WASHINGTON, December 23, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Over sixty leaders of faith-based organizations or who work with faith-based organizations wrote a public letter the Obama administration protesting the very narrow exemption to the health insurance contraceptives mandate. The letter also asked that the administration not adopt in its place a different definition of “religious employer” for the exemption, suggested by some groups, that would still leave out many faith-based organizations.
Signatories of the letter include Protestant and orthodox Jewish leaders representing several religious colleges and universities, k-12 schools, grassroots faith-based organizations, denominations, law associations, rescue missions, and more. Up until now, U.S. Bishops and other Catholic groups have mounted the most vocal opposition to the upcoming mandate, which would force virtually all employers to offer birth control, including abortifacient drugs, without copay.
Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Tom Minnery, Senior Vice President of Focus on the Family; Stanley Carlson-Thies, President of the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance; and Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, were among the signatories.
The letter came soon after Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) President Patrick Reilly raised the alarm over an alternative definition of “religious employer” proposed by the Catholic Health Association and the University of Notre Dame that he said would still leave unprotected many faith-based service organizations.
The religious leaders concurred that the proposed revision would threaten several faith-based groups, and would write into federal law a definition of “religious employer” that wrongly encompasses only churches and church-controlled organizations.
The letter was circulated to and signed only by non-Catholic organizations and leaders.
“We write not in opposition to Catholic leaders and organizations; rather, we write in solidarity, but separately—to stress that religious organizations and leaders of other faiths are also deeply troubled by and opposed to the mandate and the narrow exemption,” it stated.
“If one were to believe what the media reports and what some Democratic legislators say about the HHS mandate, it was only Catholics who had a problem with the contraceptive mandate,” noted CNS on Thursday. “This letter shows that the concern about the religious freedom implications of the health insurance contraceptive mandate is much broader.”
In addition, The Becket Fund announced Wednesday that Colorado Christian University had become the first Evangelical school to fight the abortifacient birth control mandate in court. CCU’s lawsuit joins one filed by Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic institution, last month.
The letter and the list of signatories follows:
Dear Mr. President:
We write to express our deep concern about the contraceptives mandate in the health insurance regulations, and about the “religious employer” exemption that is so narrow that it does not protect most faith-based organizations.
We write to you specifically as organizations and leaders that are not part of the Catholic community. We write not in opposition to Catholic leaders and organizations; rather, we write in solidarity, but separately—to stress that religious organizations and leaders of other faiths are also deeply troubled by and opposed to the mandate and the narrow exemption.
Most press reports on the controversy concerning the contraceptives mandate portray the opposition as coming only from the Catholic Church and Catholic organizations. But this is wrong. It is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients. It is not only Catholics who object to the narrow exemption that protects only seminaries and a few churches, but not churches with a social outreach and other faith-based organizations that serve the poor and needy broadly providing help that goes beyond worship and prayer.
The faith-based organizations and religious traditions represented by the undersigned leaders do not all share the same convictions about the moral acceptability of the mandated services. But we are all deeply concerned about the narrow exemption, including proposals made to expand it while still leaving unprotected many faith-based organizations. Many of us previously signed a letter, dated August 26, 2011, to Joshua DuBois, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, asking his help in persuading your administration, if it maintains the contraceptives mandate, to replace the current “inaccurately narrow and practically inadequate definition of ‘religious employer’.” An organization does not cease to be a religious organization just because it serves the poor and needy in material ways and does not confine its help to prayer and religious teaching.
We reiterate our opposition to the narrow exemption. We wish to stress that we strongly object to a revised exemption that is only broadened enough to include faith-based organizations that are affiliated with a specific denomination. We understand that such a compromise has been proposed to your administration. The suggested compromise discriminates against the many religions that organize themselves in ways other than by being centered on a denomination.
Some faith-based organizations have an interdenominational or ecumenical affiliation. Yet others are linked with houses of worship that are not denominational at all. And a significant number of faith-based organizations are not affiliated formally with any house of worship or denomination. Rather, they are, and are considered in Federal law to be, religious organizations because of their religious mission, their faith-shaped internal operations, and their presentation of themselves to the community as religious organizations.1
Mr. President, religious organizations beyond the Catholic community have deep moral objections to a requirement that their health insurance plans must cover abortifacients. Religious organizations beyond the Catholic community object to the current narrow exemption which puts them outside the definition of “religious employers.” And religious organizations beyond the Catholic community object to any revision of the exemption that would limit it to churches and denominationally affiliated organizations.
