WASHINGTON, DC, September 29, 2011 ( – A letter signed by 18 Catholic Colleges and Universities was sent to the Department of Health and Human Services today objecting to the Obama Administration’s health care mandate requiring employers to cover sterilization, contraception, and abortificients.

The letter was organized by The Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education (CACHE), a division of The Cardinal Newman Society, and authored by attorneys at the Alliance Defense Fund. It appeals to the Administration to rewrite the mandate’s religious exemption, arguing that the exemption is so narrow that it could be construed to exclude Catholic institutions of higher education.

As it is currently written, the mandate allows the Health Resources and Services Administration to exempt an employer which it considers to meet the definition of a “religious entity.”

“Any religious entity’s hope for an exemption appears to be subject to the whim of HRSA bureaucrats,” the letter notes. “This is certainly not reassuring to Catholic colleges and universities, especially based on suggestions made in the interim final rule’s own summary.”

The letter also points out that the mandate’s definition of a “religious employer” is inherently narrow, stipulating that the entity must primarily hire and primarily serve persons who “share the organization’s religious tenets.”

“Jesus Christ himself would fail this test, since He did not choose to heal or offer forgiveness only to existing Christians,” the letter observes.

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Msgr. Stuart Swetland, Executive Director of CACHE and Vice President for Mission at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, accused the Obama Administration of attempting to force Catholic institutions to abandon their ethical beliefs.

“The lack of respect for the beliefs of Catholic persons and institutions (and other men and women of good will) is startling and unprecedented in modern federal regulations,” Swetland said.

“Catholic institutions will not compromise on the question of the immorality of contraception and sterilization or the grave injustice of abortion,” he added.

The institutions that signed the letter were: Aquinas College (Tenn.), Ave Maria University (Fla.), Benedictine College (Kans.), Catholic Distance University, Christendom College (Va.), College of Saint Mary Magdalen (N.H.), College of Saint Thomas More (Tex.), DeSales University (Pa.), Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), Holy Apostles College & Seminary (Conn.), John Paul the Great Catholic University (Cal.), Mount St. Mary’s University (Md.), Saint Gregory’s University (Okla.), Thomas Aquinas College (Cal.), Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (N.H.), University of Mary (N.D.), University of Saint Thomas (Tex.) and Wyoming Catholic College (Wyo.).

Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Curry of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, chairman of the Committee for Catholic Education at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also signed in his individual capacity.

Additional signatories included the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education of the Cardinal Newman Society and the Society of Catholic Social Scientists.