Religious leaders of other faiths speaking out against health care mandate
Leaders from Christian and other religious groups around the country have been stepping up to speak out against the federal health care mandate, which will require all health insurance plans to include free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-producing drugs.
Whether or not they hold the same view on contraceptives as the Catholic Church, all seem to view the mandate as a violation of religious freedom.
John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, which includes about 400,000 regularly worshipping members, this week called the mandate "a frontal attack on our religious liberty," in an article in the Pathway, the MBC's newspaper.
Yeats will be teaming up with Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and others next month for a Rally for Religious Liberty at the Missouri State Capitol.
"Pope Benedict XVI has called on people of many faiths -- despite our differences -- to put to work the unity that exists among us for the sake of the common good," said Lawrence Welch, director of the archdiocesan Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. "The Rally for Religious Liberty will be a remarkable show of unity by people of different faiths who will be standing up for the common good of religious liberty.
Yeats noted that Missouri Baptist universities will be forced to deal with a ruling that "seeks to secularize the institutions of faith we have built for purposes of faith."
According to the Pathway, the president of Southwest Baptist University, C. Pat Taylor, said he plans to speak with trustees later this month about the possibility of joining a federal lawsuit, filed in December by Colorado Christian University and Belmont Abbey College, which challenges the mandate. Also considering that option is Hannibal LaGrange University, another Southern Baptist institution.
Missouri Baptist Children's Home, located in Bridgeton and which provides residential child care and foster and adoptive services, among others, also is considering how it would be affected by the mandate.
The president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Rev. Matthew C. Harrison, is calling on members of the second-largest Lutheran church body in North America to support efforts to preserve religious freedom. The synod has 2.2 million baptized members and is headquartered in Kirkwood.
In a statement issued Feb. 14, Harrison said the synod remains "deeply concerned" by the mandate, adding that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) strongly objects "to the use of drugs and procedures that are used to take the lives of unborn children, who are persons in the sight of God from the time of conception."
"We remain opposed to this mandate because it runs counter to the biblical truth of the sanctity of human life," the statement continued. "We are committed to working to ensure that we remain free to practice the teachings of our faith, that our religious rights are not violated, and that our rights of conscience are retained."
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America also issued a statement last week, saying that it is joining with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in speaking out against the mandate and calls on HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the White House administration to rescind the ruling. The assembly includes the 65 canonical Orthodox bishops in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
"This freedom is transgressed when a religious institution is required to pay for 'contraceptive services,' including abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization services that directly violate their religious convictions," according to the statement. "Providing such services should not be regarded as mandated medical care."
Last December, more than 60 religious leaders, including Protestant and orthodox Jewish leaders, penned a letter to President Barack Obama, stressing that "religious organizations and leaders of other faiths are also deeply troubled by and opposed to the mandate and the narrow (religious) exemption."
"It is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients," the letter said. "It is not only Catholics who object to the narrow exemption that protects only seminaries and a few churches, but not churches with a social outreach and other faith-based organizations that serve the poor and needy broadly providing help that goes beyond worship and prayer.
"We believe that the federal government is obligated by the First Amendment to accommodate the religious convictions of faith-based organizations of all kinds, Catholic and non-Catholic."
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