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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued a rule forcing nearly all private health plans to include coverage for all FDA-approved prescription contraceptive drugs and devices, as well as surgical sterilization. These are listed among "preventive services for women" that all health plans will have to cover without co-pays or other cost-sharing -- regardless of whether the insurer, the employer or other plan sponsor, or even the woman herself objects to such coverage. 

The exemption provided for "religious employers" is so narrow that it fails to cover the vast majority of faith-based organizations, including Catholic hospitals, universities, and service organizations that help millions every year.

The bishops are urging Catholics and others of good will to take action in defense of conscience rights & religious liberty.

North Dakota Bishops Call for Day of Prayer for Religious Freedom

North Dakota’s Catholic bishops invite Catholics
to pray and fast for religious freedom on March 30

March 29, 2012


Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fargo, and Most Rev. David D. Kagan, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Bismarck, have invited clergy, religious sisters and Catholics throughout North Dakota to join with them on Friday, March 30, in directing their Lenten prayers and fasting in a particular way towards the restoration of religious freedom. Their letter is posted in its entirety at www.fargodiocese.org, www.bismarckdiocese.com and www.ndcatholic.org/conscience.

“There are many ways that the Church can take action in this moment,” the bishops wrote. “In the life of Jesus Christ we see that the power of sound argument and protest pales in comparison to the power of spiritual sacrifice and prayer. The current situation of Catholics in America is the result of sin—thus, offering acts of self-denial, in union with Christ’s death on the cross, gives us freedom from that sin. We pray, fast and sacrifice because these actions inspire both the conversion of our own hearts and the conversion of others. It is the conversion of hearts, not force, argument or coercion, which will end the injustices against personal conscience that Catholics are facing today in our secular culture. Let us pray to Jesus, ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life,’ that the truth may awaken in the hearts and minds of all peoples in the United States.”

The bishops encouraged people to offer their Lenten penance on March 30 “for the restoration of religious liberty in America. Offer your fast for a conversion of the minds and hearts of every person in the United States of America. We know in faith that even the most hardened heart can be changed.”

In closing, the bishops noted, “Jesus Christ conquered death in humility, suffering and obedience. May we conquer injustice by striving to follow Jesus in the same way!”

At its March 13-14 meeting in Washington, D.C., the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called for a nationwide prayer campaign for the protection of religious freedom and conscience rights from several threats, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that forces employers, including religious employers, to include contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilizations in their health plans. More information can be found at
www.usccb.org/conscience or www.ndcatholic.org/conscience.



Joint letter from the North Dakota Catholic Bishops, Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila and Most Rev. David D. Kagan, encouraging prayer and fasting for religious freedom
March 29, 2012

Dear Fathers, Deacons, Religious and Laity,

We are writing to invite you to join with us this Friday in directing our Lenten fast in a particular way towards the restoration of freedom of conscience in health care. Many bishops in the United States are asking Catholics to fast for an end to religious persecution, on Friday, March 30.

There are many ways that the Church can take action in this moment. In the life of Jesus Christ we see that the power of sound argument and protest pales in comparison to the power of spiritual sacrifice and prayer. The current situation of Catholics in America is the result of sin—thus, offering acts of self-denial, in union with Christ’s death on the cross, gives us freedom from that sin. We pray, fast and sacrifice because these actions inspire both the conversion of our own hearts and the conversion of others. It is the conversion of hearts, not force, argument or coercion, which will end the injustices against personal conscience that Catholics are facing today in our secular culture. Let us pray to Jesus, “the Way, the Truth and the Life,” that the truth may awaken in the hearts and minds of all peoples in the United States.

Offer your Lenten penance that day for the restoration of religious liberty in America. Offer your fast for a conversion of the minds and hearts of every person in the United States of America. We know in faith that even the most hardened heart can be changed.

