Important Update: Washington Post: Catholic University's lawsuit against the federal government is a matter of religious liberty. Read More.
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Majority of Americans Support First Amendment Conscience Rights and Exemptions in Health Care

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012MarketWatch

As America’s bishops and Catholic organizations around the country file lawsuits to protect their First Amendment rights from the government’s health care mandate, a new survey finds that a significant majority of Americans support the right to opt out of providing drugs, services and procedures for religious reasons.

According to the Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll, the survey found that three in four Americans (74 to 26 percent) say that freedom of religion should be protected, even if it conflicts with other laws. Majorities would also protect the First Amendment conscience rights of hospitals, health care workers and insurers.

Strong majorities would let individual health care providers and organizations opt out of providing: abortion (58 to 38 percent), abortion-inducing drugs (51 to 44 percent), in vitro fertilization treatments that could result in the death of an embryo (52 to 41 percent), medication to speed the death of a terminally ill patient (55 to 41 percent) and birth control pills (51 to 46 percent). The number supporting the right to opt out of providing birth control is particularly interesting given the fact that more than eight in 10 Americans (88 percent) believe contraception is morally acceptable.

“This survey reveals that the American people are fundamentally dedicated to protecting the First Amendment conscience rights of everyone,” said Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson. “Allowing people to opt out of these procedures or services — which violate their faith — is the right thing to do. It is also key to protecting the First Amendment rights of all Americans and enjoys strong public support as well.”

Overall, the survey found that half (50 percent) of Americans have heard of the debate over the government’s health care mandate. The mandate, promulgated by the Obama administration and the Department of Health and Human Services, requires employers — including organizations that are religiously affiliated — to provide free insurance coverage to women for services including sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs and birth control.

In addition, a strong majority of Americans (52 to 31 percent) also indicated that laws in the United States have made it more difficult to follow one’s religious beliefs in recent years.

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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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