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Catholic Colleges Join Bishops, Southern Baptist Convention in Supporting Religious Freedom

CC Nathaniel

Aleteia - published on 07/02/13 - updated on 06/07/17

Together they are bracing for the implementation of the HHS mandate this August

“The Cardinal Newman Society stands shoulder-to-shoulder with our bishops and leaders of non-Catholic Christian denominations in once again opposing this direct attack on our first freedom,” said Patrick J. Reilly, President of the Newman Society.  “I urge all Catholics to continue standing with our bishops in the Fortnight for Freedom, which reaches its completion on Independence Day.”

On June 28, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule implementing its mandate that most religious groups must provide insurance coverage of sterilization and contraception (including drugs that cause abortion).  The mandate applies to many Catholic schools, nearly all Catholic colleges, and Catholic charities and healthcare organizations.

Most Reverend William Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore and chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of The Southern Baptist Convention, affirmed in the letter released today the unacceptability of a policy which does not affirm full religious freedom protection.  The letter states:

Through its contraceptive services 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 a position of defining-or casting aside-religious doctrine. This should trouble every American.

The letter recognizes the solidarity among religious organizations in response to the HHS mandate.  The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion.

“Free exercise includes the freedom to order one’s life, liberties and pursuit of happiness in accordance with his/her convictions. HHS breaches the free exercise clause and federal statutes with broad bipartisan support by selectively denying some Americans this constitutionally protected right,” the letter states.

The Cardinal Newman Society organized support for the letter from 20 Catholic colleges and universities, plus 28 theologians and other staff members of the institutions, to recognize the“self-evident freedoms of all people to exercise their faith acting to the dictates of their conscience.”

In addition to Patrick J. Reilly signing for the Newman Society, presidents of the following colleges and universities signed the letter: Aquinas College (Tenn.), Assumption College (Mass.), Ave Maria University (Fla.), Belmont Abbey College (N.C.), Benedictine College(Kan.), The Catholic University of America (D.C.), Christendom College (Va.), The College of Saint Mary Magdalen (N.H.), DeSales University (Pa.), Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), Holy Spirit College (Ga.), The Institute for Psychological Sciences (Va.), John Paul the Great Catholic University (Cal.), Mount Saint Mary’s University (Md.), St. Gregory’s University (Okla.), Thomas Aquinas College (Cal.), Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (N.H.), University of Mary (N.D.), University of St. Thomas (Tex.) and Wyoming Catholic College (Wyo.).

In a statement released only hours after the ruling was issued last week, the Newman Society condemned the Obama administration’s final rule implementing the mandate.  The Society said:

After years of false promises to heed the complaints and resolve the dozens of lawsuits—many of them filed by faithful Catholic colleges, including the very first suit—the Administration has finally chosen to stand firmly opposed to religious freedom and the dignity of human life. That direction has been apparent since President Obama’s notorious commencement address at the University of Notre Dame four years ago,when he basked in the honor of a major Catholic university even while standing firmly for the Culture of Death.

The Cardinal Newman Society, its members and faithful Catholic educators must continue to fight this unconscionable mandate by every possible means. The January 1 deadline will allow most Catholic schools and colleges to avoid the mandate in their2013-14 faculty and student health plans… with more time to work for a repeal. With the Obama administration’s final refusal to give religious organizations the exemptions that they require to adhere to their beliefs, the lawsuits can go forward. This fight will only intensify, now that the Administration has formally confirmed its intentions.

Originally published by Catholic Education Daily of the Cardinal Newman Society on July 2nd, 2013.

ContraceptionReligious Freedom
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