DATE: February 10, 2012
RE: Statement on HHS Contraception Mandate
FROM: Bishop William Murphy
On Friday, January 20, President Obama approved new regulations from the Department of Health and Human Services. These regulations mandated that, with few exceptions, all Catholic employers, including Catholic Charities and Catholic hospitals, provide coverage for contraception, abortion-producing drugs and sterilization in the healthcare benefits provided to their employees. Most insurance programs would have to include coverage for these products and procedures as well.
This mandate constituted direct interference with the freedom of conscience of individuals and with the freedom of religious belief and practice of our Catholic institutions. By issuing the mandate, the Administration chose to cast aside the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, denying to Catholics our nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty and free exercise of conscience. Under the mandate, we Catholics would be compelled either to violate our consciences or to drop healthcare coverage for our employees and suffer significant penalties for doing so.
This incursion by the government through this mandate into religious freedom resulted in an appropriate outcry, not only by Catholics but by people of all faiths. I wrote about the issue in The Long Island Catholic newspaper and prepared a letter to be read at the Masses this weekend. That letter is printed in many parish bulletins. We are grateful to all those who voiced their concerns on behalf of religious liberty.
On Friday, February 10th, the Obama Administration announced an accommodation to the rights of religious organizations to free expression of their beliefs through contemplated changes to the mandate. The details of this “accommodation” still need to be worked out and are yet to be fully understood.
The issue of religious liberty continues to be a primary concern for us all. Freedom of religion is a basic human right endowed by God and enshrined in our nation's Constitution - first among all rights in the Bill of Rights. Legislation continues to be necessary to protect religious liberty in our country.
Our diocesan Facebook page, website, The Long Island Catholic and Telecare will provide information and updates regularly on this evolving matter. Please consult these resources and continue to make your voice heard. The USCCB website – www. usccb.org will also provide you with the latest information on this issue. In an issue as important as the freedom of religious belief and free exercise of conscience, we need to be constantly vigilant.
CONTACT: Sean P. Dolan
Director of Communications
(p) 516-678-5800, ext. 625