Tuesday, July 2, 2013

BREAKING: USCCB Leads Coalition of Religious Leaders in Call for Religious Liberty

BREAKING: USCCB Leads Coalition of Religious Leaders in Call for Religious Liberty

By Kathy Schiffer, Ave Maria Radio

Vires in Numeris. The Latin phrase (English translation: Strength in Numbers) sounds biblical, but a quick word search failed to turn up any instances in Scripture; rather, it’s been used in music, in film, in a motorcycle parade.  More recently, the phrase has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity because it’s the motto engraved on the bitcoin.
And today, some 61 religious leaders, representing millions of Americans from many faith backgrounds, have banded together in defense of religious liberty. 
At 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, July 2, at the National Press Club, a group of national religious leaders and scholars released an open letter calling for religious freedom, in light of the finalized Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate.
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Russell D. Moore of the Ethical and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention are among 61 signatories on the letter, representing some 26 major denominations; 11 colleges, universities and institutes of higher education; and 16 nonprofit and concerned for-profit organizations and religious orders. 
In the letter, the leaders call upon HHS to expand conscience protections to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services.  They also ask Congress to take measures to prevent future breaches of religious freedom.
Here, in its entirety, is the text of the open letter:
Standing Together for Religious Freedom
An Open Letter to All Americans
We write as an informal and diverse group of religious leaders, theologians, lay practitioners and community servants. We believe the doctrines of our respective faiths require something of us beyond the walls of our churches, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship. Those faith convictions manifest themselves through our daily interactions among family, neighbors, strangers and institutions.
Further, we recognize the United States, at its best, is unique among the nations of the world when it defends the self-evident freedom of all people to exercise their faith according to the dictates of their consciences. This freedom contributes to the vibrancy of our nation. Unfortunately, this delicate liberty of conscience is under threat.tunately, this delicate liberty of conscience is under threat.
Through its contraceptive coverage mandate, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) continues to breach universal principles affirmed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws. While the mandate is a specific offense, it represents a greater fundamental breach of conscience by the federal government. Very simply, HHS is forcing Citizen A, against his or her moral convictions, to purchase a product for Citizen B. The HHS policy is coercive and puts the administration in the position of defining–or casting aside–religious doctrine. This should trouble every American.
Many of the signatories on this letter do not hold doctrinal objections to the use of contraception. Yet we stand united in protest to this mandate, recognizing the encroachment on the conscience of our fellow citizens. Whether or not we agree with the particular conscientious objection is beside the point. HHS continues to deny many Americans the freedom to manifest their beliefs through practice and observance in their daily lives.
The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Free exercise includes the freedom to order one’s life, liberties and pursuits in accordance with his or her convictions. HHS breaches the free exercise clause and federal statutes (passed with broad bipartisan support) by selectively denying some Americans this constitutionally protected right.
Americans afford each other broad liberties with respect to lifestyle choices. However, the federal government has neither a compelling interest nor the appropriate authority to coerce one citizen to fund or facilitate specific lifestyle choices of another. If the federal government can force morally opposed individuals to purchase contraception or abortion-causing drugs and devices for a third party, what prevents this or future administrations from forcing other Americans to betray their deeply held convictions?
Therefore, we call upon HHS to, at a minimum, expand conscience protections under the mandate to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services. Further, because HHS claims to be acting on authority granted it by Congress, we ask Congress to consider how it might prevent such offenses from occurring in the future. Any policy that falls short of affirming full religious freedom protection for all Americans is unacceptable.
And here is a list of the signatories:
Most Rev. William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Ad Hoc Committee for Religious LibertyRussell D. Moore, Ph.D.
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of
the Southern Baptist Convention
Leith Anderson
National Association of Evangelicals
Bishop Andrew
Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America
John Ashmen
Association of Gospel Rescue Missions
Bishop Gary E. Stevenson
Presiding Bishop
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Randall A. Bach
Open Bible Churches
The Most Rev. Craig W. Bates
International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church
Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D.
Professor of Government
Patrick Henry College
A.D. Beacham, Jr., Th.M.
Presiding Bishop
International Pentecostal Holiness Church
Dr. Gary M. Benedict
The Christian and Missionary Alliance, U.S.

J. Brian Benestad, Ph.D
Department of Theology
Assumption College
The Rev. Roger Boucher
Commander, US Navy (ret)
Chaplain at College of St. Mary Magdalen
Bishop John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church
Anuttama Dasa
Minister of Communications
Governing Body Commissioner, Vice Chair
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Most Revd Robert Duncan
Anglican Church in North America
Rev. Jim Eschenbrenner
Executive Pastor
Christian Union
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Hispanic Evangelical Association

Rev. Dr . Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Dr. William J. Hamel
Evangelical Free Church
Bishop Bruce D. Hill
Evangelical Congregational Church
John Hopler
Great Commission Churches
Bill Hossler
Missionary Church, Inc.
Clyde M. Hughes               
Bishop/General Overseer
International Pentecostal Church of Christ
Dr. Jeffrey Jeremiah
Stated Clerk
Evangelical Presbyterian Church

Jo Anne Lyon
General Superintendent
The Wesleyan Church
Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent
Assemblies of God

Alan Robinson
National Director
Brethren in Christ Church, U.S.