Jesus Christ conquered death in humility, suffering and obedience. May we conquer injustice by striving to follow Jesus in the same way!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila
Bishop of Fargo

Most Rev. David D. Kagan
Bishop of Bismarck



Bishops Calls for Prayer for Religious Freedom

The Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), at its March 13-14 meeting in Washington, called for a nationwide prayer campaign for protection of religious freedom and conscience rights from several threats, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that forces employers, including religious ones, to provide contraception/sterilization in their health plans.

“We call upon the Catholic faithful, and all people of faith, throughout our country to join us in prayer and penance for our leaders and for the restoration of our First Freedom—religious liberty—which is not only protected in the laws and customs of our great Nation, but rooted in the teachings of our great Tradition,” the bishops said in “United for Religious Freedom” a March 14 statement. “Prayer is the ultimate source of our strength—for without God, we can do nothing; but with God, all things are possible.”

To support the effort, the USCCB has posted prayer resources at
www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/resources-on-conscience-protection.cfm.

The heart of the campaign is a new “Prayer for Religious Liberty” prayer cards, in English and Spanish, and available electronically. They can be downloaded and printed locally. Bulk packages of prayer cards will soon be available. English-language prayer cards feature the image of Mary Immaculate; Spanish-language cards feature Our Lady of Guadalupe. They may be ordered at www.usccbpublishing.org and ready for shipping in April.

The full text of “United for Religious Freedom,” prayer campaign resources, and related information on religious liberty and conscience rights, are at:
www.usccb.org/conscience.
Download the prayer cards:
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This button takes you directly to the legislative action system of the U.S. Bishops (NCHLA.) If it does not work, use the more traditional contact methods.
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About that Latest "Accommodation"

Bishops Renew Call To Legislative Action On Religious Liberty
Regulatory changes limited and unclear
Rescission of mandate only complete solution
Continue urging passage of Respect for Rights of Conscience Act

WASHINGTON – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have issued the following statement:

The Catholic bishops have long supported access to life-affirming healthcare for all, and the conscience rights of everyone involved in the complex process of providing that healthcare. That is why we raised
two serious objections to the "preventive services" regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in August 2011.

First, we objected to the rule forcing private health plans — nationwide, by the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen—to cover sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion. All the other mandated "preventive services" prevent disease, and pregnancy is not a disease. Moreover, forcing plans to cover abortifacients violates existing federal conscience laws. Therefore, we called for the rescission of the mandate altogether.

Second, we explained that the mandate would impose a burden of unprecedented reach and severity on the consciences of those who consider such "services" immoral:insurers forced to write policies including this coverage; employers and schools forced to sponsor and subsidize the coverage; and individual employees and students forced to pay premiums for the coverage. We therefore urged HHS, if it insisted on keeping the mandate, to provide a conscience exemption for all of these stakeholders—not just the extremely small subset of "religious employers" that HHS proposed to exempt initially.

Today, the President has done two things.

First, he has decided to retain HHS's nationwide mandate of insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception, including some abortifacients. This is both unsupported in the law and remains a grave moral concern. We cannot fail to reiterate this, even as so many would focus exclusively on the question of religious liberty.

Second, the President has announced some changes in how that mandate will be administered, which is still unclear in its details. As far as we can tell at this point, the change appears to have the following basic contours:

·It would
still mandate that all insurers must include coverage for the objectionable services in all the policies they would write. At this point, it would appear that self-insuring religious employers, and religious insurance companies, are not exempt from this mandate.

·It would allow non-profit, religious employers to
declare that they do not offer such coverage. But the employee and insurer may separately agree to add that coverage. The employee would not have to pay any additional amount to obtain this coverage, and the coverage would be provided as a part of the employer's policy, not as a separate rider.

·Finally, we are told that the one-year extension on the effective date (from August 1, 2012 to August 1, 2013) is available to any non-profit religious employer who desires it, without any government application or approval process.

