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Latest News and Information

New Letter Opposes HHS Mandate’s Distinctions for Religious Groups

By EWTN NewsNational Catholic Register
Posted on: Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
Original publication date: June 13, 2012

More than 150 faith-based organizations have spoken out against the Obama administration’s contraception mandate because it creates class distinctions for religious groups. The mandate and its narrow exemption create a “two-class scheme” of religious organizations that “honors acts of worship while burdening those whose faith leads them to service in our common life,” they argued.

In a June 11 letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, the leaders voiced “grave concern” over the two-class concept of religious organizations that was “embedded in federal law” in February, when the mandate was finalized in its original form.

The letter was organized by the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition that works to protect the religious identity and work of faith-based organizations throughout America. It was signed by aid organizations including World Relief and the U.S. branches of the Salvation Army and World Vision, Inc. The National Association of Evangelicals, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and the North American Baptist Conference were also represented in the letter, as well as law organizations such as Liberty Counsel and the American Center for Law and Justice.

Representatives of several Catholic colleges also signed the letter, including the presidents of Aquinas College, DeSales University and Belmont Abbey College. The letter criticized an insurance mandate issued by Sebelius that will require employers to offer health-care plans that include coverage of contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences. Although the mandate includes a religious exemption, it is extremely narrow. To qualify for it, nonprofit organizations must exist for the purpose of inculcating religious values and both serve and employ primarily members of their own faith. Therefore, while many houses of worship fall under the protection of the exemption, most other religious organizations, including schools, hospitals and charitable agencies, do not.

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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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