusory, lacking any statutory analysis, and cannot be used as precedent because the ruling was issued in a non-adversarial setting based on information supplied by SPHS.'" [Kaplan v. Saint Peter's Healthcare System, No. 1 3-2941 (D.N.J. Mar. 31, 2014)] (FRA PlanTools, LLC)

Judge Denies Request for Immediate Appeal in Church Plan Case
"The judge in Rollins v. Dignity Health has denied the hospital's request to immediately appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals the issue of whether the pension plan qualifies for the church plan exemption to ERISA ... It should mean that the case now moves forward with discovery (i.e. exchange of documents, depositions, etc...) barring any other procedural moves by the defendants." [Rollins v. Dignity Health, No. 13-cv-01450-TEH (N.D. Cal. Mar. 17, 2014)] (FRA PlanTools, LLC)

Federal Court Overturns IRS Determination of Church Plan Status
"For the time being, the Dignity Health decision is an outlier, running counter to more than 30 years of regulatory and judicial precedent.... The stakes are significant. The lawsuits demand that the plans be brought into compliance with ERISA. Among other things, doing so could require the plan sponsor to make additional contributions to comply with minimum funding standards (Dignity Health's pension is allegedly underfunded by $1.2 billion), pay significant penalties for failing to comply with ERISA's notice requirements and pay other fees." [Rollins v. Dignity Health, No. C13-1450 TEH (N.D. Cal. Dec. 12, 2013)] (Towers Watson)

[Opinion] The First Amendment and Parsonage Allowances: Why the District Court Is Wrong
"[T]he U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, in Freedom from Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Lew, held that Section 107(2) of the Internal Revenue Code violates the First Amendment. Code Section 107(2) excludes from gross income cash housing allowances furnished to 'minister[s] of the gospel.' ... For three, interrelated reasons, the District Court's opinion in FFRF is unpersuasive and should be reversed ... First ... Section 107 has secular purpose and secular effect.... Second, the District Court's FFRF opinion places too much weight on the U.S. Supreme Court's plurality opinion in Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock while giving short shrift to the Supreme Court's earlier opinion in Walz v. Tax Commission.... . Third, the District Court in FFRF accepts the premise of the Texas Monthly plurality that tax exemptions are always subsidies.... In constitutional terms, Section 107 is more convincingly perceived, not as a subsidy, but, per Walz, as managing the inevitable entanglement caused by taxation and as accommodating the autonomy of religious institutions and actors." (Prof. Edward Zelinsky, OUPblog)

Senate Passes Bipartisan Legislation to Enable Charities and Cooperatives to Avoid PPA Funding Restrictions
"The Cooperative and Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act of 2013 would ensure that charitable and cooperative associations are not swept into the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA) funding rules, which would require them to divert funds from critical services and jeopardize their ability to provide pension benefits to their workers." (Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, U.S. Senate)

[Opinion] Predicting the Future of Church Plan Litigation
"One can make the argument that [last month's decision by a federal district court denying a motion to dismiss a claim against Dignity Health, a Catholic-affiliated employer] is an outlier, that standing by itself it means nothing in the long run, and has meaning only to the resolution of the specific lawsuit and plan at issue. Past experience with excessive fee litigation, however, suggests to me that the decision is more likely to be the beginning of the end of broadly claiming church plan status for broad, otherwise secular business activities -- particularly in the medical area -- that have some linkage to religious organizations. History -- as well as logic -- suggests to me that, bit by bit, we will see plaintiffs' lawyers and court decisions chip away at the use of church plan status, leading to, eventually, a number of victories in this regard for the plaintiffs' bar." [Rollins v. Dignity Health, No. C13-1450 TEH (N.D. Cal. Dec. 12, 2013)] (Stephen Rosenberg of The McCormack Firm, LLC)

District Court Rules that Church Hospitals Cannot Establish Non-ERISA Church Plans
"[T]he risk has increased substantially that separately incorporated 501(c)(3) entities that are not actual churches (such as hospitals, schools, colleges, universities, nursing homes, thrift shops or other charities) cannot establish and maintain their own church plans (though they may be able to participate in denominational church plans). The decision's reasoning would not be limited to defined benefit pension plans -- it would apply to any pension or welfare plan. Because few plans that are church plans will have complied with ERISA and the Code in every respect, the potential taxes, interest and penalties resulting from a finding of non-compliance for any given church-related charitable organization could be staggering." (Groom Law Group)

