Religious exemption in health care reform?

Rebulding Begins In Missouri After Tornadoes

On Saturday I mentioned that, amid the health care debate, there had been next-to no coverage of Christian health plans in which members receive no guarantee that their medical bills will get paid but take on faith that co-members will divide their expenses, just as they do each month for other co-members. It's unclear if participants in this sharing plans will be exempted from the health care overhaul. And in the comments, MZ raised an interesting related question:

There might be a connection between the two stories -- the bill requires mandatory insurance coverage. And many religious groups -- including my own denomination not that long ago -- had religious objections to insurance. Is there a carve-out for them? Any other free exercise issues?

Haven't seen any coverage of that.

Well, here's some coverage. It comes not from The New York Times or Washington Post or any other media stalwart -- unless you consider the Goshen News among the leaders in American journalism. The story is, in fact, a bit dated -- try Aug. 29 -- but has been resurrected online because no other outlets have yet addressed this question. (This doesn't count.)

The Goshen News starts with a straightforward headline, "Health care reform and the Amish: What will it all mean?" and a lede that made me cringe:

With his long gray beard, plain clothes and lack of electricity, David Yoder of rural Middlebury hardly seems like someone who would know much about government issues.

But the rest of the article delivers, answering questions that other newspapers have left dangling out there. Turns out the House's bill had a religious conscience clause that may exempt most Amish families. But that may not extend to younger Amish who have yet to officially join the church and likely wouldn't exempt Amish-owned businesses.

Here's what Third District Congressman Mark Souder told the paper's Gary Kauffman:

Souder says there probably will be no compelling reason to give Amish business owners an exemption simply based on their faith.

"There probably will not be a way to exempt them any more than we can exempt Mennonites or others," he said.

Souder said the Amish, along with other conservative groups, like Orthodox Jews, have been a topic of discussion already.

"The fundamental question is, 'Is religious freedom trumped by a public health care program?'" he said. "There will be a religious liberty fight, but the Amish likely will be part of a bigger category than just themselves."

See, was that really so hard? Now if only someone would update this story with the specifics from the bill President Obama signed into law this week.

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