Joseph Tkach
Grace Communion International
Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Bishop of Newton
Melkite Greek Catholic Church
Rev. Susan Taylor
National Public Affairs Director
Church of Scientology
Anne Hendershott, Ph.D.
Daniel R. Kempton, Ph.D.
Patrick Lee, Ph.D.
Franciscan University of Steubenville
Assist. Prof. Richard S. Meloche, Ph.D.
Department of Philosophy & Theology
St. Gregory’s University
Sister Jane Marie Klein
Chairperson of the Board
Franciscan Alliance, Inc.

Richard Land, D.Phil. 
Southern Evangelical Seminary
Marc A. LePain
Professor of Theology
Assumption College
Fr. Sean O. Sheridan, TOR
Franciscan University of Steubenville
Tom Minnery
Senior Vice President
Focus on the Family
Greg Mitchell
The Mitchell Firm
David Nammo
Executive Director & CEO
Christian Legal Society
Rocky Rocholl
Fellowship of Evangelical Churches
Patrick J. Reilly
The Cardinal Newman Society
Dr. William Riordan
Director of Undergraduate Theology
Ave Maria University
Terri Marsh, J.D., Ph.D.
Human Rights Law Firm
Brent McBurney
President & CEO
Advocates International
Barbara Samuels
Catholics for Freedom of Religion

Steven A. Long, Ph.D
Professor of Theology
Ave Maria University 

Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Schirrmacherand
Prof. Dr. Christof Sauer
Executive Directors
International Institute for Religious Freedom
Alan Sears
Alliance Defending Freedom

Matt Smith
Catholic Advocate
David Stevens, MD, MA 
Christian Medical Association

Rabbi Aryeh Spero
Caucus for America
Craig Steven Titus, S.T.D./Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Director of Integrative Studies
Institute for the Psychological Sciences
Mark Tooley
Institute on Religion and Democracy
Ryan Topping, Ph.D.
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts
Sister Margaret Regina Halloran, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Brooklyn Province
Sister Maria Christine Lynch, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Chicago Province
Sister Loraine Marie Clare Maguire, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Baltimore Province
Little Sisters of the Poor


  1. The respectable Congresswoman and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joe Biden are prominent practicing Catholics and disagree with the above statement. Now what? I haven't heard anything from their catholic Bishops saying otherwise. So what's the problem with Obama Care?

    1. In the statement it's critical to notice that "Citizen A" is a capitalist and "Citizen B" is a worker. Hobby Lobby owners do not want to their female workers to have contraceptive health care. I hope they lose in the courts. They have already lost in public opinion.

      It's a sad day when our so-called religious leaders look out for the interests of business owners at the expense of ordinary (female) workers.

    2. Anonymous, in order for your statement to have any validity, Hobby Lobby would somehow have to magically gain the power that it does not currently possess, even under the current health system--that of preventing women from buying their own contraception. Mind you, contraceptives used for the purpose of contraception specifically are decidedly NOT health care. A woman's fertility is a natural and healthy state, meaning that her body is functioning as God designed it.

      It's a sad day when the Executive branch of the Federal gov't believes that giving women "free" contraception, sterilizations and abortions is somehow above the First Amendment right to religious liberty. The President and the HHS have already lost in the court of public opinion, which is why Obama and Sebelius refuse to discuss this matter publicly. They also know that they have no case to make legally. The US Supreme Court ruling against the HHS mandate will either be 9-0 or perhaps 8-1 if Ruth Bader Ginsburg is feeling especially frisky and abortion-friendly on the day she makes her decision.

    3. I don't know how the S.Ct. will rule, but I don't think it's accurate to say that the President and HHS have lost in the court of public opinion. I also don't agree that contraception is not health care--most women at least will not agree with you.

