BREAKING: USCCB Leads Coalition of Religious Leaders in Call for Religious Liberty

Vires in Numeris. The Latin phrase (English translation: Strength in Numbers) sounds biblical, but a quick word search failed to turn up any instances in Scripture; rather, it’s been used in music, in film, in a motorcycle parade.  More recently, the phrase has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity because it’s the motto engraved on the bitcoin.

And today, some 61 religious leaders, representing millions of Americans from many faith backgrounds, have banded together in defense of religious liberty. 

At 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, July 2, at the National Press Club, a group of national religious leaders and scholars released an open letter calling for religious freedom, in light of the finalized Health and Human Services (HHS) Mandate.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Russell D. Moore of the Ethical and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention are among 61 signatories on the letter, representing some 26 major denominations; 11 colleges, universities and institutes of higher education; and 16 nonprofit and concerned for-profit organizations and religious orders. 

In the letter, the leaders call upon HHS to expand conscience protections to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services.  They also ask Congress to take measures to prevent future breaches of religious freedom.

Here, in its entirety, is the text of the open letter:

Standing Together for Religious Freedom

An Open Letter to All Americans

We write as an informal and diverse group of religious leaders, theologians, lay practitioners and community servants. We believe the doctrines of our respective faiths require something of us beyond the walls of our churches, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship. Those faith convictions manifest themselves through our daily interactions among family, neighbors, strangers and institutions.

Further, we recognize the United States, at its best, is unique among the nations of the world when it defends the self-evident freedom of all people to exercise their faith according to the dictates of their consciences. This freedom contributes to the vibrancy of our nation. Unfortunately, this delicate liberty of conscience is under threat.

Through its contraceptive coverage 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 the position of defining–or casting aside–religious doctrine. This should trouble every American.

Many of the signatories on this letter do not hold doctrinal objections to the use of contraception. Yet we stand united in protest to this mandate, recognizing the encroachment on the conscience of our fellow citizens. Whether or not we agree with the particular conscientious objection is beside the point. HHS continues to deny many Americans the freedom to manifest their beliefs through practice and observance in their daily lives.

The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Free exercise includes the freedom to order one’s life, liberties and pursuits in accordance with his or her convictions. HHS breaches the free exercise clause and federal statutes (passed with broad bipartisan support) by selectively denying some Americans this constitutionally protected right.

Americans afford each other broad liberties with respect to lifestyle choices. However, the federal government has neither a compelling interest nor the appropriate authority to coerce one citizen to fund or facilitate specific lifestyle choices of another. If the federal government can force morally opposed individuals to purchase contraception or abortion-causing drugs and devices for a third party, what prevents this or future administrations from forcing other Americans to betray their deeply held convictions?

Therefore, we call upon HHS to, at a minimum, expand conscience protections under the mandate to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services. Further, because HHS claims to be acting on authority granted it by Congress, we ask Congress to consider how it might prevent such offenses from occurring in the future. Any policy that falls short of affirming full religious freedom protection for all Americans is unacceptable.

And here is a list of the signatories:

Most Rev. William E. Lori

Archbishop of Baltimore
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Ad Hoc Committee for Religious LibertyRussell D. Moore, Ph.D.
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of
the Southern Baptist Convention

Leith Anderson
National Association of Evangelicals

Bishop Andrew
Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America

John Ashmen
Association of Gospel Rescue Missions

Bishop Gary E. Stevenson
Presiding Bishop
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Randall A. Bach
Open Bible Churches

The Most Rev. Craig W. Bates
International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church

Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D.
Professor of Government
Patrick Henry College

A.D. Beacham, Jr., Th.M.
Presiding Bishop
International Pentecostal Holiness Church

Dr. Gary M. Benedict
The Christian and Missionary Alliance, U.S.
J. Brian Benestad, Ph.D
Department of Theology
Assumption College

The Rev. Roger Boucher
Commander, US Navy (ret)
Chaplain at College of St. Mary Magdalen

Bishop John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church

Anuttama Dasa
Minister of Communications
Governing Body Commissioner, Vice Chair
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)

Most Revd Robert Duncan
Anglican Church in North America

Rev. Jim Eschenbrenner
Executive Pastor
Christian Union

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Hispanic Evangelical Association
Rev. Dr . Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Dr. William J. Hamel
Evangelical Free Church

Bishop Bruce D. Hill
Evangelical Congregational Church

John Hopler
Great Commission Churches

Bill Hossler
Missionary Church, Inc.

Clyde M. Hughes              
Bishop/General Overseer
International Pentecostal Church of Christ

Dr. Jeffrey Jeremiah
Stated Clerk
Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Jo Anne Lyon
General Superintendent
The Wesleyan Church

Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent
Assemblies of God
Alan Robinson
National Director
Brethren in Christ Church, U.S.
Joseph Tkach
Grace Communion International

Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Bishop of Newton
Melkite Greek Catholic Church

Rev. Susan Taylor
National Public Affairs Director
Church of Scientology

Anne Hendershott, Ph.D.
Daniel R. Kempton, Ph.D.
Patrick Lee, Ph.D.
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Assist. Prof. Richard S. Meloche, Ph.D.
Department of Philosophy & Theology
St. Gregory’s University

Sister Jane Marie Klein
Chairperson of the Board
Franciscan Alliance, Inc.
Richard Land, D.Phil.
Southern Evangelical Seminary

Marc A. LePain
Professor of Theology
Assumption College

Fr. Sean O. Sheridan, TOR
Franciscan University of Steubenville

Tom Minnery
Senior Vice President
Focus on the Family

Greg Mitchell
The Mitchell Firm

David Nammo
Executive Director & CEO
Christian Legal Society

Rocky Rocholl
Fellowship of Evangelical Churches

Patrick J. Reilly
The Cardinal Newman Society

Dr. William Riordan
Director of Undergraduate Theology
Ave Maria University

Terri Marsh, J.D., Ph.D.
Human Rights Law Firm

Brent McBurney
President & CEO
Advocates International

Barbara Samuels
Catholics for Freedom of Religion
Steven A. Long, Ph.D
Professor of Theology
Ave Maria University
Prof. Dr. Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, and
Prof. Dr. Christof Sauer
Executive Directors
International Institute for Religious Freedom

Alan Sears
Alliance Defending Freedom
Matt Smith
Catholic Advocate

David Stevens, MD, MA
Christian Medical Association
Rabbi Aryeh Spero
Caucus for America

Craig Steven Titus, S.T.D./Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Director of Integrative Studies
Institute for the Psychological Sciences

Mark Tooley
Institute on Religion and Democracy

Ryan Topping, Ph.D.
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts

Sister Margaret Regina Halloran, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Brooklyn Province

Sister Maria Christine Lynch, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Chicago Province

Sister Loraine Marie Clare Maguire, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Baltimore Province
Little Sisters of the Poor

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