2,500 Religious Leaders Sign Letter Protesting Obama Mandate
by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 2/20/12 2:32 PM
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins led a news conference today during which he is unveiling a new letter signed by more than 2,500 Catholic, evangelical, Protestant, Jewish and other religious leaders opposing the new Obamacare mandate.
The leaders are urging President Obama to reverse his mandate decision and protect the conscience rights of those who have moral and religious opposition to funding or providing contraceptives and abortifacients.
“It took just three weeks, but every single Catholic Bishop in America has officially condemned the President’s mandate. Even though the media has mostly buried this fact, one hundred percent of them oppose the rule that orders faith-based groups to pay for drugs that destroy pregnancies or prevent them. It’s a formidable group, and today, they do not stand alone,” Perkins said. “Every pocket of religious America is linking arms at the front lines of this war on religious freedom.”
Perkins continued, “No church should be forced to concede their faith to kneel at the altar of government. And until the administration rights this wrong, we unite with our allies in diverse faith traditions in demanding what George Washington called “the invaluable rights of free citizens.”
Perkins was joined by Dr. Richard Land, President, Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and Bishop Harry Jackson, Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church in unveiling the letter.
The text of the letter follows:
Dear President Obama:
The undersigned pastors and Christian leaders all write to raise serious concerns over what some have called the “contraception mandate” stemming from the action of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on August 1st, 2010 to mandate that all health insurance plans in the individual and group market cover all FDA approved “contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures,” including abortifacient drugs and other devices that can destroy life in its early stages.
This mandate was not necessary, nor warranted under the provision of “preventive care services for women” contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Worse still is the fact that the mandate essentially ignores the conscience rights of many Catholic and Protestant Americans. Our country was founded on certain freedoms, the first of which is the freedom of religion. The ability of a religious person to follow their conscience without fearing government intervention has long been a protected right for Americans. It is unfathomable to picture a country that would deny religious freedoms.
On August 1, 2011, your Administration granted a narrow exemption that only covers houses of worship. However, the fact remains that the vast majority of religious organizations will be required to choose either to violate their consciences or drop their health coverage for employees. This mandate is all the more egregious for including drugs and devices that are known and scientifically shown to function in ways that can cause abortions, including varieties of the morning-after-pill, both before and after implantation. The conscience rights of those who object to such drugs, let alone object to being forced to cover such drugs, is clearly violated by the Administration action.
Due to significant opposition to this mandate, many people of faith hoped that the Administration would chose to protect the conscience rights of all people who have moral or religious objections to covering contraceptives and sterilization procedures and accordingly submitted comments to your Administration totaling over 200,000. In the face of this outcry, your Administration issued a press release on January 20, 2012 that offers groups only a one year reprieve on being forced to violate the tenants of their faith. Worse still, the decision includes a new requirement that all such religious organizations will be required to refer for that which they find objectionable in the first place.
The contraceptive mandate with the requirement that there will be no co-pay to the patient means millions of Americans will incur the additional cost for these drugs and devices. Forcing religious entities to do the same, despite objections of good conscience, is a severe blow to our religious liberty. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1779, which passed in 1786, and set the stage for the First Amendment. In it, Jefferson states: “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.” Consequently, we ask that you would reverse this decision and protect the conscience rights of those who have biblically-based opposition to funding or providing contraceptives and abortifacients.
The unveiling of the letter comes as Obama faces two additional lawsuits over the controversial mandate. Meanwhile, more than a dozen state attorneys general have signed onto a joint letter Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning started coordinating against the controversial Obama mandate requiring religious employers to cover birth control and drugs that can cause abortions.
Also, the largest Catholic pro-life group and Catholic television station have filed suit against the new Obama mandate that forces religious employers like them to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs in employee health insurance.
Late last week, the Obama administration asked a federal court to dismiss yet another lawsuit filed against the Obama administration over its mandate.
The panel that put together the mandate has been condemned for only having pro-abortion members even though polling shows Americans are opposed to the mandate.
More than 50 members of Congress banded together at a press conference to demand legislation to stop the new mandate pro-abortion President Barack Obama put in place forcing religious employers to pay for insurance coverage including birth control and abortion-inducing drugs.
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry held a press conference with supporters of the bipartisan, bicameral Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. His legislation would protect the religious liberty and conscience rights of every American who objects to being forced by the strong-arm of government to pay for drugs and procedures recently mandated by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The Fortenberry bill currently has the support of approximately 220 Members of Congress and Senators, the most strongly-supported legislative remedy to the controversial HHS mandate. This measure would repeal the controversial mandate, amending the 2010 health care law to preserve conscience rights for religious institutions, health care providers, and small businesses who pay for health care coverage.
H.R. 1179 enjoys the endorsements of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, and other organizations. Numerous other organizations, including the Christian Medical Association and Family Research Council, have urged support of the bill.
Sen. Roy Blunt, a pro-life Missouri Republican, is putting forward the Blunt Amendment, #1520, again, and it is termed the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. According to information provided to LifeNews from pro-life sources on Capitol Hill, the Blunt Amendment will be the first amendment voted on when the Senate returns to the transportation bill. The amendment would allow employers to decline coverage of services in conflict with religious beliefs.
Republicans are moving swiftly with legislation, amendments, and potential hearings on the mandatethe Obama administration has put in place that forces religious employers to pay for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs for their employees.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement saying Obama’s revised mandate involves “needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions” and it urged Congress to overturn the rule and promised a potential lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the Republican presidential candidates had been taking verbal swings at Obama for imposing the original mandate on religious employers, which is not popular in the latest public opinion poll and which even some Democrats oppose.
Congressman Steve Scalise has led a bipartisan letter with 154 co-signers calling on the Obama Administration to reverse its mandate forcing religious organizations to include drugs that can cause abortion and birth control in the health care plans of their employees.
The original mandate was so egregious that even the normally reliably liberal and pro-abortion USA Today condemned it in an editorial titled, “Contraception mandate violates religious freedom.”
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.
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.