Catholics, Mormons, Evangelicals, Scientologists: 'HHS Breaches Free Exercise Clause'

July 2, 2013 - 12:48 PM

Lori. Harrison testifying

Rev. William Lori and Rev. Matthew Harrison testifying before Congress  in 2012. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) -- An open letter signed by leaders representing numerous religious denominations, including Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans, Lutherans, Mormons, Jews, Hindus and Scientologists, blasted the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services contraception mandate as a “coercive” threat to religious liberty in the U.S., one which “puts the administration in the position of defining – or casting aside – religious doctrine."

The letter, entitled “Standing Together for Religious Freedom,” was released Tuesday at the National Press Club by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which are spearheading opposition to the HHS mandate.

“Many of the signatories on this letter do not hold doctrinal objections to the use of contraception,” the letter noted. “Yet we stand united in protest to this mandate, recognizing the encroachment on the conscience of our fellow citizens. Whether or not we agree with the particular conscientious objection is beside the point. HHS continues to deny many Americans the freedom to manifest their beliefs through practice and observance in their daily lives.”

The final text of the HHS mandate was released June 28th. It requires companies that provide health insurance plans to provide their female employees with free coverage of sterilization, contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs even if doing so violates the owner’s religious beliefs.

“Very simply,” the letter stated, “HHS is forcing Citizen A, against his or her moral convictions, to purchase a product for Citizen B.” The ecumenical group agreed that “the federal government has neither a compelling interest nor the appropriate authority to coerce one citizen to fund or facilitate specific lifestyle choices of another.”

Noting that “the doctrines of our respective faiths require something of us beyond the walls of our churches, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship,” signatories reaffirmed the “universal principles affirmed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws” regarding “the self-evident freedom of all people to exercise their faith according to the dictates of their consciences.”

The religious leaders called upon Congress to intervene “because HHS claims to be acting on authority granted by Congress.”

The letter was signed by Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Anglican Church in North America Archbishop Robert Duncan; Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church’s Missouri Synod; Presiding Bishop Gary Stevenson of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Rabbi Aryeh Spero, president of Caucus for America; Anuttama Dasa, minister of communications of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness; and Rev. Susan Taylor, national public affairs director of the Church of Scientology.

Other religious leaders, including clerics, theologians, college presidents, and leaders of various lay groups promoting religious liberty also signed the letter.

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