Southern Baptist leader: Obama Contraception mandate ‘is not only a Catholic issue’
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, February 2, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Obama administration’s mandate that religious institutions cover all birth control, including abortifacient drugs like Plan B and Ella, and sterilization in their health insurance plans has people of faith banding together across traditional doctrinal divisions. Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said any government law requiring people of faith to violate their conscience “is not only a Catholic issue, even though the mainstream media wants to make this a Catholic issue.”
Dr. Mohler, an influential leader in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination and the wider evangelical movement, sounded off during his daily podcast on Tuesday. “[E]vangelicals need to stand back and – in our own terms, on our own doctrine – understand that our religious liberty is being similarly subverted and attacked.”
Although many evangelicals and Protestants do not share the Roman Catholic belief that all forms of artificial contraception are immoral, all Christian churches have traditionally taught abortion is wrong, he said.
The health care reform carves out a narrow exemption for the mandate for churches and institutions that serve only members of their own faith. All others must fund contraception, including abortifacient methods such as Ella and Plan B.
“And this coverage that is now required of us and all religious employers other than local churches does mean that our institutions, our seminaries, our colleges and others that might serve anyone outside the faith will also be covered by this mandate and thus forced to violate our own consciences,” he said.
Mohler said he admired “the courage of the Roman Catholic bishops in saying they are willing to go to jail rather than to comply” and wondered how many evangelical leaders will be willing to do the same.
“We’re going to find out in the coming months,” he warned. “In the meantime, everyone who stands both for the sanctity of human life and for the mandate of religious liberty must express outrage in whatever form is available to us to the president of the United States.”
He went on to hope “remedial legislation” and “court action” would “restore religious liberty to Christian institutions to operate in a Christian manner on the basis of Christian conviction in supposedly free America.”
Mohler may have had in mind the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012 introduced earlier this week by Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL. Rubio describes the proposal as “a commonsense bill that simply says the government can’t force religious organizations to abandon the fundamental tenets of their faith because the government says so.”
Under current regulations, religious institutions have an extra year to comply with the mandate.
“This (the one-year delay) does nothing to expand conscience protections it merely punts compliance for most religious employers with conscience objections until after the election,” Tom McClusky of Family Research Council’s activist arm, FRC Action said in a statement. “Despite the fact that certain drugs and devices approved by the FDA can work after conception to destroy a newly developed baby, the Obama administration mandate still forces all insurance plans to carry these drugs and devices even if employers are morally opposed.” McClusky said he hopes “all voters who respect life take note of the Obama Administration’s ardent policies against life and religious liberty and vote accordingly in November.”
The new regulations have the Catholic Church finding support across the religious spectrum.
Galen Carey, Vice President for Government Relations for the National Association of Evangelicals, said, “The HHS rules trample on our most cherished freedoms and set a dangerous precedent.” Carey, who met with President Obama last July to promote continued funding of welfare programs, said, “Freedom of conscience is a sacred gift from God, not a grant from the state.”
The outpouring of support has crossed confessional, and sometimes religious, boundaries.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has filed two lawsuits against HHS challenging the contraception mandate on behalf of both Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic liberal arts college founded by Benedictine monks, and Colorado Christian University, an evangelical school.
A coalition of more than 60 religious leaders, including two Orthodox Jewish leaders, signed a letter to President Barack Obama, stating that “religious organizations beyond the Catholic community have deep moral objections.”
The letter, written last December 21, said, “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 noted the same coalition sent a previous letter to Joshua DuBois, who heads up Obama’s outreach to faith communities, asking for him to remedy these concerns, without success.
Among those who signed it were Dr. Richard Land, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the leaders of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, the Assemblies of God, and the Wesleyan church.