A group of ministers from numerous religious backgrounds sent a message to the White House declaring a “state of emergency” over the health-insurance mandate that may force religious employers to violate their consciences.
“Protestants are beginning to close ranks and join our Catholic friends on this issue,” said Lutheran minister Norman Lund.
Lund told EWTN News on Feb. 21 that he considers the issue to be part of his Christian identity and “an issue worth fighting and dying for.” He explained that the core problem “is not birth control,” but “the freedom of churches to determine their own policies and positions on issues like birth control.”
“In other words,” he said, “this is an issue of religious liberty and freedom of conscience.”
Lund is a member of the National Clergy Council, a group that represents Catholic, Protestant, evangelical and Orthodox leaders.
After deliberating with pastors and theologians across the country, the council has declared a state of emergency for the churches in response to the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.
A declaration outlining a “State of Emergency and Time for Speaking” was delivered to the White House on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22.
The statement affirms the council’s “unwavering position” on the “sanctity” of conscience rights and maintains the “God-given” ability to live out principles of conscience within a religious institution.
Clergy members said they hope the matter can be resolved by a repeal of the mandate, but warned that “we must hold to our convictions and positions and act according to our prerogatives, no matter the legal, social, pecuniary or political consequences.”
The council noted that its statement was inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and martyr who worked to resist the Nazis.
It described Bonhoeffer as “an exemplar of what it means to hold to and to exercise one’s religious, moral and ethical convictions, even to the surrender of every other right, including the right to one’s life.”
At the Feb. 2 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, the president was given a copy of Bonhoeffer’s biography by author Eric Metaxas.
Calling for “all people of conscience” to stand with them, the council members informed Obama that they “must take extraordinary action to respectfully resist your decrees.”
The National Clergy Council joins with a growing number of faith groups that have objected to the contraception mandate on the grounds of religious freedom.
The U.S. bishops have called for the mandate to be repealed, and multiple members of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, representing both Catholic and Protestant schools, have urged the administration to substantially change or remove it.
Feb. 22 story continues below.
The U.S. Catholic bishops and numerous other religious groups and EWTN’s CEO and the Register’s publisher, Michael Warsaw, have maintained President Obama’s revisions to the mandate only appear to shift payment to insurance companies, but in reality the employer still pays at least part of the premium.
They have called for legislation to reverse the mandate.
“Thirty years ago, a cloistered nun named Mother Angelica Rizzo started a small television station in her garage to spread the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church,” Warsaw wrote in a Feb. 21 New York Times op-ed. “Since then the station, EWTN, has grown into one of the largest Catholic media networks in the world, but we haven’t strayed from our values. And we won’t — even though our commitment has landed us in the cross hairs of the Obama administration.”
He reiterated EWTN’s lawsuit to fight the mandate.
He also stated: “Mother Angelica didn’t create EWTN to be a weak Catholic voice. Our donors send us money to spread Catholic teachings, not to subvert them. The mandate makes it impossible for us to live up to that core mission, giving us the choice of either compromising our beliefs or being crushed by fines. That ultimatum is unfair, unconstitutional and repugnant — which is why we have no choice but to fight it in court.”
The federal contraception mandate should be of “grave concern” to all Americans and not just Catholics, said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
Cardinal DiNardo, who heads the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said that the new mandate and its “compromise” will force Catholic institutions to either abandon their mission of serving people regardless of their faith or violate basic teachings of the Catholic Church on birth control and abortion.
“To be coerced by the federal government into choosing one of these options is wrong,” Cardinal DiNado said in a Feb. 17 column for the Houston Chronicle.
He warned that the U.S. government has never forced any religious group to pay for actions that violate their consciences and that every American should be concerned about the proposed mandate since it threatens religious freedom, as protected by the First Amendment.
The contraception mandate would prevent U.S. citizens from bringing their principles and moral convictions into the public square and “confine religion to our sanctuaries only,” Cardinal DiNardo said.
The Catholic Church, particularly in Galveston-Houston Cardinal DiNardo noted, has always sought to serve “the broader community in need,” not just members of its own institution.
Ministering to others through health care, education and social services is an essential part of the Catholic faith as a response of the Gospel to serve the entire world, he said.
“It is distressing to realize that the government is creating its own definitions of which ministries are religious enough to qualify for an exemption to a policy that violates a church’s teaching,” Cardinal DiNardo emphasized.
More than 2,500 religious leaders have signed a letter to President Obama calling for the reversal of the HHS-mandated insurance coverage of contraception because it “essentially ignores the conscience rights of many Catholic and Protestant Americans.”
“Our country was founded on certain freedoms, the first of which is the freedom of religion. The ability of a religious person to follow their conscience without fearing government intervention has long been a protected right for Americans.
“It is unfathomable to picture a country that would deny religious freedoms,” the letter says.
It said that due to the “narrow” religious exemption, the “vast majority” of religious organizations will be forced to choose either to violate their consciences or to drop health coverage for employees.
The letter was released at a Feb. 20 press conference at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention and Exposition in Nashville, Tenn. The Family Research Council led the letter signature effort.
Those who announced the letter included Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and Bishop Harry Jackson, the senior pastor of the Beltsville, Md.-based Hope Christian Church.
The letter underscored that the Obama administration’s rule means that millions of Americans will incur the costs for the mandated products and procedures.
“Forcing religious entities to do the same, despite objections of good conscience, is a severe blow to our religious liberty,” the signers said.
The Jan. 20 mandate also requires all religious organizations to refer people for the objectionable drugs or procedures.
In reaction, the letter quoted Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, which says: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.”
The letter calls for the reversal of the mandate and the protection of the conscience rights of those who have “biblically based opposition” to funding or providing contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs.
A new survey reveals that pharmacy directors across the country do not believe that a mandate requiring insurance companies to offer free contraceptives will cut costs, as the Obama administration has predicted.
“It was interesting that no one thought the mandate would offset costs by preventing unintended pregnancies,” said Rhonda Greenapple, CEO of the firm that conducted the survey. “This is in direct opposition to the rationale for mandating these services.”
The survey, announced Feb. 17, was administered by Reimbursement Intelligence, a market research firm specializing in reimbursement issues for medical and pharmaceutical companies.
Fifteen pharmacy directors, “representing tens of millions of pharmacy-covered lives,” were asked about what impact they think the Obama administration’s new contraception mandate will have on their plans.
The mandate will require employers to offer health-insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can induce early abortions.
Amid strong criticism that the regulation violates the religious freedom of employers that object to such coverage, President Barack Obama announced an “accommodation” on Feb. 10.
Under the revised policy, religious employers will not directly purchase the coverage but will instead be forced to purchase insurance plans from companies that are required to provide the coverage for free.
A White House fact sheet argued that requiring contraceptive coverage “saves money by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services,” such as those associated with unintended pregnancies.
However, none of the firms surveyed believe that the new policy will lead to a net savings.
About 40% of survey participants think that the mandate will increase their costs thorough higher pharmacy expenditures.
Approximately 7% believe it will increase pharmacy costs but decrease medical costs.
About 20% predict that their costs will not change because contraception is already embedded into their premiums, while about one-third of the participants are still unsure what effect the mandate will have.
Although survey participants were divided about the exact impact of the mandate, none believe that it will “lead to net cost savings by preventing unintended pregnancies among members.”
The survey’s findings reinforce concerns that insurance companies will transfer the cost of the controversial coverage to their clients.
One survey participant said that mandates create a “need to raise prices, change cost structures and pass along additional costs to our customers.”