Chairmen Applaud New HHS Initiatives on Conscience and Religious Freedom

January 19, 2018 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON–Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan ofNew York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committeeon Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chair ofthe USCCB's Committee for Religious Liberty, offered the following jointstatement in response to the creation of a new Division on Conscience andReligious Freedom within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)Office for Civil Rights and other related administrative actions:

"We applaud HHS for its significantactions to protect conscience rights and religious freedom. For more thanforty years—dating back to the Church amendment of 1973—Congress has enactedfederal laws protecting rights of conscience in health care. We aregrateful that HHS is taking seriously its charge to protect these fundamentalcivil rights through formation of a new division dedicated to protectingconscience rights and religious freedom. For too long, we have seenmedical professionals, including pro-life nurses like Cathy DeCarlo, who havebeen coerced by their employers into participating in abortion. And wehave seen states like California, New York, and Oregon demand that evenreligious organizations cover elective abortions in their health plans. Theseviolations of federal law require a remedy from HHS. 

We are pleased to see HHS's proposedregulation to enforce civil rights laws to protect Americans involved inHHS-funded programs, and we look forward to filing more detailed publiccomments on this proposal.  We also appreciate the Administration's actionto rescind a 2016 guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Servicesthat required states to provide Medicaid funding to family planning providerslike Planned Parenthood that perform abortions.

Conscience protection should not besubject to political whims, however. Permanent legislative relief isessential. We urge Congress to pass the Conscience Protection Act inorder to give victims of discrimination the ability to defend their rights incourt. No one should be forced to violate their deeply held convictionsabout the sanctity of human life."

A list of current federal laws protectingconscience rights can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Federal-Conscience-Laws.pdf

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Keywords:Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, U.S. Conference of CatholicBishops, USCCB, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, conscience,religious freedom, religious liberty

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