Clergy: Feds Have 'Neither Compelling Interest Nor Appropriate Authority' to Impose HHS Mandate

Craig Bannister
By Craig Bannister | July 2, 2013 | 2:03 PM EDT

Religious leaders spanning the spectrum of faiths today issued an open letter warning that the HHS contraception coverage mandate "should trouble every American" - not just those whose faiths oppose contraception.

The signatories, representing faiths ranging from Catholic to Jew, Mormon to Krishna, warn the mandate violates Americans' religious freedoms and opens the door to government defining religion:

"[T]he federal government has neither a compelling interest nor the appropriate authority to coerce one citizen to fund or facilitate specific lifestyle choices of another.

"If the federal government can force morally opposed individuals to purchase contraception or abortion-causing drugs and devices for a third party, what prevents this or future administrations from forcing other Americans to betray their deeply held convictions?"

The letter disputes the legality of the mandate and warns that it presents a far greater threat than that of forcing people to fund contraceptives:

"Through its contraceptive coverage mandate, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) continues to breach universal principles affirmed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws. While the mandate is a specific offense, it represents a greater fundamental breach of conscience by the federal government."

"Very simply, HHS is forcing Citizen A, against his or her moral convictions, to purchase a product for Citizen B. This HHS policy is coercive and puts the administration in the position of defining-or casting aside-religious doctrine."

The letter warns that the HHS mandate enables the government to pick and choose which Americans can have religious freedom:

"The First Amendment states, 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' Free exercise includes the freedom to order one's life, liberties and pursuits in accordance with his or her convictions.

"HHS breaches the free exercise clause and federal statutes (passed with broad bipartisan support) by selectively denying some Americans this constitutionally protected right."

The letter closes by urging Congress to take steps to prevent the administration from enforcing the mandate.

See full text of open letter opposing HHS mandate.