These changes require
careful moral analysis, and moreover, appear subject to some measure of change. But we note at the outset that the lack of clear protectionfor key stakeholders—for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals—is unacceptable and must be corrected. And in the case where the employee and insurer agree to add the objectionable coverage, that coverage is still provided as a part of the objecting employer's plan, financed in the same wayas the rest of the coverage offered by the objecting employer. This, too, raises serious moral concerns.

We just received information about this proposal for the first time this morning; we were not consulted in advance. Some information we have is in writing and some is oral. We will, of course, continue to press for the greatest conscience protection we can secure from the Executive Branch. But stepping away from the particulars, we note that today's proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.

We will therefore continue—with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency—our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government. For example, we renew our call on Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. And we renew our call to the Catholic faithful, and to all our fellow Americans, to join together in this effort to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.


Updated Bulletin Announcement: Legislation Still Needed!


President Obama’s February 10 offer of a limited and unclear compromise does not change the urgent need for legislation to correct such threats to religious liberty and conscience rights. The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act has been introduced in Congress (H.R. 1179, S. 1467) to ensure that those who participate in the health care system “retain the right to provide, purchase, or enroll in health coverage that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral convictions.” It is more important than ever that Members of Congress be urged to co-sponsor this measure – or thanked if they are already co-sponsoring the bill. For the list of current co-sponsors, please check H.R. 1179 and S. 1467 at: thomas.loc.gov.

Get the latest bulletin insert here.


Six MORE Things Everyone Should Know About the HHS Mandate (and the President's Latest Offer)


1.
The rule that created the uproar has not changed at all, but was finalized as is. Friday evening, after a day of touting meaningful changes in the mandate, HHS issued a regulation finalizing the rule first issued in August 2011, “without change.” So religious employers dedicated to serving people of other faiths are still not exempt as “religious employers.” Indeed, the rule describes them as “non-exempt.”

2.
The rule leaves open the possibility that even exempt “religious employers” will be forced to cover sterilization. In its August 2011 comments, USCCB warned that the narrow “religious employer” exemption appeared to provide no relief from the sterilization mandate—only the contraception mandate—and specifically sought clarification. (We also noted that a sterilization mandate exists in only one state, Vermont.) HHS provided no clarification, so the risk remains under the unchanged final rule.

3.
The new “accommodation” is not a current rule, but a promise that comes due beyond the point of public accountability. Also on Friday evening, HHS issued regulations describing the intention to develop more regulations that would apply the same mandate differently to “non-exempt, non-profit religious organizations”—the charities, schools, and hospitals that are still left out of the “religious employer” exemption. These policies will be developed over a one-year delay in enforcement, so if they turn out badly, their impact will not be felt until August 2013, well after the election.

4.
Even if the promises of “accommodation” are fulfilled entirely, religious charities, schools, and hospitals will still be forced to violate their beliefs. If an employee of these second-class-citizen religious institutions wants coverage of contraception or sterilization, the objecting employer is still forced to pay for it as a part of the employer’s insurance plan. There can be no additional cost to that employee, and the coverage is not a separate policy. By process of elimination, the funds to pay for that coverage must come from the premiums of the employer and fellow employees, even those who object in conscience.

5.
The “accommodation” does not even purport to help objecting insurers, for-profit religious employers, secular employers, or individuals. In its August 2011 comments, and many times since, USCCB identified all the stakeholders in the process whose religious freedom is threatened—all employers, insurers, and individuals, not just religious employers. Friday’s actions emphasize that all insurers, including self-insurers, must provide the coverage to any employee who wants it. In turn, all individuals who pay premiums have no escape from subsidizing that coverage. And only employers that are both non-profit and religious may qualify for the “accommodation.”

6.
Beware of claims, especially by partisans, that the bishops are partisan. The bishops and their staff read regulations before evaluating them. The bishops did not pick this fight in an election year—others did. Bishops form their positions based on principles—here, religious liberty for all, and the life and dignity of every human person—not polls, personalities, or political parties. Bishops are duty bound to proclaim these principles, in and out of season.

