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WASHINGTON– Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, has issued an initial response to the apparent draft interim final regulations that were recently leaked, pertaining to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requiring health insurance coverage of sterilization, contraception, and drugs and devices that may cause abortions:
"While they have yet to be formally issued and will require close study upon publication, the leaked regulations provide encouraging news. If issued, these regulations would appropriately broaden the existing exemption to a wider range of stakeholders with religious or moral objections to the mandated coverage—not just houses of worship. This not only would eliminate an unwarranted governmental division of our religious community 'between our houses of worship and our great ministries of service to our neighbors,' but would also lift the government-imposed burden on our ministries 'to violate their own teachings within their very own institutions.' United for Religious Freedom (2012).
Relief like this is years overdue and would be most welcomed. Regulations like these reflect common sense, and what had been the consistent practice of the federal government for decades to provide strong conscience protection in the area of health care. We look forward to the final version of the regulations with hope that they will remain strong. At that time, we will analyze those regulations more carefully and comment on them more formally. Throughout, our goal will remain to protect both the conscience of individuals and our mission of sharing the Gospel and serving the poor and vulnerable through our ministries."
This HHS mandate was first announced in 2011, triggering dozens of lawsuits, including by the Little Sisters of the Poor.
Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop William E. Lori, religious freedom, religious liberty, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS mandate, religious exemption, federal government, executive branch.
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