|U.S. Religious Liberty|
The Contraceptive Mandate and Religious Liberty
The dispute over the federal HHS mandate has yet to be resolved. On March 14th the Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released the following: Statement on Religious Freedom and HHS Mandate
On February 10th, 2012 President Obama released a statement intended to calm concerns over the controversial HHS contraceptive mandate. Religious organizations had forcefully argued against the mandate that would abridge religious liberty by requiring almost all employers to cover sterilization, contraceptives, and abortifacient drugs in employee health plans. The President’s announcement, however, did not address major concerns of the US Catholic Bishops.
The Bishops stated that the mandate disregards First Amendment protections against governmental interference in the operation of religious organizations. The HHS mandate defines religious entities to the exclusion of such institutions as Catholic universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations. With so narrow a definition of “religious employer,” HHS sought to limit religious freedom by defining what constitutes church ministry and how it can be exercised.
The President’s “accommodation” did little to protect religious liberty, as HHS ruled that the original mandate will stand. The Bishops of Washington State’s three dioceses released statements defending the first amendment right to religious liberty in light of state and national mandates. The Bishops urged the faithful to stand up for religious liberty both in Washington State and on the national level by expressing their objections.