WASHINGTON—Congress shouldincorporate two provisions that strengthen conscience protection in anyproposed funding bills in the weeks ahead, said Archbishop William Lori ofBaltimore in a February 15 letter to Congress. Both provisions were part of theHouse draft of the Labor/HHS appropriations bill.
Archbishop Lori, who chairs the AdHoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops(USCCB), wrote that he feared "the federal government's respect for believersand people of conscience no longer measures up to the treatment Americans havea right to expect from their elected representatives. The new approach eventhreatens to undermine access to quality health care, by telling providers aswell as those who offer or purchase insurance that they need to drop theirparticipation in the health care system if they want to preserve theirreligious and moral integrity. A restoration of full respect for one of ournation's founding values is urgently needed."
The first provision supported by USCCBwould extend longstanding federal policy on conscience to the new mandates forprivate health plans created by the Affordable Care Act. The other clarifiesnondiscrimination laws to improve protection of individuals and institutionsthat decline involvement in abortion, allowing them to seek vindication incourt.
Archbishop Lori wrote that theyperceive "a new, more grudging attitude in recent years toward citizens whosefaith or moral principles are not in accord with the views of the currentgoverning power. And while the mandate for coverage of abortion-causing drugs,contraceptives and sterilization is hailed by some as a victory for women'sfreedom, it permits no free choice by a female employee to decline suchcoverage for herself or her minor children, even if it violates her moral andreligious convictions."
Archbishop Lori said it wasdiscouraging to find this coercive element in the latest proposed rulemaking bythe Obama administration in response to widespread criticism of its originalmandate. He reiterated the hope of Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York,president of USCCB, who said that while the new proposal falls short of meetingthe bishops' concerns, the bishops remain committed to engaging with theadministration and all branches of government to address the issue.
Full text of the letter is availableonline: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Letter-from-Archbishop-Lori-to-Congress.pdf
Keywords: Archbishop William Lori, Baltimore, ReligiousLiberty, religious freedom, Catholic Church, U.S. bishops, USCCB, U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president, HHS mandate,abortion, conscience protection, appropriations, Congress, U.S. House ofRepresentatives, administration, engagement, Labor/HHS
# # # # #MEDIA CONTACT ONLY:Don ClemmerO: 202-541-3206Email
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