Important Update: Diocese of Stockton: Bishop Blaire Clarifies His Comments Regarding Religious Liberty Lawsuits Read More.
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Clarification by Bishop Stephen Blaire in regard to comments on the HHS Mandate

By Bishop Stephen BlaireDiocese of Stockton
Posted on: Friday, May 25th, 2012
Original publication date: May 24, 2012

I wish to clarify some misunderstandings related to my comments about the HHS Mandate.

First of all, I stand solidly with my brother bishops in our common resolve to overturn the unacceptable intrusion of government into the life of the Church by the HHS Mandate. In March, the Administrative Committee issued a statement of commitment to persuade the Administration to eliminate this interference, the Congress to overturn it or the courts to stop it. I contributed to and voted for this statement, and continue to support it, including its call for legal action as was announced on Monday.

The fundamental issue is the freedom of the Church to carry out her mission as given by Christ. Religious Freedom protects the right of the Church to define herself and her ministries. It is totally unacceptable to have the federal government decide that our religious ministries are not “religious.” The continuing effort of the government to intrude itself by re-defining Catholic ministries as somehow less religious or less Catholic because they employ or serve those without regard to their creed is unjust and a violation of religious liberty. The government should not intrude itself in forcing the Church and her institutions to violate her long standing teaching to provide essential health care to her employees.

From my perspective, the recent legal challenges by dioceses and Catholic entities throughout the United States, as well as discussions with the Administration, and the advocacy of Congress, all have one essential goal: to defend the right of the Church to define herself and to preserve the identity and integrity of the Catholic ministries exercised through her institutions.

I am convinced we need to continue to seek to persuade others to join us in this just cause through reasoned, civil and respectful discussion. Our defense of religious liberty is advanced when there is open discussion about the best strategies to promote our common goal.

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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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