The Obama administration is coming under fire for silencing a Catholic Army chaplains from reading a letter that criticized the Obama administration on its new mandate that forces religious employers to pay for coverage for employees that includes birth control and drugs that can cause abortions.
The office of the Chief of Chaplains of the U.S. Army prohibited Catholic chaplains from reading a letter during masses this past Sunday authored by Archbishop Timothy Broglio that criticized the mandate and encouraged Catholics in military congregations to disobey it.
Archbishop Timothy Broglio wrote that “the Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States” in a way that is “denying Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.”
“And, as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to choose between violating our consciences or dropping health care coverage for our employees (and suffering the penalties for doing so),” he wrote. “We cannot—and will not—comply with this unjust law.”
In the letter, Broglio contends the Obama administration is telling Catholics to disregard their faith and Catholic teachings against abortion and birth control — “a blow to a freedom that you have fought to defend and for which you have seen your buddies fall in battle.”
However, as National Review reports, the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains didn’t care for the tone of the letter and ordered senior chaplains in the Army to not read it from the pulpit. Broglio’s office said the Army office “sent an email to senior chaplains advising them that the Archbishop’s letter was not coordinated with that office and asked that it not be read from the pulpit. The Chief’s office directed that the letter was to be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed in printed form in the back of the chapel.”
According to the statement, “[f]ollowing a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh, it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter.” The statement also said it was a suggestion from McHugh, an Obama appointee, to remove the line reading, “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law” because of “the concern that it could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.”
The full statement from the Archdiocese for Military Services, as reported by National Review, shows the censorship from the Obama administration. Meanwhile, McHugh has now agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter.
On Thursday, January 26, Archbishop Broglio emailed a pastoral letter to Catholic military chaplains with instructions that it be read from the pulpit at Sunday Masses the following weekend in all military chapels. The letter calls on Catholics to resist the policy initiative, recently affirmed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, for federally mandated health insurance covering sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, because it represents a violation of the freedom of religion recognized by the U.S. Constitution.
The Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains subsequently sent an email to senior chaplains advising them that the Archbishop’s letter was not coordinated with that office and asked that it not be read from the pulpit. The Chief’s office directed that the letter was to be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed in printed form in the back of the chapel.
Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants.
Following a discussion between Archbishop Broglio and the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh, it was agreed that it was a mistake to stop the reading of the Archbishop’s letter. Additionally, the line: “We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law” was removed by Archbishop Broglio at the suggestion of Secretary McHugh over the concern that it could potentially be misunderstood as a call to civil disobedience.
The AMS did not receive any objections to the reading of Archbishop Broglio’s statement from the other branches of service.
The Obama Administration issued a statement re-iterating the “contraceptive mandate” requiring all insurance providers cover the full range of FDA-approved drugs and devices would remain intact. This mandate, issued in August, includes drugs that work after conception to destroy life rather than prevent it. The statement included a postponement of one year for religious groups that do not already carry contraceptives and additionally would not be exempted under last year’s narrow definition of “religious employer.”
The mandate not only violates such existing conscience protections on abortion such as the Hyde/Weldon Amendment (in so far as Plan B and Ella are covered), but also violates the principles of the Church Amendments which protects conscience rights for those who object to contraceptives and other services on moral or religious grounds. Additionally, the U.S. government already funds domestic family planning at a level of $1.9 billion annually.
The administration initially approved a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine suggesting that it force insurance companies to pay for birth control and drugs that can cause abortions under the Obamacare government-run health care program.
The IOM recommendation, opposed by pro-life groups, called for the Obama administration to require insurance programs to include birth control — such as the morning after pill or the ella drug that causes an abortion days after conception — in the section of drugs and services insurance plans must cover under “preventative care.” The companies will likely pass the added costs on to consumers, requiring them to pay for birth control and, in some instances, drug-induced abortions of unborn children in their earliest days.
Jeanne Monahan of FRC says the current opt out is not sufficient.
“On September 30th, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) received thousands of negative comments related to the interim final rule published on August 3rd where all insurance plans were informed that they must cover the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives with no co-pay,” Monahan explains. “A very narrowly defined conscience exemption for religious organizations was included which, in essence, covers only places of worship and was originally drafted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for a bill in California.”
“HHS offered a fig leaf of conscience protection for certain churches that fulfill very specific criteria. However, religious groups that provide social services, engage in missions work to people of different religious faiths, religious health insurance companies, let alone religious health care providers and individuals in such health plans are not protected from any discrimination whatever. The new rule will force many Americans to violate their consciences or refrain from participating in health care insurance, further burdening an already costly system,” Monahan said.
“For an administration that promised to protect conscience laws in effect now, this decision completely ignores opinion, research and science that do not support a pro-abortion ideology. In the words of one of the committee members who objected to the IOM recommendations, the ‘evaluation for evidence lacked transparency … the process tended to result in a mix of objective and subjective determination through the lens of advocacy,” Monahan continued. “This administration is promoting mandates that will violate the consciences of millions.”
The HHS accepted the IOM guidelines that “require new health insurance plans to cover women’s preventive services” and those services include “FDA-approved contraception methods and contraceptive counseling” — which include birth control drugs like Plan B and ella that can cause abortions. The Health and Human Services Department commissioned the report from the Institute, which advises the federal government and shut out pro-life groups in meetings leading up to the recommendations.