Reaction to the State of California’s Violation of Religious Liberty

Recently, the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC), under the direction of Governor Jerry Brown, and in response to pressure from abortion advocacy groups, reinterpreted California law by directing commercial health insurers to cover abortion for any reason, including purely ‘elective’ abortion. The result of this directive is to require Catholic institutions like LMU to provide abortion coverage to their employees.  This intrusive government action violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law protecting the religious freedom of LMU students, parents, faculty, and staff morally opposed to funding the destruction of innocent human life.  

In response, noting that the DMHC directive was targeted at institutions like LMU, the California Catholic Conference (representing California’s Bishops) called the action “coercive and discriminatory,” and filed a federal complaint  against the State of California in opposition to this government intrusion on religious liberties. RenewLMU commends the California Bishops for their unequivocal statement and their decisive action to protect the Catholic character of LMU.

When the LMU Board of Trustees considered whether or not to cover abortion in LMU’s employee health plans last Fall, Fr. Robert Caro, S.J., LMU’s Vice-President for Mission and Ministry, in a letter to the Loyolan, stated that the Jesuits affirm the moral teaching of the Church.  Quoting Saint John Paul II, Fr. Caro said, “’the right to life is ‘the most basic and fundamental right and condition of other personal rights.’ ”  Further, citing Pope Francis, Fr. Caro went on to call abortion a particularly “egregious evil,” saying that “exclusion of abortion from our medical benefits…is the position which LMU’s institutional commitment to Roman Catholicism urges us to respect.” [emphasis added] 

RenewLMU calls on President Burcham and the LMU Board of Trustees to put into action the principles articulated by Fr. Caro and the Jesuit order, and explore alternatives at LMU’s disposal, including:

1.  Joining in the federal complaint filed by the California Bishops; and

2.  Establishing, or participating in, a morally sound self-insurance health plan not governed by the California Department of Managed Health Care.

It is our hope that LMU will take action in defense of innocent human life consistent with its institutional commitment to Roman Catholicism.

5 thoughts on “Reaction to the State of California’s Violation of Religious Liberty

  1. A Catholic institution should BE Catholuc and stand up for what is right. A Catholic university should abide by the teachings of the Church.

  2. Glad to hear that the Bishops have realized how close we were to losing the Catholic identity of the only Jesuit founded University in Southern California.
    Now,another Novena to find a committed Catholic to replace President Burcham.

  3. Dear President Burcham,

    I am an alumni of LMU. I received my Bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1984. I later went on to receive my Master’s degree in Social Work at Loyola University Chicago, another fine Jesuit University, or so I thought.

    I am angered by your decision to provide insurance coverage for abortions. It is antithetical to Church teaching and therefore negates the Catholic identity you promote, when it is convenient and profitable.

    In 1984 I was not a Catholic. I was raised in a non-religious Jewish household and felt drawn to the spirituality of Loyola. I took Old Testament courses to satisfy my religion requirement and loved being in an God-centered environment.

    It was 10 years later (exactly) that I completed the RCIA process and entered the Catholic Church receiving the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.

    As I look back, I see that God used my experience at LMU as the seed. I am so grateful for that time in my life and the solid Catholic education I received there and at Loyola University Chicago.

    Your decision to acquiesce to popular culture and fund abortions on demand, has shamed the university’s history and doomed its future. You must remove any references to being a Catholic institution of learning.

    Else, I implore you to reconsider and beg forgiveness from your staff, Board of Directors and students. You were given a mighty responsibility and you have taken the easy way out. You may want to ask of God’s help and spend some time in your beautiful Sacred Heart chapel.

    If you put him first, he will never leave you.


    Pam B
    San Diego, CA

    ———————————– The response I received: ———————————–

    Dear Pam,

    Thank you for contacting us. By way of response to your e-mail, some background is necessary.

    In 2013, LMU’s two health insurance carriers informed us that they could offer group health insurance plans that excluded coverage for elective abortions. LMU’s Board of Trustees, in keeping with Catholic principles, made the decision that the University would purchase the plans that excluded coverage for elective abortions in its sponsored health insurance plans. Employees seeking elective abortion coverage would have to buy it separately under a third party administered plan.

    Since then, the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) has reconsidered its approval of health plans that excluded elective abortion coverage. In August 2014, the DMHC informed all health insurers offering plans in California, including LMU’s two insurance carriers, that they can no longer offer health insurance plans in California that exclude coverage for elective abortions and directed them to cease enforcing any such exclusions.

    Several organizations, most recently the California Catholic Conference, have chosen to challenge this decision by the DMHC by filing administrative complaints with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services contending that the DMHC directive violates federal funding regulations.

    LMU’s insurers have informed LMU that they must follow the law and until further notice from the DMHC will comply with its August 2014 directive.

    Again, thank you for reaching out to us.

    Lisa Piumetti Farlan
    Executive Director, Alumni Relations and Annual Giving
    Loyola Marymount University

    ——————————————- My answer: ——————————————-

    Dear Ms. Farland,

    Thank you for your cordial response, although I am disappointed that your Alumni Relations and Annual Giving office was chosen as a buffer for your President’s office.

    I well understand the legal complexity that surrounds the mandate of insurance coverage for elective abortions. My disappointment is LMU’s capitulation without resolve to fight for what is true and morally right. Has LMU done EVERYTHING within its power to convert people’s hearts? What can LMU do in the meantime while the administrative complaints are being filed with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services?

    I have a few suggestions for President Burcham to consider:

    1) Invite Pro Life groups to speak on campus to raise awareness and refute the lies of groups such as Planned Parenthood.

    2) Invite the members of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) to pray fervently for the resolution of this grave situation and for the future of Catholic education.

    3) Enlist Loyola Law School students, faculty, administration and alumni to collaborate and develop legal strategies to fight the abortion mandate.

    4) Institute a weekly Rosary for Life prayer vigil in the Sunken Garden for students, faculty and staff. Attend it setting an example for all to see.

    President Burcham has a great opportunity from now until May 2015, to leave a lasting legacy, a legacy to which he can be truly proud. Not simply raising money, for even a crooked politician can raise millions of dollars. Rather, to stand firm on the foundations of the faith he was commissioned to defend.

    I implore you to send my email to President Burcham. It is a matter of life and death for all those innocent children, and certain psychological death for the parents who abort them.


    Pam B
    San Diego, CA

    • Way to go Pam! Your steadfastness is spot on. This issue must be a Catholic non-negotiable. Babies are being slaughtered everyday in California abortion facilities, so we and LMU must be steadfast in bold opposition to the DMHC directive, and not be a party to the killing of innocent life. In today’s first reading St. Paul urges us to stand firm in the freedom that Christ won for us — a freedom for excellence, not for indifference. “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Gal: 5:1) St. Augustine of Hippo offers a clear teaching for our prayerful reflection: “Right is right even if no one is doing it, wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”

  4. This coercion cannot stand! LMU must act in accord with the California bishops to defend the dignity of innocent human life.

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