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Diocese of Covington - Our Religious Liberty at 1125 Madison Ave., Covington, KY 41011-3115 US - Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions

Why does the mandate to cover contraceptives, including abortion-causing drugs and sterilization,violate religious liberty?

In short, it is the element of government coercion against conscience, and government intrusion into the ordering of Church institutions. As Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, testified to Congress: “This is not a matter of whether contraception may be prohibited by the government. This is not even a matter of whether contraception may be supported by the government. Instead, it is a matter of whether religious people and institutions may be forced by the government to provide coverage for contraception or sterilization, even if that violates their religious beliefs.” (Oral Testimony Before the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, Feb. 28, 2012.)

Under the Administration’s ‘compromise,’ the Church does not have to pay for those services. Why does this not satisfy church concerns?

The Administration’s central claim is that contraceptive services are “free” because they save money on childbirths that enrollees in the plan would otherwise have – but that just means premiums paid by a religious organization for live births will pay for contraception and sterilization instead. A proposed “accommodation” for religious organizations covered by the mandate, while not in final form, offers to have insurers or other third parties impose the objectionable coverage – but this only deprives the employer of the ability to provide coverage to its employees that is consistent with its values, and it disregards the conscience rights of both insurers and employees. However the funding is worked out, the simple offer of health coverage by a religious employer will become the “trigger” for ensuring thatall its employees receive morally objectionable services in their health plan.

Is this an effort to deny women access to fundamental reproductive services?

Access to contraceptives is already widespread. The great majority of employer-sponsored health plans already include contraception, and even without coverage, birth control pills can be obtained at low cost. The relevant question is whether religious organizations should be forced to facilitate the provision of services that are in direct violation of their teachings, in disregard of the First Amendment and federal laws respecting religious freedom.

Many young women say they can’t afford to pay for birth control and these other medical services. Is the Church position discriminating against poor women?

Not at all. This is not about health coverage for the unemployed, or for those who must rely on the government for coverage (for example, by Medicaid). It is about people who are employed by the Catholic Church and its various ministries, which are typically generous in the health benefits they provide to their employees. Those who choose to work for the Catholic Church—and no one is forced to do so— know that they are working for a community with its own guiding mission and values, and many work for the Church precisely for that reason. It is unreasonable to expect the Church to violate its own teachings by facilitating and funding sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. As Archbishop Lori testified before Congress, this would be like coming to a kosher deli and demanding to be served a ham sandwich.

The vast majority of Catholics practice artificial birth control. Some argue that the church is out-ofstep with modern family realities?

Again, the issue isn’t whether individuals practice artificial birth control. Our teachings may not be popular, but that doesn’t mean that the State can force us to violate our own teachings in our own institutions.

Some argue that the issue is about fairness and equity between men and women. Many of theseinsurance programs cover Viagra for men, but not protection for women. Isn’t that hypocritical?

Viagra is not a contraceptive for men, so that’s not a valid comparison. In fact, the HHS doesn’t mandate men’s contraceptives or vasectomies either. The relevant issue is whether the State should force the Church to violate its profoundly held beliefs.

Aren’t you making too much of this “religious freedom” issue?

Religious liberty is a cornerstone of our democracy. The HHS mandate fundamentally alters the fragile balance between government and religious groups created by the framers of our Constitution. The same First Amendment that protects religious freedom protects freedom of the press. We wouldn’t stand for the State telling newspapers or news programs what to write or whom to interview.

The HHS mandate has become a major political issue in the current Presidential campaign. Does opposition to the mandate put the church in league with the Republicans?

This is a bipartisan issue that affects all Americans. Legislation to correct this problem has enjoyed bipartisan support in both houses of Congress. We are asking all citizens—Democrats, Republicans, Independents, people of any faith or none at all—to let their views be known to all their elected representatives and to stand up for religious freedom and the First Amendment.

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