Catholic, Southern Baptist Religious Liberty Leaders Lead Open Letter Effort For Conscience Protection Given HHS Mandate

July 2, 2013 By Public Affairs Office

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 ofthe Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics "& Religious Liberty Commission, anda wide variety of over 100 prominent national religious leaders and scholarsreleased an open letter July 2 entitled StandingTogether for Religious Freedom. The letter calls on the Administration andCongress to respect conscience rights and religious freedom.

The open letter highlights thethreat to conscience posed by the Administration's mandate that almost allemployers cover contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs anddevices in their health insurance plans. As the signatories write, freedom ofreligion goes beyond mere freedom of worship and extends to believers' roles ascitizen and employer.

"The doctrines of our respectivefaiths require something of us beyond the walls of our churches, synagogues,temples, and other places of worship," the signers said. "Those faithconvictions manifest themselvesthroughour daily interactions among family, neighbors, strangers and institutions."

At a press conference at theNational Press Club in Washington to release the open letter, Archbishop Lori notedthe magnitude of church leaders' concerns.

"As the Catholic bishops have saidfrom the very beginning, the underlying issue with the HHS Mandate is not aboutany specific teaching. In fact, other signatories on the letter do not shareour view on contraception and probably disagree with us in many other ways, butthey understand the core religious freedom issue at stake here." Along withArchbishop Lori and Dr. Moore, speakers at the press conference included AnneHendershott, Ph.D., professor of sociology at Franciscan University ofSteubenville, Ohio, and Yuri Mantilla, Ph.D., chairman of the JusticeInitiative of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Signers of the open letter includeleaders from a broad spectrum of religious groups, including the Church ofJesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the International Society for KrishnaConsciousness, Orthodox Christian and Jewish leaders, as well as scholars andheads of faith-based institutions and civil rights organizations. The lettercalls on HHS to, "at a minimum, expand conscience protections under the mandateto cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objectionsto covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services."The letter also asks Congress to consider howit can act to prevent offenses to religious freedom.

Thefull 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.

Speaker bios.

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Keywords: Archbishop William Lori, Dr.Russell Moore, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, bishops, religiousliberty, religious freedom, HHS mandate, Standing Together for ReligiousFreedom, Anne Hendershott, Yuri Mantilla

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