The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a statement earlier today as 43 dioceses, hospitals, schools and church agencies across the nation filed 12 lawsuits challenging the federal Health and Human Services mandate on contraceptive services. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York applauded the filings, saying the HHS mandate violates religious freedom.
His statement follows …
“We have tried negotiation with the Administration and legislation with the Congress – and we’ll keep at it – but there’s still no fix. Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now. Though the Conference is not a party to the lawsuits, we applaud this courageous action by so many individual dioceses, charities, hospitals and schools across the nation, in coordination with the law firm of Jones Day. It is also a compelling display of the unity of the Church in defense of religious liberty. It’s also a great show of the diversity of the Church’s ministries that serve the common good and that are jeopardized by the mandate – ministries to the poor, the sick, and the uneducated, to people of any faith or no faith at all.”
The mandate would require many Catholic and other religious institutions to cover medical services that are in opposition to their religious beliefs. The president’s announced accommodation still makes an unacceptable distinction between houses of worship and their ministries, and still requires all non-exempt employers to facilitate the objectionable coverage.
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UPDATED ACTION ALERT ON HHS MANDATE
The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA), affiliated with the U.S. Catholic bishops, has a new action alert on the HHS mandate. A sample message is available at www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=292. Please send a message to HHS about your support for a rule that would allow all organizations and individuals to offer, sponsor and obtain health coverage that does not violate their moral and religious convictions.
The primary focus of the alert is the federal Department of Health and Human Services “Advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM)” published March 21. HHS is seeking comments on how the final rule for the contraceptive mandate published Feb. 15 can accommodate religious organizations. Unfortunately the ANPRM does not correct the fundamental problems in the mandate. A final rule on the matter of the ANPRM will be issued at a subsequent unspecified date.
The full text of the USCCB’s comments on ANPRM is available:www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/rulemaking/upload/comments-on-advance-notice-of-proposed-rulemaking-on-preventive-services-12-05-15.pdf.
A secondary focus of the alert is legislation. Members of Congress are urged to co-sponsor and promote the passage of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467).
Thanks for all you do in support of this issue.
Dioceses are putting together their plans for the “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom. It will be held June 21-July 4.
During the Iowa Catholic Conference board meeting last week, Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates announced an “Independence Celebration Walk and Picnic,” which will take place as a part of the fortnight on the early afternoon of Sunday, July 1. It will consist of a walk in downtown Des Moines to the state Capitol grounds and will be followed by a picnic. Go to www.dmdiocese.org/religious-liberty.cfm for more information.
Tom Chapman is the Executive Director of the Iowa Catholic Conference