[Opinion] District Court Rebukes IRS Church Plan Rulings
"In its motion to dismiss, Dignity relied heavily on four IRS private letter rulings. A predecessor, Catholic Hospitals Healthcare West, obtained the first. The IRS concluded the pension was a church plan from the get-go, a ruling whose validity the plaintiffs challenge... [District Judge Thelton E. Henderson] focused on the requirement that to be exempt, a pension plan must be 'established and maintained ... by a church' or by a church-associated organization created to administer a church pension plan.... That's exactly how the law should be read. It is a withering indictment of chief counsel for issuing private letter rulings that cannot possibly be in the interests of workers in ERISA plans." [Rollins v. Dignity Health, No. C13-1450 TEH (N.D. Cal. Dec. 12, 2013)] (David Cay Johnston for Tax Analysts)

Courts, Not IRS, May Determine Church Plan Status (PDF)
"The Rollins case reminds us that an IRS private letter ruling is only directed to the taxpayer who requested it and may not be used or cited as precedent, but also raises the question as to whether a private letter ruling is even worth the paper it is printed on if the ruling can be overturned by a court decision.... Until this issue is fully resolved, quite possibly in the Supreme Court, even employers who have received an IRS letter ruling run a real risk of losing their church plan status. The Rollins case may energize efforts by pension advocates to reverse other church plan exemptions they believe were granted improperly by the IRS over the past three decades." [Rollins v. Dignity Health, No. C13-1450 TEH (N.D. Cal. Dec. 12, 2013)] (Buck Consultants)

Federal Court Ruling Is Unfavorable for Church Pension Plan Sponsors
"In denying Dignity Health's motion to dismiss, the court rejected the 'committee' model for church plan sponsorship, which is relied upon by a number of tax-exempt organizations such as hospitals and universities that are affiliated with churches. The court agreed with the plaintiff's contention that while a church-affiliated entity may 'maintain' an ERISA-exempt church plan, only plans established directly by a church or convention of churches qualify as church plans." [Rollins v. Dignity Health, No. C13-1450 TEH (N.D. Cal. Dec. 12, 2013)] (DrinkerBiddle)

District Court Finds Plan Sponsored by Catholic Hospital Is Not a Church Plan
"The Court 'decline[d] to defer to the IRS's interpretation of the ERISA statute' because the IRS's private letter rulings 'are not entitled to judicial deference.' The result is that 30 years of IRS interpretation is ignored and the Court started from square 1 in interpreting the statute. Second, the Court acknowledged that the position it takes runs contrary to several other courts, however, the Court stated quite explicitly, with specific arguments, why those other decisions were wrong."[Rollins v. Dignity Health, No. C13-1450 TEH (N.D. Cal. Dec. 12, 2013)] (FRA PlanTools, LLC)

An Update on Church Plan Litigation
"At this point, motions to dismiss by the different defendants have been fully briefed in four cases and oral arguments have been held in [two] of those. None [has] yet been ruled on, however, in [one] case ... the court turned the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment, and discovery has begun." [Article includes links to all relevant filings in each of the five cases discussed.] (FRA PlanTools, LLC)

CBO Cost Estimate for S. 1302, Cooperative and Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act
"S. 1302 would ... alter the funding requirements of certain private pension plans that are maintained by more than one employer where the employers are either cooperatives or charities. CBO estimates that enacting S. 1302 would increase offsetting receipts (which are recorded as an offset to direct spending) by $33 million over the 2014-2023 period. [JCT] estimates that enacting the bill would increase revenues by $145 million over the 2014-2023 period. In total, CBO and JCT estimate that enacting S. 1302 would reduce deficits by $178 million over the 2014-2023 period." (Congressional Budget Office)

[Opinion] Law Shields Churches, Leaves Pensions Unprotected
"Because of a legal loophole, there are actually parallel pension systems. One comes with safeguards. The other, while it may be backed by good faith and honorable intentions, has no safety net. Congress set it up that way by crafting an exemption in benefits law to protect churches from government interference in their finances. But the exemption applies to religiously affiliated employers like hospitals and service agencies, including some that have let pension funds dwindle." (Associated Press, via Miami Herald)