Source: Sister Mary Ann Walsh
http://usccbmedia.blogspot.com/2012/02/six-more-things-everyone-should-know.html
Local Responses to the "Accommodation"

Minot Daily News

President Barack Obama's attempt to dodge political flak over his administration's attack on religious freedom is nothing more than a shell game..

Christopher Dodson Letter to Grand Forks Herald

The truth is this: The mandate, even under the “compromise” recently offered by the president, is an unprecedented infringement upon religious liberty. Even the latest proposal still treats religious mission-based operations as not truly religious.

The irony is that many religions teach that faith means more than worshiping in churches, synagogues and mosques. It means feeding the poor, burying the dead, healing the sick, housing the homeless and caring for those in need.

But the federal government has now declared that the more you do that, the less religious you are in its eyes.

Wayne Stenehjem Joins State Attorneys General in Threat to Sue

Attorneys general from a dozen states say they intend to sue over the Obama administration's contraception mandate that requires many religious employers to violate the teachings of their faith.
Reactions to the "Accommodation"

WSJ Column

Birth-Control Mandate: Unconstitutional and Illegal

It violates the First Amendment and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Public Discourse

Contrary to what Obama supporters would have us believe, there’s no precedent for the HHS mandate.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney

Mr. President, you are trying to resolve the wrong problem. Your HHS new federal rule governing mandated health care services is not just about women's services and who pays for them.

Rather, the real question is what protections and guarantees are afforded Americans and our various institutions by the Constitution. Your ill-placed focus should be frightening to all Americans.

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik in Jewish Ideas Daily

Therefore, not only does the new regulation threaten religious liberty in the narrow sense, in requiring Catholic communities to violate their religious tenets, but also the administration impedes religious liberty by unilaterally redefining what it means to be religious.

The Jewish Daily

The Obama Administration has held – and continues to hold – that if a religious institution wants to serve the community as a whole and employ people who do not subscribe to their faith, what they do is functionally not a religious mission at all, but a public one. In other words, you can practice your faith when it applies only to you. When it applies to other people, you can’t. Given the special freedoms from state oversight and control accorded to religion under the laws of our Constitution – freedoms which have served the Jewish people particularly well – this is a significant assertion.

Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter

The initial rule defined religious institutions in such a way that religion was considered something we do on Sunday and only amongst ourselves. This was the most insidious part of the initial decision and, sadly, the “accommodation” announced Friday does not alter that language at all. The bishops – and the rest of us – are correct to look for a legislative or judicial remedy.

Harvard Economics Professor Greg Mankiw

Consider these two policies:

A. An employer is required to provide its employees health insurance that covers birth control.

B. An employer is required to provide its employees health insurance. The health insurance company is required to cover birth control.

I can understand someone endorsing both A and B, and I can understand someone rejecting both A and B. But I cannot understand someone rejecting A and embracing B, because they are effectively the same policy. Ultimately, all insurance costs are passed on to the purchaser, so I cannot see how policy B is different in any way from policy A, other than using slightly different words to describe it.

Yet it seems that the White House yesterday switched from A to B, and that change is being viewed by some as a significant accommodation to those who objected to policy A. The whole thing leaves me scratching my head.

Rick Garnett in USA Today

This requirement is bad policy, and it imposes a serious and unnecessary burden on these institutions' religious commitments, witness, and mission. And the "compromise" that the president announced last Friday did not and will not cure these defects

Catholic Charities USA

In response to a great number of mischaracterizations in the media, Catholic Charities USA wants to make two things very clear:

1. We have not endorsed the accommodation to the HHS mandate that was announced by the Administration last Friday.

2. We unequivocally share the goal of the US Catholic bishops to uphold religious liberty and will continue to work with the USCCB towards that goal.

Any representation to the contrary is false.

