C048 Integrity of Religious Exemptions in Medical Coverage

Many U.S. states across the Episcopal Church have enacted laws to mandate insurers cover a range of medical treatments, with exceptions for religious objection. A religious group may claim exemption from a mandate that contradicts or opposes the group’s core beliefs and practices. Simply being religious does not entitle a group to a religious exemption. Misuse of religious exemption provisions jeopardizes their integrity and perhaps their longevity and renders participants in the Medical Trust’s health plans complicit in that misuse. In the absence of genuine, documented religious objection, insurance coverages offered by the Medical Trust should conform to state laws.

One example of the issues giving rise to the Resolution concerns treatment for infertility. From its inception in 2009 through the end of 2014, the Episcopal Church Medical Trust’s Denominational Health Plan did not include coverage for the treatment of infertility. The Medical Trust claimed religious exemption. This claim was made despite the absence of any official objection to infertility treatment made by General Convention. In fact, the General Convention meeting in 1982 explicitly approved of in vitro fertilization, a now common form of infertility treatment. The Medical Trust made a false claim to religious objection and benefited from exercising the religious exemption from covering infertility treatment.