Conscience rights

Bishops urge action on conscience protection for health care workers

WASHINGTON — The chairmen of the U.S. bishops' pro-life and religious freedom committees have asked U.S. Catholics to contact members of Congress and urge them to enact the Conscience Protection Act as part of the funding bill for fiscal year 2018.

Congress faces a March 23 deadline to approve an omnibus appropriations measure that likely would fund the government through the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. Lawmakers will consider whether to include the Conscience Protection Act of 2017 in the bill.

Cdl. Dolan, Abp. Kurtz praise new HHS conscience protection policies

WASHINGTON -- New policies put in place by the civil rights office of the federal Department of Health and Human Services won praise from two former presidents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"We applaud HHS for its significant actions to protect conscience rights and religious freedom," said a joint Jan. 19 statement by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, now chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., chair of their Committee for Religious Liberty.

Archbishop applauds ‘historic settlement’ on HHS mandate suit

In a letter to his flock, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson celebrated the recent "historic settlement" between 74 religious organizations, including the Archdiocese of St. Louis and Catholic Charities of St. Louis, and the U.S. government over certain mandates of the Affordable Care Act.

Department of Health and Human Services regulations would have required religious organizations to provide employee health plans that included contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization procedures, in violation of their religious beliefs under threat of stiff penalties.

Groups settle in lawsuit against HHS contraceptive mandate

Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington talked near the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington in March. On Oct. 16, groups making up the Zubik v. Burwell challenge to the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act reached a settlement with the Justice Department.

WASHINGTON — Dozens of Catholic groups that challenged the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act have reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, they announced late Oct. 16.

The groups, including the Archdiocese of Washington and the Pennsylvania dioceses of Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Erie, were represented by the Cleveland-based law firm Jones Day.

Justice Department issues memo on religious liberty to federal agencies

A man posed with a child Sept. 26 in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. On Oct. 6, the U.S. Department of Justice issued guidance to all administrative agencies and executive departments regarding stating “to the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law … religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity.”

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice issued guidance Oct. 6 to all administrative agencies and executive departments regarding religious liberty protections in federal law.

"To the greatest extent practicable and permitted by law ... religious observance and practice should be reasonably accommodated in all government activity, including employment, contracting and programming," the Justice Department stated in the 26-page memo to federal agencies.

Trump administration expands exemptions on contraceptive mandate

WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration Oct. 6 issued interim rules expanding the exemption to the contraceptive mandate for religious employers, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, who object on moral grounds to covering contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs and devices in their employee health insurance.

Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops praised the action as "a return to common sense, long-standing federal practice and peaceful coexistence between church and state."

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