More than 100,000 people have signed a petition opposing a federal mandate that will require religious institutions to cover contraception and abortion-causing drugs in health-insurance plans.
“The government cannot force individuals or organizations to pay for services that they consider immoral,” said Kristina Arriaga, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
On Feb. 9, the fund launched the “I Still Believe” petition on its website, which has attracted more than 100,000 signatures in less than a month.
Arriaga told EWTN News on March 7 that she hopes the large amount of signatures on the petition will help the administration “realize its error in issuing a mandate that is both unconstitutional and un-American.”
She explained that the right of Americans “to live according to their beliefs” has been protected since the nation’s beginning, when George Washington “excused the Quakers from serving in the militia.”
Signatories of the letter stated that they are “deeply disappointed” by the Obama administration’s “failure to protect religious liberty” through a Jan. 20 mandate that will soon require employers to provide health insurance that covers contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
They reminded the president that protection of religious freedom is “required by the Constitution you swore to uphold and the federal laws you are obliged to enforce.”
True religious freedom, they said, “requires a broad religious exemption” in order to protect both individuals and institutions from being coerced to “provide services in violation of sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The petition was introduced shorty before the Obama administration, under pressure from numerous individuals and groups who said that its actions violated fundamental principles of liberty, announced an “accommodation” for religious freedom on Feb. 10.
Under the promised “accommodation,” which was never formally added to the mandate, religious employers would not directly purchase the controversial coverage, but would instead be forced to buy health-care plans from insurance companies that would be required to provide the coverage free of charge.
Numerous groups, including the U.S. bishops, have said the promised “accommodation” is inadequate to truly protect religious liberty. They observed that insurance companies will likely raise the cost of employers’ premiums to account for the required “free” coverage.
The petition’s signatories asked President Obama to “reconsider” the mandate and to return to providing the broad religious protection promised under the Constitution.
Doing so, they said, would allow religious employers across the country to continue their operations while ensuring that their employees have health insurance.
They added that it would also “honor the sacrifices of those who fought and died to give us our freedoms.
“And it would pay tribute to the great heritage of religious diversity upon which this great nation was built.”