Last weekend in parishes across the United States, Catholics heard strong, defiant reactions from their bishops to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Servicesâ€™ (HHS) January 22 announcement that employers â€“ including religious organizations and other nonprofits â€“ would be required to provide employee health insurance that covered contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs under the federal health care reform law.
Before we continue this conversation, please understand:Â This debate is not about whether contraception is moral. This is a debate over how far the government can go in requiring organizations to pay for health care that the Catholic Church and many others find immoral.Â The First Amendment protects the free exercise rights of religion beyond the freedom to simply worship behind closed doors. This debate is centered around defending that right.Â
As Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York stated:
â€œCoercing religious ministries and citizens to pay directly for actions that violate their teaching is an unprecedented incursion into freedom of conscience . . . When the government tampers with a freedom so fundamental to the life of our nation, one shudders to think what lies ahead.â€Â (full statement)Â
Become Informed & Take Action Now
- First things first — BECOME INFORMED! The U.S. Bishops have assembled the critical information and packaged it nicely on their Conscience Protection page. Share the site with others so they are informed and can take action, too.Â
- There’s confusion about what the HHS edict involves. For a quick summary, check out the Bishops’ 2-pageÂ FAQÂ calledÂ The HHS Mandate for Contraception/Sterilization Coverage: An Attack on Rights of Conscience.
- Write to CongressÂ urging support for theÂ Respect for Rights of Conscience ActÂ (H.R. 1179, S. 1467) — find aÂ sample message to send to Congress at the link provided. Also contact the local offices of your U.S. Representative and Senators. Ask them or their staffers for their position on this HHS mandate, and let them know where you stand as well.