[Opinion] Memo from Pension Rights Center to Saint Peter's University Hospital Retirement Plan Participants About IRS Church Plan Ruling (PDF)
"Beyond the technicalities, the IRS's private letter ruling allows Saint Peter's to break the promise of guaranteed pensions that it repeatedly made to you throughout your work lives. As far as we are able to tell, the only reason for the ruling is that IRS officials do not want to admit that the agency has been misreading the law for many years.... [A] Saint Peter's retiree has filed a lawsuit in the New Jersey federal district court. The correctness of the IRS ruling, as well as other issues, will be addressed in that proceeding." (Pension Rights Center)

Saint Peter's University Hospital Retirees Concerned with IRS Ruling on Pensions
"The pension plan had assured the participants for more than three decades that their pensions were federally insured, retirees said. If allowed to stand, the ruling will mean that their pension no will longer be protected by [ERISA] or backed by the [PBGC]." (myCentralJersey.com)

Courts, Not IRS, May Be Ultimate Arbiter of Church Plan Exemption (PDF)
"Recent Internal Revenue Service rulings on the 'church plan' status of retirement plans sponsored by large hospital systems, including a ruling apparently received by the Saint Peter's Healthcare System Retirement Plan, indicate that the IRS is disinclined to modify its long-standing interpretation of [the] church plan exemption ... '[T]he real fight for those who believe the IRS has been getting this wrong for decades is going to be in the courts. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Supreme Court being the final arbiter,' [said one practitioner]." (Bloomberg BNA Pension & Benefits Reporter via Pension Rights Center)

[Opinion] Pension Rights Center Statement on Saint Peter's Healthcare System 'Church Plan' Ruling from the IRS
"We are deeply disappointed that the IRS appears to have issued a church plan ruling to Saint Peter's Healthcare System (formerly Saint Peter's University Hospital). The ruling is particularly disappointing since many Saint Peter's participants had filed comments documenting that their pension plan has been an ERISA plan since January 1, 1974, and had specifically requested the opportunity 'to participate in the decision-making procedure by making oral presentations' at an IRS meeting as contemplated by Revenue Procedure 2011-44. No meeting was ever held." (Pension Rights Center)

Harkin, Roberts Introduce Bipartisan Legislation in Senate to Liberalize Funding Rules for Charities and Cooperatives
"The Cooperative and Small Employer Charity [CSEC] Pension Flexibility Act of 2013 would ensure that charitable and cooperative associations are not swept into the Pension Protection Act of 2006 funding rules, which would require them to divert funds from critical services and jeopardize their ability to provide pension benefits to their workers.... CSEC plans would have the flexibility to opt into PPA in 2014 if they want, and importantly, the Act imposes additional transparency requirements on CSEC plans so that participants have access to accurate information. The Act also provides for a 'time out' from scheduled increases to PBGC premiums." (Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, U.S. Senate)

[Guidance Overview] IRS Issues Guidance on Vesting Standards to Be Followed by Governmental, Church Plans
"[An internal IRS] memorandum states that determination letters will not be issued unless governmental plans include vesting schedules at least as favorable as safe harbors set forth in the memorandum, which appear to be intended to preclude discrimination in favor of employees who are officers, shareholders, persons whose principal duties consist in supervising the work of other employees, or highly compensated employees. And while the memorandum was primarily directed toward governmental plans, it suggested that the same standards would apply to church plans." (Calhoun Law Group)

[Opinion] To Boldly Go Where No Class Action Plaintiff Has Gone Before: Church Plan Class Actions
"No matter what one thinks of class action plaintiffs' firms, the reality is that both the threat of breach of fiduciary duty class actions and the changes imposed by suits that are successful play a significant role in maintaining the standards and integrity of benefit and pension plans.... [T]hey are testing whether the controlling standards for church plans are correct, and giving the courts an opportunity to address this in detail. Eventually, these cases and this argument will almost certainly end up in the appeals courts, giving rise to a body of modern, well-developed authority on the issue. In the end, this can only benefit everyone." (Stephen Rosenberg of The McCormack Firm, LLC)

Multiple Class Action Complaints Challenge Church Plan Status of Hospital Pension Plans
"At least five complaints have now been filed ... challenging the 'church plan' status of certain pension plans maintained by church-sponsored hospital systems.... According to the complaints, certain of the targeted plans are notably underfunded when compared to the funding that would be required for nonchurch pension plans subject to ERISA. The imposition of ERISA's funding requirements on pension plans having projected liabilities that greatly exceed assets would impose a significant financial hardship on the sponsors of those plans." (McDermott Will & Emery)