    4. Brother Kevin Gregorek, MICJuly 3, 2013 at 10:55 PM

      Anonymous, leaving aside the identification of contraception as a form of health care (whether most women--or men for that matter--agree or not is irrelevant to the objective reality that contraceptives are not health care), there is no case that the HHS can make whereby any employer should be forced to pay for women's contraception. Many health plans do not currently cover it, and it doesn't make an iota of difference in the lives of those women who are still fully capable of going out and buying the contraceptives themselves, be they the Pill, condoms, or female barrier methods. The cost of such contraception is negligible, and for Big Brother to force health insurers to pay for it so it's ostensibly "free" for women makes about as much sense as legislating that all auto insurance must cover oil changes. Such an idea goes against the very nature of insurance in the first place (not to mention how contraception goes against the nature of human sexual acts themselves) and simply raises everyone's health insurance premiums. Add in the morally repugnant notion that everyone should be forced to pay for some people's sterilizations or abortions and you've got a case that even this Supreme Court won't side with on its face. If public opinion were truly for the HHS mandate, you'd see a popular uprising in support of it. Instead, even many of those who support contraception, sterilizations, and abortions will honestly admit that nobody else should be forced to subsidize those particular things by some government mandate. When John Q. Public understands the issue completely, he sides against the government on this one. Only those who willfully choose to be misled by lies like "a war on women" will side with Big Brother publicly on the issue.

    5. If you are right that the Supreme Court will find the HHS mandate violates the First Amendment's religion clauses, we will find that such a decision does not go over well with women voters. Another democratic president (likely Mrs. Clinton) will mean a more left leaning Supreme Court. What do conservatives have to offer women voters in this area of personal health? Just to be clear, I hate abortion and do not think it's the same issue as everyday contraception. As a political matter, denying contraceptive care through insurance is not wise if you want conservative presidents to have a chance at the presidency.

    6. Brother Kevin Gregorek, MICJuly 4, 2013 at 5:17 PM

      This last question you raise, I believe, really gets to the heart of the differences between classical liberalism and the modern-day progressivism that Obama, Hillary, and Nancy Pelosi represent. You point out yourself that (some/many?) women will be angry if the USSC overturns the HHS mandate because they believe that the government should pay for their contraception. Why were these women not angry about this before Obamacare and the original rule of the HHS mandate ever came into being? Did we see a huge group of angry women then demanding that the government pay for their contraceptives, or did they simply pay for them on their own? You can see, I am sure, that Obama's administration has used this issue as a wedge to divide women and to make many of them think that somehow something is being taken away from them (a la the "war on women" meme he used to win re-election narrowly) which in reality they never had to begin with, and they weren't complaining about it until it was brought in by a manipulative administration to manipulate women emotionally. Once again, I stress that it is up to women (and men, and all voters everywhere) to use our God-given brains to realize that we must not allow ourselves to be manipulated and used so easily by an administration that seeks only its own power and its growth. If you go out and speak to every woman you know about the reality and the truth of this situation, and if everyone else does that, people will not be so gullible and fall for such manipulative language. We have the responsibility as citizens (and we as Catholics, as well) to understand the issues and not to let ourselves be led around like dogs on leashes, unable to think for ourselves and realize that we're being played like fiddles. On the original point above about the differences between classical liberalism and modern progressivism, I would argue that classical liberals would never even pose the question you have in the first place. "What do conservatives have to offer to women voters on personal health?" is soundly answered with a simple "keep your current insurance plan, search for another if you like, but it's not the place of the Federal government to get involved so deeply with health care at all. Make your own decisions, and the government will stay out of the insurance business, other than making sure there is a minimum safety net there to catch people who fall through the cracks in the traditional system." As a Catholic, I don't want Uncle Sam telling me that I must subsidize someone's abortion, sterilization, or IUD device, or else pay a penalty. That's not the prerogative of the Federal gov't under the Constitution, and the fact that some women are now demanding to have their $4/month Pill prescription available "for free" (it's never free--someone always pays; in this case, it's everyone involved in that particular health insurance plan paying for it by paying higher premiums) just points out the absurdly low information that so many voters possess.

    7. In France even conservative Catholics support universal health care. They believe it's proper for the government to provide health care to all citizens.

      Liberalism sees human nature quite differently from the view of the Catholic Church. The Church's view is much closer to Aristotle than it is to Locke. One can try to "Christianize" Locke and the American founders, but there remains a large difference in their outlook on human nature, the family, and the origin or private property. See Locke for example on marriage and the family in the Second Treatise.

    8. Brother Kevin Gregorek, MICJuly 5, 2013 at 11:06 AM

      Not sure what your point is in pointing out the differences between Catholic teaching and the views of the Church regarding the human person vs. Enlightenment philosophers' views of the same human person. Yes, the United States was founded on a combination of Enlightenment and natural law principles (the latter derived from Christian teachings, Scripture, tradition, etc.), and indeed the Founding Fathers themselves naturally sided more with one or the other, but how does that bear on what Catholics in the US are called to do vis-a-vis Obamacare, the HHS mandate, etc.?

