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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - A draft of the Trump administration's new Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate has been made public. It would allow religious organizations to opt out of purchasing healthcare plans that provide contraceptive services.
The document, dated May 23, was leaked yesterday and is giving hope to religious organizations and small businesses that have been stung by the previous administration's attempts to force them to provide services inconsistent with their religious convictions.
However, over 70 groups, including Hobby Lobby and the Catholic religious order the Little Sisters of the Poor (Little Sisters), sued then-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Despite allowing a religious exemption for the Little Sisters, the Obama administration, however, was still forcing the organization to sign off on third-party coverage, which the Little Sisters still contend makes the group complicit in actions that violate Catholic Church teaching.
Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Sisters, commented, "All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion."
In May 2016, the Supreme Court stepped in and struck down lower court rulings, voting unanimously that the Little Sisters of the Poor and other defendants — including Priests for Life, the Archbishop of Washington and three Protestant organizations — are to be allowed to follow their religious convictions regarding the Affordable Care Act.
On May 4, President Trump invited representatives of the Little Sisters to the White House for the signing of an executive order on religious liberty where he declared, "We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore. And we will never, ever, stand for religious discrimination. Never, ever."
Although the White House has only called the document an "alleged draft," it is consistent with steps the Trump Administration has been taking to preserve religious liberties.