Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, has issued an open letter from religious leaders to Americans, stating why they object to the Obamacare insurance mandate requiring coverage of contraceptives and abortifacients.
Putting Beliefs into Practice: An Open Letter from Religious Leaders in the United States to All Americans
Religious institutions are established because of religious beliefs and convictions. Such institutions include not only churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship, but also schools and colleges, shelters and community kitchens, adoption agencies and hospitals, organizations that provide care and services during natural disasters, and countless other organizations that exist to put specific religious beliefs into practice. Many such organizations have provided services and care to both members and non-members of their religious communities since before the Revolutionary War, saving and improving the lives of countless American citizens.
As religious leaders from a variety of perspectives and communities, we are compelled to make known our protest against the incursion of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) into the realm of religious liberty. HHS has mandated that religious institutions, with only a narrow religious exception, must provide access to certain contraceptive benefits, even if the covered medications or procedures are contradictory to their beliefs. 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.
That we share an opposition to the mandate to religious institutions while disagreeing about specific moral teachings is a crucial fact. Religious freedom is the principle on which we stand. Because of differing understandings of moral and religious author- ity, people of good will can and often do come to different conclusions about moral questions. Yet, even we who hold differing convictions on specific moral issues are united in the conviction that no religious institution should be penalized for refusing to go against its beliefs. The issue is the First Amendment, not specific moral teachings or specific products or services.
The HHS mandate implicitly acknowledged that an incursion into religion is involved in the mandate. However, the narrowness of the proposed exemption is revealing for it applies only to religious organizations that serve or support their own members. In so doing, the government is establishing favored and disfavored religious organizations: a privatized religious organization that serves only itself is exempted from regulation, while one that believes it should also serve the public beyond its membership is denied a religious exemption. The so-called accommodation and the subsequent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (AN- PRM) do little or nothing to alleviate the problem.
No government should tell religious organizations either what to believe or how to put their beliefs into practice. We indeed hold this to be an unalienable, constitutional right. If freedom of religion is a constitutional value to be protected, then institutions developed by religious groups to implement their core beliefs in education, in care for the sick or suffering, and in other tasks must also be protected. Only by doing so can the free exercise of religion have any meaning. The HHS mandate prevents this free exercise. For the well-being of our country, we oppose the application of the contraceptive mandate to religious institutions and plead for its retraction.
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 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 Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, l.s.p., Provincial Superior, Baltimore Province Little Sisters of the Poor The Rev. John A. Moldstad, President Evangelical Lutheran Synod Deaconess Cheryl D. Naumann, President Concordia Deaconess Conference The Lutheran Church MS The Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York President United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V., Superior General of the Sisters of Life Sister Barbara Anne Gooding, R.S.M. Director, Department of Religion Saint Francis Health System Sister Margaret Regina Halloran, l.s.p. Provincial Superior, Brooklyn Province Little Sisters of the Poor The Most Blessed Jonah, Archbishop Orthodox Church in America Imam Faizul R. Khan, Founder and Leader Islamic Society of Washington Area The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Director of Interchurch Relations Orthodox Church in America The Most Rev. William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore Chairman USCCB Committee for Religious Liberty Sister Maria Christine Lynch, l.s.p., Provincial Superior, Chicago Province Little Sisters of the Poor The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President NHCLC Hispanic Evangelical Association Sister Joseph Marie Ruessmann, R.S.M., J.D., J.C.D., M.B.A. Generalate Secretary Religious Sisters of Mercy The Rev. Mark Schroeder, President Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod L. Roy Taylor, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America Sister Constance Carolyn Veit, l.s.p., Communications Director Little Sisters of the Poor Dr. George O. Wood, General Superintendent The General Council of the Assemblies of God
Christians from across denominational lines join together for a special newscast program that will mark the beginning of a two week period of nationwide prayer and action in support of religious liberty. This First Freedom is threatened by the Department of Health and Human Services which has approved -- for the first time in American history -- new federal regulations that would force health-care plans to cover abortion drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations. Rallies being held across the country and the numerous lawsuits filed against the mandate have sent a message that Christians will not give up this constitutionally guaranteed right.
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life
Dr. Joe Aguillard, President, Louisiana College
Melissa Silvers, Associate Director of Government Relations, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Tom McClusky, Senior Vice President, FRC Action
Fortnight for Freedom Praying for Religious Freedom
“Fortnight for Freedom,” a two-week “period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action” sponsored by the U.S. Catholic bishops. The goal of the fortnight, which runs from June 21 to July 4, is to emphasize what the bishops call “our Christian and American heritage of liberty,” in particular, religious liberty.
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Through The Roof Training Welcoming All God's Children: Steps for Inclusion in the Church Join us for a half-day of focused workshops to help your church welcome and include families affected by disability. Workshops include: Autism 101, Behavior Management in the Church Setting, Setting up a Sensory Break Room/Buddy Connection, and Family Parties and Caregiver Support.
April 14, 2012 | Autism and Church Disability Ministry | Chicago, IL April 26, 2012 | How to Start a Disability Ministry in Your Church | Minneapolis, MN April 28, 2012 | Training for Churches in Disability Ministry | St. Louis May 3, 2012 | For Children’s Directors and VBS leaders | Phoenix, AZ June 1, 2012 | Disability Ministry Workshop | Phoenix, AZ Sept. 8, 2012 | Disability Ministry Workshop
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Beyond Suffering Course July 10 - July 14, 2012 | Joni and Friends Disability Center Agoura Hills, CA
Beyond Suffering (Christian Perspectives on Disability Ministry) is a 32-hour certificate program designed to give you, the participant, an introductory understanding of the aspects of disability ministry.
Beyond Suffering is comprised of four thought-provoking modules:
An Overview of Disability Ministry
The Theology of Suffering and Disability
The Church and Disability Ministry
An Introduction to Bioethics
Participants will learn through lecture, group discussion, video and hands-on experience to evangelize, welcome into the church and empower those affected by disability. This program is designed for ministers, professionals, teachers, volunteers, students and anyone interested in learning more about effective disability ministry.
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