We believe that the Federal government is obligated by the First Amendment to accommodate the religious convictions of faith-based organizations of all kinds, Catholic and non-Catholic.
We respectfully ask that your administration, should it maintain the current contraceptives mandate, devise an exemption for religious employers that accurately defines such employers and exempts them from being required to offer to their employees (and students, if they are among America’s many religious colleges and universities) health services to which they have
deep religious objections.
Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals
Wayne L Gordon, President, Christian Community Development Association
John Ashmen, President, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions
Jim Liske, CEO, Prison Fellowship Ministries
Fred L. Potter, Esq., Executive Director and CEO, Christian Legal Society
Colby M. May, Esq., Director & Senior Counsel, Washington Office, American Center for Law
Dr. Richard Land, President, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist
Tom Minnery, Senior Vice President, Focus on the Family
Stanley Carlson-Thies, President, Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance
Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations
Rabbi Abba Cohen, Vice President for Federal Affairs and Washington Director, Agudath Israel
Dr. Gary M. Benedict, President, The Christian and Missionary Alliance
Dr. George O. Wood, General Superintendent, The General Council of the Assemblies of God
Stephanie Summers, Chief Executive Officer, Center for Public Justice
Ron Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/
Hispanic Evangelical Association
John Holmes, Ed.D., Director of Government Affairs, Association of Christian Schools
Dr. Keith Wiebe, President, American Association of Christian Schools
Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, Chair, Board of General Superintendents, The Wesleyan Church
Everett Piper, PhD, President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University
Shirley A. Mullen, President, Houghton College
Henry Smith, President, Indiana Wesleyan University
Dr. Todd S. Voss, President, Southern Wesleyan University
Tom Armiger, CEO, World Hope International
Andrew Sears, Executive Director, TechMission
Jay Van Groningen, Executive Director, Communities First Association
Karen Woods, Cornerstone Community Resources
Bruce Miller, CEO, Lawndale Christian Health Center
Rev. Steven E. Boes, President and National Executive Director, Boys Town
Paul R. Corts, President, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
Robert C. Andringa, Ph.D., President Emeritus, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
Robert H. Spence, President, Evangel University, The National Assemblies of God University of
Arts, Sciences & Professions, Springfield, Missouri
Carl E. Zylstra, President, Dordt College
Gordon L. Anderson, Ph.D., President, North Central University
Dr. Todd J. Williams, President, Philadelphia Biblical University
Charles H. Webb, PhD, President, Spring Arbor University
Dr. Lee G. Royce, President, Mississippi College
Jerry B. Cain, President, Judson University
Rick Mann, PhD, President, Crown College
William L. Armstrong, President, Colorado Christian University
Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, Ph.D., President, East Texas Baptist University
Dr. John C. Bowling, President, Olivet Nazarene University
Joseph Castleberry, Ed.D., President, Northwest University
Dr. Charles W. Pollard, President, John Brown University
Dr. Barbara Bellefeuille, Provost, Toccoa Falls College
Dr. Roger Parrott, President, Belhaven University
Dr John Jackson, President, William Jessup University
Dan Boone, President, Trevecca Nazarene University
Mike E. O’Neal, President, Oklahoma Christian University
Paul J. Maurer, President, Sterling College
James H Barnes III, President, Bethel University
Bob Brower, President, Point Loma Nazarene University
David W. Olive, President, Bluefield College
Jules Glanzer, President, Tabor College
Dr. Loren E. Swartzendruber, President, Eastern Mennonite University
Dr. David C. Alexander, President, Northwest Nazarene University
William M. B. Fleming, Jr., Interim President, Palm Beach Atlantic University
Eric Strattan, lead pastor, Bridge Bible Church, Muskegon, MI
Gail Kraft, Executive Director, Love INC of Muskegon
Case Hoogendoorn, Senior Partner, Hoogendoorn & Talbot LLP, Chicago
Stephen V. Monsma, Senior Research Fellow, The Henry Institute, Calvin College