      We are Catholics first and foremost, before we are Americans, Texans, New Yorkers, French, etc. Just because conservative Catholics in France believe that it's the government's job to provide universal health care has no bearing on what the Church teaches about such matters, nor is it even fully in line with Catholic teaching (e.g., subsidiarity), for that matter. The French, like Americans or any other nationals of a given country, are a product of our national histories, traditions and customs, but again, not all of those are in line with Catholic teaching. To the degree that we separate ourselves from Mother Church and Her guidance on matters affecting morals and faith, we need to tread very carefully.

      The HHS mandate problem is Exhibit 'A' in the discussion about whether Obamacare is morally licit in all of its myriad details. No U.S. administration has authority under the Constitution to unilaterally do away with any of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights or in the entire Constitution. To the degree that the HHS mandate is in direct conflict with the Freedom of Religion clause of the First Amendment, not to mention being in direct violation of conscience rights and the moral law in general, we are conscience-bound and duty-bound to oppose it civilly and morally. Hence, the actions we see being taken by Catholics, other Christians, and even other religions in this country to stand against the HHS mandate.

    9. You may be right about the constitutionality of the HHS mandate, I simply don't know enough to even guess, but I don't see this playing out well in our politics. It's a loser for conservatives. Democrats will scream "war on women" and this notion that conservatives are against women and gays will gain even greater strength than it has. I see no way a Republican president can be elected in 2016 if the "Christian right," including the Catholic right, is not silenced during the election year. It's alienating the majority of voters.

      I would add, to make the political situation even worse for Republicans, that American Catholics are deeply separated from the Bishops/Vatican on the whole range of issues dealing with sexuality, as poll after poll has demonstrated. A majority of Catholics supported Obama in the last election. This will continue as Hispanics continue to join the Democratic Party. Conservatism in this country in in a serious crisis. The HHS mandate opposition, even if it prevails, will not help the "macro" situation.

    10. Brother Kevin Gregorek, MICJuly 6, 2013 at 5:59 PM

      I never quite understand arguments like the one you seem to be making, Anonymous. Are you suggesting the Church change its teaching of the truth to adjust to the fickle times of a sinful world? Then it would cease to be the Church, would it not? Should Catholics ourselves be silent in the face of the lies of the Enemy, so dazzlingly bright and shiny in this entire debate, at least when viewed through secular/Enlightenment lenses?

      As the old saying goes, "the truth is the truth even if nobody believes it; a lie is a lie even if everybody believes it." Are you saying you would prefer to side with the lies, or that the Church should do so? It simply won't happen, ever. The Holy Spirit is with the Church until the end of the ages, and He will not allow the Church to teach falsehoods as truth.

    11. No, fool, I'm talking about acting prudently in order to obtain the best possible outcome in a doubtful circumstance. It's called PRUDENCE and its practice is a VIRTUE. I want to WIN, but all you want to make fetish of losing.

    12. Brother Kevin Gregorek, MICJuly 7, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      Wow, so slinging ad hominem attacks at Catholics who follow Church teaching is prudent? Is winning? Is virtuous? Somehow that doesn't strike me as something Christ would have championed, i.e., winning at all costs. Calm down and behave like an adult Christian, not as a 13 year-old child would.

      Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's. It's not worth it to win elections if we lose our own souls or help others to lose their own in the process. The Church, and we who are a part of it, are all called to speak the truth, in love, and at all times. Christ never promised us an easy path, and we should expect torment, strife, persecution, etc. in this life, especially if we are living in the Truth and letting ourselves be instruments of the Truth here on this mortal coil. Belief in the Truth can never be a "fetish" by definition, so let's lose the rhetoric, shall we? It certainly won't win any hearts from among orthodox Catholics, nor among those who dissent from Church teaching, for that matter.

    13. No, what you describe is EXACTLY what's wrong with the conservative Catholic mentality. You want to make a fetish of losing and suffering. I can't stand this defeatist mentality. There's no immorality in having a winning strategy. To win in democracy you must have more votes than the other side. If you don't like politics, fine, stay out it. But if you want to RULE, you absolutely must win elections. Let's play to win now, in our time, not in the afterlife. (Consider that all great American leaders found it necessary at some point to compromise with evil--that's the nature of political life. Reflect on that.)

    14. The Church can't even convince ordinary Catholics that it's right on contraception. How is it going to prevail? Perhaps in the Courts, if private business owners can receive First Amendment religious protection (I'm against this for a number of reasons, chiefly because it's politically a loser). Anyway, I see the Catholic vote as increasingly going Democratic. The efforts of the USCB to "communicate" are laughable. They produce epistles that only they read or are meant for their Vatican masters. This is why the President is not at all afraid of their pronouncements, in fact he probably welcomes their self-aggrandizing morals speeches.

  2. We'll evaluate how this will affect us politically and get back to you. If we feel it will help us gain more votes then we may agree with you otherwise don't hold your breath.


    An American Politician


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