Last week, forty-three organizations filed twelve lawsuits opposing the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) mandate that will force scores of employers to provide health plans that include services that violate their religious beliefs. The University of Notre Dame, the Archdiocese of Washington, Catholic Charities of D.C., and the Saint Anne Home and Retirement Community were just a few of the organizations that filed suit.
The mandate will require most employers to provide health plans that cover abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization, and contraceptives. It includes an extremely narrow exemption for churches, but offers no protection to religious hospitals, schools, and charities, with the reason being that these entities often serve and employ individuals that do not share the groups’ religious beliefs. Cardinal Weurl, Archbishop of Washington, aptly explained,
“[F]or two millennia, Roman Catholic entities have been engaged in charitable works – serving not just Catholics, but non-Catholics as well, with the understanding that these works are an essential part of Christian love and the practice of the Christian faith. . . . Considering the dedicated efforts put into these good works, it is understandable to feel somewhat disheartened to see our government attempt to force the Church out of the public square. To be clear, that is the message that the HHS mandate conveys: our beliefs are not welcome. . . . The First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom, however, was not meant to protect merely the right to worship, but also the right to contribute the fruits of our faith to the common good. And until now, our government had chosen to honor that guarantee. . . . HHS’s conception of what constitutes the practice of religion is so narrow that even Mother Teresa would not have qualified. We know that such a law cannot stand. . . . The Church did not choose this fight. It is HHS that has departed from longstanding practice and precedent to change the law; our response merely aims to preserve our existing rights.”
If the mandate is not modified, it could force many religious charities and service organizations out of the public square, leaving society’s most vulnerable members with even less access to assistance. Unfortunately, in recent years there have been numerous examples of an increasing hostility towards people wishing to exercise their constitutionally-protected religious freedoms.
Religious freedom in America has consistently extended beyond religious worship, safeguarding the ability of the faithful to contribute to our society in a unique and significant way. Members of the Prayer Caucus will continue working to ensure that religious freedom in its fullest sense is preserved in our nation.
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Congressman J. Randy Forbes, Founder
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Contact the Congressional Prayer Caucus Amy Vitale, Amy.Vitale@mail.house.gov