Decisions being made by officials at the Franciscan University of Steubenville regarding their stance on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act all boil down to a matter of faith.
The university earned national headlines last week when it was learned that it had decided it would no longer require undergraduate students to carry health insurance or offer a student health plan for purchase. While students were made aware of the decision in April, it was thrust into the forefront of the national health care debate as news organizations and Internet sites picked up on the story.
For the university, the decision was easy. Officials said they feel the health care mandate violates their religious conscience as a Catholic institution because it includes coverage for sterilization, contraception and abortion-causing medications. In addition, the mandates would have led to a significant increase in the cost of the insurance that students had the option to purchase.
As Michael Hernon, vice president of advancement, explained, the university is concerned that the federal government is forcing religious institutions to go against their religious beliefs. It's a position that the university has maintained since February when the Rev. Terrence Henry, TOR, the school's president, publicly stated that the institution would not comply with the law and would face whatever consequences that it had to face.
Rhetoric about the health care mandates has been intense since the reforms were made into law. One of the biggest questions is just where the line is to be drawn between government demands and religious and First Amendment protections. While those concerns have been the subject of many skirmishes during the last 235-plus years, they are today the stuff of a full-fledged battle being played out against the backdrop of presidential and congressional politics, with a much-anticipated Supreme Court decision that is expected to be handed down shortly thrown in for good measure.
The lines have been drawn between the left and right, conservatives and liberals and Republicans and Democrats, but university officials have shown they are not afraid to live by their principles. In a time when being politically correct and wishy-washy on major issues has become the rule and not the exception, those who run the Franciscan University of Steubenville have chosen to take a stand.
For them, it's simply a matter of faith.