A diverse group of religious leaders, including Catholics, Protestants, evangelicals and a representative from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, issued an open letter July 2 urging the U.S. government to “expand conscience protections” in its Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate.
The letter, which said the country’s “delicate liberty of conscience is under threat,” called on HHS to provide conscience protections to “any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services.”
The signers also asked Congress to “consider how it might prevent such offenses from occurring in the future,” noting that any policy “that falls short of affirming full religious freedom protection for all Americans is unacceptable.”
The letter, “Standing Together for Religious Freedom,” was signed by 58 faith representatives and released during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, was among the signatories and spoke about it at the afternoon news conference.
He said a key aspect that the Catholic Church is looking at in its “intense study” of HHS’ final rules issued June 28 is the three-tiered distinction the government made with religions: exempt houses of worship; the accommodated organizations; and private business owners with religious beliefs.
He told reporters that Catholics do not see a distinction between what people do in church and how they serve their neighbors or run a business. “The faith by which we worship on Sunday is the very same faith by which we act in the world the other six days of the week.”
Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also signed the letter and similarly stressed that people of faith “cannot accept” the government’s message that religion is just for our services “or what we hide in our hearts or sing in our hymns.”
And read the full text of the letter, and statements made at the news conference, at this link