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Cardinal Says Religious Liberty is Issue at Stake With Mandate

By Mark ZimmermanMy Catholic Standard: Archdiocese of Washington
Posted on: Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

In recent interviews about the contraceptive mandate imposed by the Department of Health and Human Services, Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl underscored that the key issue at stake is religious freedom. The cardinal and other bishops conducted media interviews this past week to shed light on the Catholic Church’s stance on the HHS mandate controversy.

In a Feb. 13 Fox News interview on “America’s Newsroom” with Martha MacCallum, Cardinal Wuerl said that under the revised mandate, religious organizations that provide a self-insured plan extending health benefits to their employees would “still have to provide and pay for all these morally objective” services, including abortion-producing drugs, sterilizations and FDA-approved contraceptives.

“There’s a much bigger issue at stake here, and that is the redefining of religious liberty,” the cardinal said. “We have a constitutional protection that allows for churches to carry out their ministries, their work. We’ve been doing it for over 200 years, with enormous success in building up the common good. All of a sudden, we’re being told with these mandates, by this administration, that the administration will define for us what is our ministry.”

Cardinal Wuerl said that even if the government were to make a concession for religious organizations that self-insure their employees’ health plans,

“We still have to get to the basic issue, and that is the fundamental freedom of religious, faith-based groups to carry out their ministry unimpeded by government directives.”

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About Preserve Religious Freedom

This lawsuit is about religious freedom and our ability to serve the public, not about contraception. The Church maintains that the First Amendment protects the Catholic Church's ability to serve the public in accordance with its faith and to operate its religious institutions without government interference. The argument challenges the way the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defines what is, and is not, a religious institution. By including an exemption at all, the government apparently agrees that, in keeping with decades of practice and precedent, religious institutions should not be compelled to purchase drugs or procedures that violate deeply held religious or moral beliefs.

But, the Administration's HHS mandate defines religious ministry so narrowly that religious schools, hospitals, and social services don't qualify as religious, and must therefore provide these drugs and procedures. This violates the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom. It forces religious organizations to sacrifice their beliefs in order to be able to continue their mission of serving the public. Read more about the plaintiffs filing this lawsuit here.

Preserve Religious Freedom
c/o Archdiocese of Washington
P.O. Box 29260
Washington, DC 20017-0260

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