300 Scholars and Civil Leaders

This so-called “accommodation” changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy. It is certainly no compromise.

The reason for the original bipartisan uproar was the administration’s insistence that religious employers, be they institutions or individuals, provide insurance that covered services they regard as gravely immoral and unjust.

Under the new rule, the government
still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services.

Reactions to the Original Rule

Since the final rule actually published has not changed, these reactions are still relevant.

Bishop Aquila Responds

I call on every priest and deacon in the Diocese of Fargo to encourage the faithful to join me and the Bishops of the United States in speaking out on this violation of religious freedom and conscience. Every Catholic has the responsibility to promote the dignity of human life and religious freedom.

Fargo Communications Story

FARGO – Local Catholic leaders joined a nationwide pushback against a new federal health care mandate this weekend, claiming that forcing insurance plans to cover birth control
violates their religious freedom

Senator John Hoeven in Grand Forks Herald

The public outcry in response has been resounding and justified — and not only people of faith, but even those who do not hold these moral positions have expressed grave concern over the administration’s disregard for religious liberty and issues of conscience.

North Dakota Leaders Respond

We, the undersigned, strongly support access to life-­affirming health care for all, and the ability of secular and religious groups and individuals to provide and receive such care. That is why we have raised objections to a rule issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services forcing almost all private health plans to cover sterilization procedures and contraceptive drugs, including drugs that may cause an early abortion.

Christopher Dodson Letter to Grand Forks Herald

The truth is this: The mandate, even under the “compromise” recently offered by the president, is an unprecedented infringement upon religious liberty. Even the latest proposal still treats religious mission-based operations as not truly religious.

The irony is that many religions teach that faith means more than worshiping in churches, synagogues and mosques. It means feeding the poor, burying the dead, healing the sick, housing the homeless and caring for those in need.

But the federal government has now declared that the more you do that, the less religious you are in its eyes.

Bishop Kagan Responds

We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom.

Christopher Dodson Letter to Forum

It is the height of arrogance for the government to dictate what is and what is not “religious” and then force church bodies to buy something that violates their religious tenets.  

Like the federal officials behind the new mandate, Ahlin has the audacity to declare that religious providers of social services are engaged in a mere “business,” not a religious activity.

Over 400 Catholic leaders are calling on Congress and the Administration to protect conscience rights in health care. The open letter appeared as a full page ad featuring over 150 of those leaders in the New York Times and the Washington Post on December 21.

NY Archbishop Dolan in WSJ

The Catholic Church defends religious liberty, including freedom of conscience, for everyone.
The Amish do not carry health insurance. The government respects their principles. Christian
Scientists want to heal by prayer alone, and the new health-care reform law respects that.
Quakers and others object to killing even in wartime, and the government respects that principle
for conscientious objectors. By its decision, the Obama administration has failed to show the
same respect for the consciences of Catholics and others who object to treating pregnancy as a
disease.

U.S. Bishops Vow To Fight HHS Edict

The Catholic bishops of the United States called “literally unconscionable” a decision by the Obama Administration to continue to demand that sterilization, abortifacients and contraception be included in virtually all health plans. Today's announcement means that this mandate and its very narrow exemption will not change at all; instead there will only be a delay in enforcement against some employers.

White House Misrepresents Mandate

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued the following response to the February 2 post on the White House blog.

For more information on the HHS mandate and its inadequate conscience protection, read the Preventive Services Backgrounder and the FAQ.

Archbishop Gomez in First Things

The Health Department justifies denying exemptions to Catholic charities, hospitals, and colleges because it says they are not really “religious” institutions. This may be the most troubling part of this new mandate. In effect, the government is presuming it has the competence and authority to define what religious faith is and how believers should express their faith commitments and relationship to God in society. These are powers our government has never before assumed itself to have.
It is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness.
Pope Benedict XVI
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Six Things Everyone Should Know About the HHS Mandate

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers the following clarifications regarding the Health and Human Services regulations on mandatory coverage of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs.

