Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today to hear arguments in the cases of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties. The U.S. government and the Hahn family, Mennonite owners of Conestoga Wood, a cabinet-making company, respectively, petitioned the Supreme Court to review these cases. The Court will consider the legality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “preventive services” mandate, which requires virtually all employers to include female sterilization and all drugs and devices approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as contraceptives in their employee health care plans.
“The Supreme Court’s review of these cases highlights the importance of this conflict between the federal government and people seeking to practice their faith in daily life,” said Archbishop Lori. “We pray that the Supreme Court will find that the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protect everyone’s right to religious freedom. We are encouraged by the advances in the lower federal courts so far in cases involving family-owned companies as well as non-profit religious organizations. On behalf of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, I would like to thank all of the litigants—including those who run diocesan service ministries as well as the lay faithful who run closely-held businesses—for their courageous actions in seeking religious liberty in courts around the country.”
The HHS mandate requires family-owned businesses like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood to cover abortifacient and contraceptive drugs and devices in their employee health care plans, even if providing those particular items violates the religious beliefs of the individuals who own and operate the company. In a unanimous “Special Message” on the HHS mandate issued last month, the U.S. bishops reaffirmed their opposition to a mandate that “compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.”
These cases are among at least 84 lawsuits filed by over 200 plaintiffs against the HHS mandate.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a “Special Message” at the conclusion of their fall General Assembly, November 13, in Baltimore. USCCB regulations regarding statements and publications define a Special Message as a statement, only issued at general meetings, that the general membership considers appropriate in view of the circumstances at the time. The message was passed unanimously.
Full text of the Special Message follows:
Special Message from the Bishops of the United States
The bishops of this country have just concluded their traditional fall meeting in Baltimore and have spent time on issues important to them and their people: help to those suffering from Typhoon Haiyan; an update on the situation in Haiti; matters of worship and teaching; service to the poor; and comprehensive immigration reform. Among those priorities is the protection of religious freedom, especially as threatened by the HHS mandate.
Pope Francis has reminded us that “In the context of society, there is only one thing which the Church quite clearly demands: the freedom to proclaim the Gospel in its entirety, even when it runs counter to the world, even when it goes against the tide.”
We stand together as pastors charged with proclaiming the Gospel in its entirety. That Gospel calls us to feed the poor, heal the sick, and educate the young, and in so doing witness to our faith in its fullness. Our great ministries of service and our clergy, religious sisters and brothers, and lay faithful, especially those involved in Church apostolates, strive to answer this call every day, and the Constitution and the law protect our freedom to do so.
Yet with its coercive HHS mandate, the government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers. Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.
Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain. Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.
The current impasse is all the more frustrating because the Catholic Church has long been a leading provider of, and advocate for, accessible, life-affirming health care. We would have preferred to spend these recent past years working toward this shared goal instead of resisting this intrusion into our religious liberty. We have been forced to devote time and resources to a conflict we did not start nor seek.
As the government’s implementation of the mandate against us approaches, we bishops stand united in our resolve to resist this heavy burden and protect our religious freedom. Even as each bishop struggles to address the mandate, together we are striving to develop alternate avenues of response to this difficult situation. We seek to answer the Gospel call to serve our neighbors, meet our obligation to provide our people with just health insurance, protect our religious freedom, and not be coerced to violate our consciences. We remain grateful for the unity we share in this endeavor with Americans of all other faiths, and even with those of no faith at all. It is our hope that our ministries and lay faithful will be able to continue providing insurance in a manner consistent with the faith of our Church. We will continue our efforts in Congress and especially with the promising initiatives in the courts to protect the religious freedom that ensures our ability to fulfill the Gospel by serving the common good.
This resolve is particularly providential on this feast of the patroness of immigrants, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. She was a brave woman who brought the full vigor of her deep religious faith to the service of the sick, the poor, children, the elderly, and the immigrant. We count on her intercession, as united we obey the command of Jesus to serve the least of our brothers and sisters.
Non-discrimination Act would protect religious liberties Those who affirm that marriage is one man and one woman need protection Chairmen urge support for the Act
WASHINGTON—Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, gave their strong support for the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act (H.R. 3133) introduced yesterday in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Raúl Labrador.
“This non-discrimination bill is significant, indeed, very important,” said Archbishop Cordileone. “It would prevent the federal government from discriminating against religious believers who hold to the principle that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. This is of fundamental importance, as increasingly such individuals and organizations are being targeted for discrimination by state governments – this must not spread to the federal government.”
Archbishop Lori agreed and added, “I strongly support the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act. In a growing climate of intolerance against individuals and organizations who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, this Act is an important step in preserving their religious liberties at the federal level.”
“Among the many protections in this bill, the federal government would not be able to deny individuals and organizations a grant, contract, or employment because their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman is informed by their religious faith,” Archbishop Lori added.
Both Archbishop Cordileone and Archbishop Lori urge members of the House of Representatives to join in supporting the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act.
More information on the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act is available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/marriage-and-religious-freedom-act-backgrounder.cfm.
Like it or not, we have created a system of government and commerce that makes it nearly impossible to to engage in public service or business without becoming a corporation. Laws like the HHS mandate and ordinances that require businesses to facilitate same-sex weddings ultimately preclude people of faith – at least some faiths – from engaging in business and service.
Read the rest . . .
Catholic, Southern Baptist Religious Liberty Leaders Lead Open Letter Effort For Conscience Protection Given HHS Mandate
Religious Liberty Leaders Lead Open Letter Effort For Conscience Protection Given HHS Mandate
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 themselves through 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
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 110-page ruling on its health care mandate requires time for analysis, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Cardinal Dolan also expressed gratitude for the five-month extension on implementing the complex proposal.
HHS issued the ruling June 28. The effective date of the rule had been set for August 1, 2013, but today’s decision moves the date to January 1, 2014 for some nonprofit entities.
“We have received and started to review the 110-page final rule on the HHS mandate,” Cardinal Dolan said. “We appreciate the extension of the effective date by five months, which is readily apparent in the rule,” he said. “The remainder of the rule is long and complex. It will require more careful analysis. We will provide a fuller statement when that analysis is complete.”
The HHS mandate requires that almost all employers, even those with moral objections to contraception, abortion and sterilization, provide employees contraceptives, including those that cause abortion, and sterilization, free of charge as part of services for women under the new health care law.