Bishops Urge Congress To Act On Religious Liberty Crisis In Health Care Before Year’s End

August 3, 2012 By Public Affairs Office
Cardinal DiNardo highlightsproblems for religious institutions, individualsSees Administration policy’sapproach to religious freedom most grudging, arbitrary everCongressional action defendingreligious freedom long overdue

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel DiNardo,chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called on Congressto address the crisis in health care sparked by the Obama administration’scontraceptive/sterilization coverage mandate in an August 3 letter to membersof the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Themandate, which was announced a year ago by the U.S. Department of Health andHuman Services, he said, “would forbid Americans to provide or purchase healthcoverage unless it includes female surgical sterilizations, all FDA-approvedprescription drugs and devices for preventing pregnancy – including drugs anddevices which can destroy a human life at its earliest stages – and ‘counselingand education’ to promote these to all women and girls of childbearing age.”

His lettercan be found at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Cardinal-DiNardo-s-August-2012-Letter-to-Congress-Regarding-Conscience-Protection.pdf.

CardinalDiNardo called the mandate “unprecedented and misguided federal policy.” Headded that “most of those who initiate or renew employee health plans as wellas student plans at educational institutions after August 1 must comply withthis mandate, notwithstanding their moral or religious objections, or droptheir health coverage altogether as some colleges have now begun to do.”

“For our part, theCatholic bishops of the United States continue to advocate for life-affirminghealth care for all, especially for poor and vulnerable people.We do not see this policy as a step in thatdirection,” he said“

Despitewidespread opposition to this coercive policy by religious organizations,lawmakers and the general public, Congress has still taken no action to counterit.The time for such action is, to saythe least, overdue,” he said.

“The fundamentalimportance of the religious freedom issue at stake demands a timelycongressional response,” he said. “Through this mandate, the Administration ispromoting an approach to religious freedom that is more grudging and arbitrarythan any yet seen in federal law.”

He added that aminority of religious employers – those which, among other things, engageprimarily in prayer and preaching – are said to be exempt from the mandate. “Bycontrast, religious organizations which live out their faith by reaching out toall in need with health care and other humanitarian services are deemed ‘notreligious enough’ for the exemption. Many, though not all, of these organizations will qualify for a one-yeardelay in enforcement, after which partial control of their health plans will behanded over by the government to others willing to implement the mandate.”

Cardinal DiNardo highlightedthe plight of employers who may have moral or religious objections to some orall of the mandated services, people who are “devout individuals and familieswho own and operate businesses, who without any word of protest from employeeshave been offering health coverage that does not violate their moralconvictions.” With the mandate “their longtime practice will be contrary tofederal law, punished by a tax of $100 a day per employee and other penalties,”he said. “In court, the Administration has insisted that these companies areentirely ‘secular’ with no claim on religious freedom.In effect, if an organization is ‘for profit,’it is not allowed to be ‘for’ anything else. The owners who have imbued their companies with faith-based commitmentsto employee well-being, community service and social responsibility stronglydisagree.And at a time of grave concernover business and banking scandals, does anyone think that rewarding businessesobsessed solely with company profits is sound government policy?”

Cardinal DiNardonoted several current lawsuits opposing the mandate brought by institutions andindividuals.

“Vindication ofthe fundamental rights of these individuals and organizations may take years oflitigation,” he said.

“The validity ofthe religious freedom claim against the contraceptive mandate is clearer thanever – even for those supposedly ‘secular’ companies whose rights arecompletely ignored under that mandate,” he said. “Yet timely and uniformprotection of these rights cannot be expected from the current lengthy judicialprocess.  Therefore the Catholic bishopsof the United States and many others fervently hope Congress will address thisurgent and fundamental issue before it completes its business this year.”---Keywords: Affordable Healthcare Act, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo,U.S. Bishops, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, religious freedom,religious liberty, freedom of conscience, Committee on Prolife, Activities,sterilization, contraception, abortion,##### 

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