1. The mandate does not exempt Catholic charities, schools, universities, or hospitals. These institutions are vital to the mission of the Church, but HHS does not deem them "religious employers" worthy of conscience protection, because they do not "serve primarily persons who share the[ir] religious tenets." HHS denies these organizations religious freedom precisely because their purpose is to serve the common good of society—a purpose that government should encourage, not punish.

2. The mandate forces these institutions and others, against their conscience, to pay for things they consider immoral. Under the mandate, the government forces religious insurers to write policies that violate their beliefs; forces religious employers and schools to sponsor and subsidize coverage that violates their beliefs; and forces religious employees and students to purchase coverage that violates their beliefs.

3. The mandate forces coverage of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices as well as contraception. Though commonly called the "contraceptive mandate," HHS's mandate also forces employers to sponsor and subsidize coverage of sterilization. And by including all drugs approved by the FDA for use as contraceptives, the HHS mandate includes drugs that can induce abortion, such as "Ella," a close cousin of the abortion pill RU-486.

4. Catholics of all political persuasions are unified in their opposition to the mandate. Catholics who have long supported this Administration and its healthcare policies have publicly criticized HHS's decision, including columnists E.J. Dionne, Mark Shields, and Michael Sean Winters; college presidents Father John Jenkins and Arturo Chavez; and Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States.

5. Many other religious and secular people and groups have spoken out strongly against the mandate. Many recognize this as an assault on the broader principle of religious liberty, even if they disagree with the Church on the underlying moral question. For example, Protestant Christian, Orthodox Christian, and Orthodox Jewish groups--none of which oppose contraception--have issued statements against the HHS's decision. The Washington Post, USA Today, N.Y. Daily News, Detroit News, and other secular outlets, columnists, and bloggers have editorialized against it.

6. The federal mandate is much stricter than existing state mandates. HHS chose the narrowest state-level religious exemption as the model for its own. That exemption was drafted by the ACLU and exists in only 3 states (New York, California, Oregon). Even without a religious exemption, religious employers can already avoid the contraceptive mandates in 28 states by self-insuring their prescription drug coverage, dropping that coverage altogether, or opting for regulation under a federal law (ERISA) that pre-empts state law.  The HHS mandate closes off all these avenues of relief.

Additional information on the U.S. Catholic bishops’ stance on religious liberty, conscience protection and the HHS ruling regarding mandatory coverage of contraceptives, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs is available at
http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/index.cfm.

Reactions

Catholic Relief Services

Catholic Relief Services strenuously objects to today’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ruling that rejected the plea of Catholic institutions to be exempt from a mandatory requirement to provide birth control services in employee health plans.

Catholic Health Association

The Catholic Health Association is disappointed that the definition of a religious employer was not broadened in today's announcement by HHS regarding the final rule on preventive health services for women. This was a missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection.

Ross Douthat of the NY Times

In effect, the Department of Health and Human Services is telling religious groups that if they don’t want to pay for practices they consider immoral, they should stick to serving their own co-religionists rather than the wider public. Sectarian self-segregation is O.K., but good Samaritanism is not. The rule suggests a preposterous scenario in which a Catholic hospital avoids paying for sterilizations and the morning-after pill by closing its doors to atheists and Muslims, and hanging out a sign saying “no Protestants need apply.”

Editors of America magazine

For U.S. Catholics as citizens, the administration’s failure to offer a broader exemption presents a grave test of the “free exercise” of religion protected by the Bill of Rights. For the narrow definition of religion in the new H.H.S. guideline is at odds with the millennia-old Catholic understanding of the church as a community of believers in service to the world. The H.H.S. definition would force the church to function as a sect, restricted to celebrating its own devotions on the margins of society. The ruling is a threat to our living as a church in the Catholic manner.