[Opinion] A Deed Well Done: Pensions Protected at Hospital in New Jersey
"Karen Ferguson, the [Pension Rights Center's] president and a Harvard-trained lawyer, contended that once a plan is an ERISA plan it cannot thereafter become a church plan. A few weeks ago, 10 years after the original opinion, the IRS rescinded its decision and the PBGC accepted the plan back under its protection. The reversal came just in time, because the plan was about to have run out of money and would have been unable to pay benefits to more than 800 participants." (Alicia H. Munnell on MarketWatch.com)

Senate Bill Would Clarify Tax Rules Applicable to Church Plans
"Bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate on May 14, 2013 would modify the tax rules applicable to church plans. S. 952 (The Church Plan Clarification Bill of 2013), introduced by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), would clarify a number of rules impacting church plans, including those governing controlled groups, grandfathered defined benefit plans, automatic enrollment, transfers between 403(b) plans and qualified church plans, and '81-100 trusts.'" (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business)

[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Private Letter Ruling 201322051: Plan for Employees of College Preparatory School Is Entitled to Church Plan Exemption (PDF)
"The governing body of School S is a Board of Trustees ... of which no less than one-third plus one shall be members of Society J, which is a religious order of men.... [T]he Board of Trustees has the authority to elect the President of School S by a two-thirds majority of the Board of Trustees and by a majority of the members of Society J then on the Board of Trustees ... School S is listed in Directory C and, consequently, is exempt from federal income taxes under Section 501 ... In view of the common religious bonds between School S and Society J, the inclusion of School S in Directory C, and the indirect control of School S by Society J through the Board of Trustees, we conclude that School S is associated with a church ... within the meaning of Section 414(e)(3)D of the Code[.]" (Internal Revenue Service)

Church Pension Plan Status Being Tested by IRS, Class-Action Lawsuits
"The IRS' long-term trend of allowing church-affiliated defined benefit pension plans to be exempt from federal pension rules could reverse course after an unusual decision by the agency and a flurry of lawsuits.... [Since] March ... five major class-action lawsuits were filed in separate jurisdictions against some of the biggest names in health care ... now operating their pension plans under church plan status." (Pensions & Investments)

DB Plan Participants Cheer After IRS Reverses Church Plan Status
"HCO went bankrupt and shut down a year after winning its 2003 'church-plan' exemption, leaving the pensions of Rich and more than 800 other former employees at risk. The IRS revoked HCO's church-plan status last month after a highly unusual collaboration between pension rights activists and Josh Gotbaum, director of the PBGC." (Reuters)

New Lawsuits Challenge Church Plan Exemption from ERISA Claimed by Catholic Hospitals
"Over the last 5 weeks ... individual lawsuits [have been filed] against four mega non-profit hospital conglomerates alleging that they are not entitled to the Church Plan exemption under ERISA. Each defendant is alleged to have violated the minimum funding, notice, plan document, trust, and fiduciary rules of ERISA in sponsoring their defined benefit pension plans.... In total, the plaintiffs allege at least $2.1+ billion in underfunding, plus unspecified other damages[.]" (Plan Tools, LLC)

Litigation Attacks on Church Plans: What Sponsoring Employers Need to Know Now
"[T]wo class action firms with ERISA class action experience filed lawsuits against three tax-exempt health care systems in Michigan, Pennsylvania and California. Each of those health care systems is affiliated with the Catholic Church. The lawsuits claim that these systems' pension plans -- which are operated as ERISA-exempt church plans -- are in fact subject to ERISA.... The suits also claim that the operation of the plans in question as church plans violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. These cases could have a profound effect on all church plan sponsors, regardless of whether they have previously obtained favorable church plan rulings from the IRS." (Drinker Biddle)

IRS Reversal on 'Church' Pension Plan Rescues a Fund
"[A]fter negotiations and an eight-year internal review, the IRS reversed a critical decision it made in 2003 ... to recognize the hospital's pension fund as a 'church plan' under law. That decision took away the former employees' government safety net because the Constitution's church-state separation was said to bar the federal pension insurance program from covering church pensions. Voiding the 2003 decision restored that safety net, something pension experts said they had never seen happen before." (The New York Times)

[Opinion] Government Agencies Restore Protections to Hospital Retirees' Pensions
"After a 10-year struggle, hundreds of former workers and retirees from the Hospital Center at Orange (HCO) once again have federal protections for their pensions. In an unprecedented move, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has reversed its 2003 decision to grant HCO's pension plan recognition as a 'church plan.' The IRS' action paves the way for the [PBGC] to restore insurance protections to the HCO plan." (Pension Rights Center)

