Bishops, Baptists Urge US Government to Protect Conscience Rights

Health Care Mandates Soon to Go Into Effect

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Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Russell D. Moore, Ph.D., president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, hailed the introduction of S. 1204 by Senators Tom Coburn and Deb Fischer and urged U.S. Senators to support passage of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act. S. 1204 is identical to H.R. 940 in the House of Representatives.

In a letter dated today, Archbishop Lori and Moore, as leaders of the religious liberty efforts of the two largest religious denominations in the United States, asked legislators to support the Health Care Conscience Rights Act. They noted that «many people are being forced—and many others will soon be forced—to either follow what the government compels or suffer for their faith… [N]ow is the time to pass legislation that protects our God-given freedom.»

The legislation would extend the longstanding federal policy on conscience to the new coverage mandates for private health plans created by the Affordable Care Act so that Americans are not forced to violate their fundamental moral and religious convictions in order to offer, sponsor, or purchase health coverage. The legislation also clarifies current nondiscrimination laws to improve protection of individuals and institutions that decline involvement in abortion, allowing the victims of discrimination to vindicate their rights in court.

«The Health Care Conscience Rights Act would address … serious problems in ways consistent with our federal government’s long history of bipartisan consensus on respect for rights of conscience,» the letter said. «While Catholics and Southern Baptists espouse different theological views, we are united by the belief that Congress must act to help preserve our freedom of religion and conscience.»

Archbishop Lori, in welcoming the introduction of S. 1204, said: «I applaud Senators Deb Fischer and Tom Coburn for introducing the Health Care Rights of Conscience Act. The right to live out our faith in the public square – in our churches, our schools, and our places of employment – is too important not to defend. I hope other Senators will join them in supporting these common-sense protections.»

The full letters from Archbishop Lori and Moore to the House and Senate are available online: (House version) (Senate version)

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