Columnists Cokie and Steven Roberts

Without some conciliatory move from the White House, the president risks losing a significant number of Catholic voters in an election where he can't afford to lose one.

Matthew Cantirino in First Things

First, this fight is not a referendum on whether one personally likes the Catholic Church. Love the Church, disdain the Church, be apathetic; it doesn’t matter. . . .[T]he Church is merely asking for the right to hold what it believes without external coercion and to think and act in a manner consistent with its own conviction

Fr. Jenkins, President of University of Notre Dame

I am deeply disappointed in a decision by the administration that will place many religious organizations of all faiths in an untenable position.

Bill McGurn of the Wall Street Journal

Catholic liberals appreciate that this HHS decision is more than a return to the hostility that sent so many Catholic Democrats fleeing to the Republican Party these past few decades. They understand that if left to stand, this ruling threatens the religious institutions closest to their hearts—those serving Americans in need, such as hospitals, soup kitchens and immigrant services.

Megan McArdle of the Atlantic

Thus it's not obvious to me that we will be better off encouraging Catholic hospitals and other groups to provide services exclusively to their own flock, while exclusively employing members of their own flock.

Mohler: Not Just a Catholic Issue

A Southern Baptist seminary president applauded Roman Catholic bishops for refusing to obey an insurance mandate forcing employers to offer coverage for contraceptives and sterilization, and predicted that evangelical leaders will soon face similar choices.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh in Huffington Post

Must Catholic hospitals, to be true to their identity, now turn away people of other faiths from their emergency rooms and fire non-Catholic employees? Currently, Catholic hospitals serve one out of six people who seek hospital care in our country. Must Catholic Charities hire and serve only Catholics in its food pantries and other social service agencies? Until today, you didn't need a baptismal certificate for soup.

USA Today

Few Americans of any political stripe would disagree with the simple proposition that the government should steer away from meddling in church affairs. Certainly, it should never try to force a religiously affiliated institution to violate a central tenet of its faith. Yet in drawing up the rules that will govern health care reform, the Obama administration didn't just cross that line. It galloped over it . . .

The Jewish Daily

The Obama Administration has held – and continues to hold – that if a religious institution wants to serve the community as a whole and employ people who do not subscribe to their faith, what they do is functionally not a religious mission at all, but a public one. In other words, you can practice your faith when it applies only to you. When it applies to other people, you can’t. Given the special freedoms from state oversight and control accorded to religion under the laws of our Constitution – freedoms which have served the Jewish people particularly well – this is a significant assertion.

Catholic Charities USA

Catholic Charities USA is extremely disappointed by the Administration’s decision to ignore requests from religious institutions to broaden the exemption to a proposed rule that mandates that all employers offering employee health coverage provide access to contraception.

Washington Post

In this circumstance, requiring a religiously affiliated employer to spend its own money in a way that violates its religious principles does not make an adequate accommodation for those deeply held views.

New York Daily News

Obama administration is taking a wrong-headed line with the church . . .

Michael Gerson of the Washington Post

It is the most transparently anti-Catholic maneuver by the federal government since the Blaine Amendment was proposed in 1875 — a measure designed to diminish public tolerance of Romanism, then regarded as foreign, authoritarian and illiberal.

Our Sunday Visitor

All Catholics citizens have a stake in this battle. We cannot surrender on this issue. Not only is it a violation of our religious liberty today, but it may well lead to ever more coercive and immoral impositions by the state upon religious believers in the future if it is allowed to stand.

Detroit News

An Obama administration mandate requiring all employers to offer health plans with no-cost birth control for women raises several red flags — and not just for Catholics. It's a move that impinges on the conscience of some Americans. And that's not a road the federal government should travel down.

Donald Wuerl, Charles Colson And Meir Y. Soloveichik

Stories involving a Catholic, a Protestant and a Jew typically end with a punch line. We wish that were the case here, but what brings us together is no laughing matter: the threat now posed by government policy to that basic human freedom, religious liberty.