Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Protestant leaders join battle against Obama insurance proposal

Here is an interesting article. it appeared on Iona institute website on February 21st 2012/ The Author is listed as "Admin"

Protestant leaders join battle against Obama insurance proposal

More than 2,500 Protestant leaders have signed a letter opposing the Obama Administration’s controversial mandate forcing religious institutions to cover abortifacients, sterilisations and contraception in their insurance plans.

The letter, published by the Family Research Council (FRC), a pro-family, pro-religion think tank calls the mandate “a severe blow to our religious liberty” and accuses the Administration of ignoring “the conscience rights of many Catholic and Protestant Americans”.

The letter says: “Our country was founded on certain freedoms, the first of which is the freedom of religion. The ability of a religious person to follow their conscience without fearing government intervention has long been a protected right for Americans. It is unfathomable to picture a country that would deny religious freedoms.”

Speaking at a news conference at which the letter was released, Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land said, "This is about conscience, not contraception. And it's about religious freedom.

"The Obama administration is trying to run roughshod over the consciences" of Catholics, evangelicals and others, said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Lifesitenews reports.

Southern Baptist leaders have joined the leadership of the Catholic Church, other Protestant bodies and some Jewish organizations in expressing opposition to the rule since the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Jan. 20 that health plans must cover contraceptives and sterilizations as preventive services for employees.

The mandate requires coverage of contraceptives, as defined by the Food and Drug Administration, that can cause abortions, such as "ella;" emergency contraception, such as Plan B; and the intrauterine device (IUD). Those methods all have mechanisms that can prevent tiny embryos from implanting in the uterine wall. In the case of "ella," it also can block production of the hormone progesterone, destroying the placenta that provides nutrition to the embryo and causing the unborn child's death after implantation.

Opponents of the rule especially have protested its failure to provide an adequate religious or conscience exemption.

Like Land, FRC President Tony Perkins told reporters the issue is religious liberty.

"We will not tolerate any denomination having their religious freedom infringed upon by the government of the United States. If there ever was a separation of Church and State violation, this is it," Perkins said, speaking to reporters at a news conference held during the annual convention of the National Religious Broadcasters in Nashville.

The refusal to provide an adequate religious exemption for the "contraceptive mandate" demonstrates a trend of the Obama administration, Land said.

"This is part of an attempt to atrophy, to nullify, to confine and constrain, and to emasculate and neuter religious freedom down to freedom of worship," Land told reporters. "The president and his administration consistently talk about freedom of worship. ... Freedom of worship is confined to the space between your ears and the space between your shoulders at home and church or home and synagogue or home and temple or home and mosque.”

The letter is the latest part of a growing campaign against the mandate. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have already rejected a so-called compromise on the part of the Administration, saying that “[t]he only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services”.

Earlier this month, President Obama proposed a change to his plan which he claimed would accommodate religious institutions with objections to the health mandate by relieving them of the requirement to pay for coverage of contraception, the Morning After Pill, which is an abortifacient, and sterilisation.

But the change still required them to enroll their staff in schemes that provide such coverage.

The USCCB responded to the move by saying that their original objection to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations was that they forced “private health plans — nationwide, by the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen — to cover sterilisation and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion”.

The bishops noted that all the other mandated “preventive services” under the HHS regulations address the prevention of disease, “and pregnancy is not a disease”.

They added: “Moreover, forcing plans to cover abortifacients violates existing federal conscience laws.”

In addition, they said that Obama’s mandate would saddle many individuals and institutions with the burden of facilitating services that the Church considers immoral, among them “insurers forced to write policies including this coverage; employers and schools forced to sponsor and subsidise the coverage; and individual employees and students forced to pay premiums for the coverage.”

While suggesting that the President’s changes deserved “careful moral analysis,” they nonetheless declared that “the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders — for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals — is unacceptable and must be corrected.”

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