Archbishop Carlson joins interfaith leaders in signing letter of protest against HHS mandate
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson has joined leaders of other religious groups in signing a letter drafted by the president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod supporting religious liberty.
The letter, "Free Exercise of Religion: Putting Beliefs into Practice," was issued June 21 by Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison. It includes two dozen other signatures from leaders of other religious organizations who oppose the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services health care mandate, which forces many religious employers to cover contraception, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans.
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is the second-largest U.S. Lutheran body. It has about 2.3 million members and is headquartered in St. Louis.
Other Catholic signers included Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom.
Archbishop Carlson expressed gratitude to Harrison and to the other religious leaders who signed the Free Exercise of Religion letter. "In so doing," Archbishop Carlson said of the signers, "you have clearly distinguished that the HHS mandate poses a threat to religious liberty for all Americans of all faiths and denominations, whether or not they oppose the use of contraceptives on moral grounds. It is a moment of great joy and of great truth to see people of faith come together in this way to defend our first, most-cherished freedom."
Lawrence J. Welch, director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, noted that this is the first time all of the participating religious groups have "gotten together as one on something with such a widespread implication as this." The HHS mandate, as it is related to religious liberty, is "something that affects every religious tradition."
"As religious leaders from a variety of perspectives and communities, we are compelled to make known our protest against the incursion" by HHS "into the realm of religious liberty," the letter stated.
"We who oppose the application of this mandate to religious institutions include not only the leaders of religious groups morally opposed to contraception, but also leaders of other religious groups that do not share that particular moral conviction," it said.
"That we share an opposition to the mandate to religious institutions while disagreeing about specific moral teachings is a crucial fact," it continued. "Religious freedom is the principle on which we stand."
In a video recorded late last week, Harrison said the statement explained why the Lutheran Church and other religious organizations — including Christian and nonChristian — are joining with the Catholic Church in speaking out for religious liberty.
The issue is not a matter of contraception or even women's rights, Harrison said in the video.
"The First Amendment does not allow Congress to make laws respecting the establishment of any one religion in this country, and Congress cannot make laws, which prevent the free exercise of religion in this country," he said. "Freedom exercise of religion does not mean simoply the freedom to assemble. It means we have the freedom to practice our religion in the public sphere, in instutions we have and run as Christians or other religious people."
Welch said the letter has provided the religious groups who signed the letter a chance to say, "we should not be told who we can minister to or how we can minister to them."
"What's really important here is that all of these groups are coming together and saying our religious traditions are meant to go out into the world," said Welch. "That really defines us in that we really live out our mission, and certainly in the case of Christians and Catholics. That's exactly what Christ commanded us to do. How can the government say how we can practice this?"
In the Washington, D.C., area, the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington issued a similar statement May 29, saying the HHS mandate might require religiously affiliated institutions to "provide funds for health services that violate their conscience and religious beliefs."
"We are especially concerned in the case of those institutions, such as the Archdiocese of Washington, which are self-insured," the statement said.
Members of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington include the Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Jewish, Mormon, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Sikh and Zoroastrian faith communities. The group is involved in interfaith dialogue and cooperative efforts for social and economic justice, which includes "protecting religious freedom."
The organization called on "all interested parties to reach for higher ground in achieving both social goods: that of preserving religious freedom and that of ensuring equal provision of affordable health care."
Catholic News Service provided some information for this article.
Signers of "Free Eexercise of Religion: Putting Beliefs into Practice"
• Leith Anderson
President, National Association of Evangelicals
• Gary M. Benedict
President, The Christian and Missionary Alliance U.S.
• Bishop John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church
• The Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson
Archbishop of St. Louis
• Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
• Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, SV
Superior General, the Sisters of Life
• Imam Faizul R. Khan
Founder and Leader, Islamic Society of Washington Area
• The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky
Director of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations, Orthodox Church in America
• Most Rev. William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore, Chairman USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty
• Sister Maria Christine Lynch, LSP
Provincial Superior, Chicago Province Little Sisters of the Poor
• Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, LSP
Provincial Superior, Baltimore Province Little Sisters of the Poor
• The Rev. John A. Moldstad
President, Evangelical Lutheran Synod
• Sister Barbara Anne Gooding, RSM
Director, Department of Religion Saint Francis Health System
• Sister Margaret Regina Halloran, LSP
Provincial Superior, Brooklyn Province Little Sisters of the Poor
• The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
• Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.
Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church,
Bishop, Fellowship of International Churches
• The Very Rev. Dr. John A. Jillions
Chancellor, Orthodox Church in America
• The Most Blessed Jonah
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All American and Canada Orthodox Church in America
• Deaconess Cheryl D. Naumann
President, Concordia Deaconess Conference
The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod
• The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
Hispanic Evangelical Association
• Sister Joseph Marie Ruessmann
Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Mich.
• The Rev. Mark Schroeder
President, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
• L. Roy Taylor
Stated Clerk, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America
• Sister Constance Carolyn Veit, LSP
Communications Director, Little Sisters of the Poor
• Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent, The General Council of the Assemblies of God
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