Hedge Fund Firms Accepting Screens to Get Faith-Based Business
"Hedge fund managers hungry for institutional assets are increasingly willing to incorporate exclusionary screens into their investment approaches to keep portfolios in line with the socially responsible investment values of church-affiliated investors." (Pensions & Investments)

[Guidance Overview] Compliance Checklist 2012 for Non-ERISA Plans: Qualified Governmental and Nonelecting Church Plans, Non-ERISA 403(b) Plans, 457 Plans and Nonqualified Executive Benefit Plans (PDF)
Very nice 16-page chart. (Prudential)

[Guidance Overview] Drinker Biddle's ERISA Litigation Newsletter, April 2012 (PDF)
Articles include: Court Limits Hospital's Rights to Recover Through Assignment; Confidentiality Has Its Limits: The Fiduciary Exception to the Attorney-Client Privilege; and, The ERISA Church Plan Exception. (Drinker Biddle)

[Guidance Overview] Another Question is Answered in the Who's the Employer Q&A Column
I am a pastor of a church. Am I considered an employee of the church, or instead am I a self-employed independent contractor? (BenefitsLink.com)

ERISA Litigation Newsletter, March 26, 2012 (PDF)
In this issue: Court Limits Hospital"s Rights to Recover Through Assignment; Confidentiality Has Its Limits: The Fiduciary Exception to the Attorney-Client Privilege; and, The ERISA Church Plan Exception - The Courts Throw a Curve. (Drinker Biddle)

Erie's Saint Vincent Health Center Considers Pension-Plan Change
"Saint Vincent Health System, scrambling to reverse more than $23 million in losses since 2009, wants to save money by changing its employee pension plan. Hospital officials have asked the Internal Revenue Service to recognize Saint Vincent's pension plan as a 'church plan.' If the change were to be granted, Saint Vincent would not have to pay insurance on the plan or fund it to a specific level." (GoErie.com)

Recent DOL Initiatives: Questions Answered
"Last month, advisory board member Sherwin Kaplan and his colleague at Nixon Peabody, Eric Paley, conducted a webinar titled 'Managing and Protecting Your Employee Benefit Plans: New [DOL] Initiatives.' As part of that webinar, [they] took questions from the audience, but they were unable to get to every question in the time allocated[.] Sherwin ... agreed to answer outstanding questions[.] The following are questions submitted during the webinar, with Sherwin's answers.]" (Bloomberg BNA)

Setting the Record Straight on Saint Peter's University Hospital's Pension Plan
"Church plan status would wipe out all federal protections for the participants' pensions, including the all-important pension insurance protection provided by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Because the SPUH pension plan is only 63 percent funded, lack of insurance protection means that participants could lose their hard-earned benefits if the plan terminates without PBGC insurance." (Pension Rights Center)

Saint Peter's University Hospital Retirement Plan: Responses to Statements Made in February 24, 2012, Letter and Accompanying Q&A
"Statement: In [the February 24 letter it is stated] that Saint Peter's University Hospital 'will seek a refund of insurance premiums Saint Peter's has paid to the PBGC. Although not required to do so, Saint Peter's will invest any refunds received into your pension trust.'" (Pension Rights Center)

Saint Peter's University Hospital Retirement Plan: The Law and the Facts
"From 1974 until 2006, Saint Peter's University Hospital fully complied with ERISA, the federal private pension law. The plan was funded in accordance with the law, and the plan paid pension insurance premiums to the PBGC. In addition, the plan's own documents stated that the plan is an ERISA plan." (Pension Rights Center)

Avoid the Common Mistakes Affecting Plan Loans Webcast
Earn CE credit while ERISA expert, Charles Lockwood, JD, LLM, explains the administrative issues that affect plan loans. Have questions? Charles will address them either during or after the webcast. March 22nd at 2pm EST. (ASC)

[Official Guidance] Final Rules On Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Issuers Relating to Coverage of Preventive Services Under the Ppaca (PDF)
Published in the Federal Register, February 15, 2012. 'These regulations finalize, without change, interim final regulations authorizing the exemption of group health plans and group health insurance coverage sponsored by certain religious employers from having to cover certain preventive health services under provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." (U.S. Internal Revenue Service / U.S. Employee Benefits Security Administration / U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Loophole Puts Pension Plans at Risk: Jewish Groups Use Exemptions for Churches to Skirt Rules
"Jewish organizations, including federations and hospitals, have filed for the special 'church status' that strips workers and retirees of legal protections and allows groups to drop insurance that would cover shortfalls in their pension plans." (The Jewish Daily Forward)

