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WASHINGTON—Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Russell D. Moore, Ph.D., president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and a wide variety of over 100 prominent national religious leaders and scholars released an open letter July 2 entitled Standing Together for Religious Freedom. The letter calls on the Administration and Congress to respect conscience rights and religious freedom.
The open letter highlights the threat to conscience posed by the Administration's mandate that almost all employers cover contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs and devices in their health insurance plans. As the signatories write, freedom of religion goes beyond mere freedom of worship and extends to believers' roles as citizen and employer.
"The doctrines of our respective faiths require something of us beyond the walls of our churches, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship," the signers said. "Those faith convictions manifest themselvesthrough our daily interactions among family, neighbors, strangers and institutions."
At a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington to release the open letter, Archbishop Lori noted the magnitude of church leaders' concerns.
"As the Catholic bishops have said from the very beginning, the underlying issue with the HHS Mandate is not about any specific teaching. In fact, other signatories on the letter do not share our view on contraception and probably disagree with us in many other ways, but they understand the core religious freedom issue at stake here." Along with Archbishop Lori and Dr. Moore, speakers at the press conference included Anne Hendershott, Ph.D., professor of sociology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and Yuri Mantilla, Ph.D., chairman of the Justice Initiative of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
Signers of the open letter include leaders from a broad spectrum of religious groups, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Orthodox Christian and Jewish leaders, as well as scholars and heads of faith-based institutions and civil rights organizations. The letter calls on HHS to, "at a minimum, expand conscience protections under the mandate to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services."The letter also asks Congress to consider how it can act to prevent offenses to religious freedom.
The full letter is available online: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/standing-together-for-religious-freedom.pdf
Speaker statements from July 2 media conference.
Keywords: Archbishop William Lori, Dr. Russell Moore, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, bishops, religious liberty, religious freedom, HHS mandate, Standing Together for Religious Freedom, Anne Hendershott, Yuri Mantilla
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