Every Catholic Bishop Opposes Obama Mandate, Lutherans Too

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 17, 2012   |   12:30PM   |   Washington, DC

Every one of the 181 Catholic bishops in the United States have now issued individual comments, statements or opinion columns condemning the new mandate pro-abortion President Barack Obama put in place forcing religious employers to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs.

Thomas Peters, who runs the American Papist blog, has been compiling the statements from each bishop since Obama first put the mandate in place last month.

“From Portland, Maine to San Diego, California; From Miami, Florida to Seattle, Washington,” Peters writes. “Every single Roman Catholic bishop in the United States has condemned in public the Obamacare HHS mandate — all 181 bishops who lead dioceses in the U.S. have spoken.”

“This is a simply incredible, unified, universal Catholic witness on this critical issue of religious freedom,” peters adds. “I am no longer able to find a single Roman Catholic bishop who has NOT spoken out against the mandate publicly. It is also my presumption that this conclusion applies to all Eastern Rite and Sui Iuris bishops in the U.S. It’s a complimentary sign of Catholic solidarity that so many Catholics across the country proudly helped me add their bishop’s name to this list.”

Peters has also compiled a listing of Catholic institutions that have spoken out against the mandate and that number is now at 30 and continues to grow.

But Catholics are not the only pro-life Americans upset by Obama’s attack on religious freedom by having them violate their conscience on pro-life issues.

Reverend Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, told members of Congress at a hearing on the mandate yesterday that Baptists are strongly opposed.

“We deem this recent government mandate as an infringement upon the beliefs and practices of various religious communities. Therefore, we voice our public objections in solidarity with those who cherish their religious liberties,” he said. “The decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to require virtually all health plans to comply with this mandate will have the effect of forcing many religious organizations to choose between following the letter of the law or operating within the framework of their religious tenets.”

He continued, “We add our voice to the long list of those who have championed their God-given right to freely exercise their religious beliefs according to the dictates of their faith, and to provide compassionate care and clear Christian witness to society’s most vulnerable, without government encroachment.

“I loathe the partisan nature of this discussion….I’m here for one reason, I am here because there is a narrow but very significant provision in HHS [regulations] that is I believe is very dangerous to religious people with our kind of convictions and I believe it’s also dangerous to any religious people who have unique convictions, so that’s why I am here,” Harrisons said.

John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, which includes about 400,000 members, called the mandate “a frontal attack on our religious liberty” and will be teaming up with Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and others next month for a Rally for Religious Liberty at the Missouri State Capitol.

Yeats noted that Missouri Baptist universities will be forced to deal with a ruling that “seeks to secularize the institutions of faith we have built for purposes of faith.”

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik,Director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University, said many people of the Jewish faith are also opposed.

“In refusing to extend religious liberty beyond the parameters of what the administration chooses to deem religious conduct, the administration denies people of faith the ability to define their religious activity. 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,” he said.

“The President’s spokesman recently when speaking about this subject said that what their concern is that they don’t want religious employers or organization restricting access to specific prescriptions etc. but of course those who have a religious objection are not seeking in America to restrict their access to it, what they are seeking is the freedom in their own right not to facilitate something that violates the tenants of their own faith,” Soloveichik said.

Laura Champion, M.D., Medical Director, Calvin College Health Services, said mainline Protestants also oppose the mandate.

She told the hearing: “Even when Americans hold vastly different views on the sanctity of life, this mandate raises a point that should be examined by all: do we value religious freedom in our country or not? Further, the mandate elevates contraception and abortive drugs to the level of preventative health care. They are not. Plan B and Ella should not be considered equivalent to cancer screening or vaccinations. Pregnancy is not a disease. This is a premise that I reject both religiously and medically.”

Champion added, “This is not about politics, this is not about contraception, and this is not about depriving women of health care. Rather, this is personal. This is about my daily life as a physician, a Christian, and a Medical Services Director. Whether I will be able as a physician to practice medicine within my belief system. Whether Calvin College will be able to continue its historic tradition of living out the faith it teaches. A government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people, should not force the people to violate their consciences.”

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.