Americans Weigh in on Contraception Rule
The target page provides links to [1] The Public Religion Research Institute's survey of public opinion on whether certain categories of religiously affiliated employers, such as Catholic hospitals or universities, should be required to include birth control in their health insurance coverage; and [2] Gallup's polls asking Americans their views on how President Barack Obama is handling health care policy. (Kaiser Health Reform)

Bishops Reject White House's New Plan on Contraception Coverage
"The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops -- which has led the opposition to the [Obama administration's contraception coverage mandate] -- said in a statement late Friday that the solution offered by the White House to quell a political furor was 'unacceptable and must be corrected' because it still infringed on the religious liberty and conscience of Catholics." (The New York Times; free registration required)

Many Catholic Institutions In New York State Already Covering Birth Control
"Many Catholic institutions in New York [State] -- and in more than two dozen other states -- already are complying with . . . state mandates [similar to the federal contracteptive mandate]. New York began requiring prescription contraception coverage in 2002 [for insurance-funded health plans], over the objections of Catholic groups, which sued and lost in the state's highest court." (BuffaloNews.com)

White House Compromise Still Guarantees Contraceptive Coverage for Women
"The compromise goes beyond similar accommodations in Hawaii and several other states, because in those states, insurers can charge an extra premium for the contraceptive coverage. Administration officials did not explain why the compromise was not incorporated earlier, despite the fact that it had been widely discussed as early as last fall." (The Washington Post; free registration required)

Obama Compromises Amid Catholic Contraception Coverage Anger
"Under the new plan put forward by the White House health insurance companies, rather than the employer, will be required to offer contraception directly to employees of religious-linked institutions if requested. The institutions -- such as universities or hospitals -- would not be required to subsidize the cost of offering birth control to their employees, nor would they be asked to refer them to organizations that provide it." (BBC News)

Obama Tweaks Birth Control Rule
"Obama announced that the rule would be tweaked, so in cases where non-profit religious organizations have objections, their insurance companies will be required to reach out to employees and offer the coverage directly." (USA TODAY)

Administration and Catholics Tangle Over Mandatory Contraception Coverage
The administration will not reconsider the decision, White House spokesman Jay Carney said yesterday, according to the Associated Press. (AP via Washington Post)

Domestic Policy Council Director's Statements on White House Blog About Contraceptive Mandate
"Over half of Americans already live in the 28 States that require insurance companies cover contraception: Several of these States like North Carolina, New York, and California have identical religious employer exemptions. Some States like Colorado, Georgia and Wisconsin have no exemption at all." (The White House Blog, written by Cecilia Mu?oz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council)

[Opinion] Protestants and Jews Declare to White House: We Stand With Catholics
"[M]ore than 40 non-Catholic religious organizations including Protestant-affiliated colleges, National Association of Evangelicals, Focus on the Family, Assemblies of God, Northwest Nazarene University, and Eastern Mennonite University, sent a letter to the White House demanding religious protection against the newly issued HHS contraceptive mandate." (Becket Fund)

Anger Brewing on the Left About Mandatory Contraceptive Coverage for Employees of Religious Employers
"Megan McArdle, senior editor of the Atlantic, wrote yesterday that it might be in Americans' interest to be more flexible with faith-based organizations because they provide such a depth of social services (publicly funded in many cases, of course) . . . ." (Washington Post)

[Opinion] Obamacare's Contraception Mandate Tramples on Religious Liberty
"Exemption of religious institutions from the Obamacare contraception mandate does not involve a clash of the constitutional rights of a religious employer with the constitutional rights of its employees regarding contraception (as enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965) or abortion (Roe v. Wade, 1973). Such an exemption in no way limits the freedom of employees of those religious institutions to obtain contraceptive services, to obtain insurance covering contraceptive services from a source other than their employer, or to seek employment with other than a religious employer." (The Heritage Foundation)

[Guidance Overview] Supreme Court Recognizes 'Ministerial Exception' to Federal, State Employment Laws
"A 'ministerial exception' shields religious organizations -- including hospitals, schools and corporations with religious affiliations -- from potential liability under state and federal employment laws, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled [in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC, decided January 11, 2012]." (Mercer Select)

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