KIRKWOOD, Missouri, February 9, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The President of the Missouri Lutheran Synod added his voice to the growing chorus of religious leaders from across denominational lines who are objecting to the HHS mandate requiring employers to cover sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs in their healthcare plans.

“The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod objects to the use of drugs and procedures that are used to take the lives of unborn children, who are persons in the sight of God from the time of conception,” wrote Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, in a statement issued February 3rd. 

“Increasingly we are suffering overzealous intrusions into what is the realm of traditional and biblical Christian conscience. We believe this is a violation of our First Amendment rights,” he continued.

The statement echoes the sentiments of Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who recently objected to the media’s characterization of the controversy as “only a Catholic issue,” and urged Evangelicals to “understand that our religious liberty is being similarly subverted and attacked.”

According to Harrison, the Missouri Synod’s own healthcare policy, which provides coverage to nearly 48,000 people, would be exempt from the mandate since it had been tailored to obtain “grandfather” status.

Under the health care reform law, existing policies can be “grandfathered” if they meet certain criteria. Grandfathered plans are exempt from many of the changes in the legislation, including the requirement to provide the “minimum essential coverage” which includes the HHS mandate. However, changes made to the policy could cause it to lose grandfathered status.

According to Patrick Reilly, President of the Cardinal Newman Society, which is working against the mandate on behalf of the many Catholic colleges and universities who would be affected by it, many religious organizations are pursuing grandfathered status as a way of delaying the need to comply with the mandate.

However, Reilly added, if the mandate stands, most of those organizations would lose their exempt status within a year or two, since insurance companies routinely make changes to health care policies in areas such as rates and privacy provisions.

“The minute anything like that changes, a grandfathered plan is no longer considered to be grandfathered under the federal law,” he said.

According to Jim Sanft, President of Concordia Plan Services, the Missouri Synod’s church’s benefit partner, the Synod operates its own health plan, and therefore has control over any changes that are made to it.

However, Sanft added, the Synod is still concerned that it may ultimately lose its grandfathered status if it is forced to make changes to the plan in order to remain competitive in a changing insurance market.

In the meantime, says Reverend Harrison, the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran church has pledged its support for those religious organizations that do not have grandfathered plans and that do not qualify for the legislation’s narrowly tailored religious exemption.

“We will stand, to the best of our ability, with all religious and other concerned citizens against this erosion of our civil liberty,” he wrote.

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