WASHINGTON, D.C., February 10, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Evangelical and pro-family leaders have denounced the Obama administration’s new “accommodation” on the HHS mandate forcing religious institutions to provide birth control and abortifacients as an accounting gimmick that still compels people of faith to violate their deeply held principles or face legal penalty.
“Mr. President, mere accounting tricks will not suffice,” Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission wrote in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com. “You have given your fellow citizens’ cry of conscience the dismissive back of your hand by offering them not a solution.”
He called the new policy, which would not force parachurch groups to provide such pharmaceuticals “directly,” as “a distinction without a difference.”
“The president’s failure to grasp the seriousness of this issue reveals a dangerous presidential blind spot concerning First Amendment constitutional religious free exercise guarantees,” he wrote. “It also highlights the wisdom of our forefathers who bequeathed to us a legislative system that is supposed to pass laws with the consent of the governed through their elected representatives, rather than being governed by executive branch imperial edicts passed down from on high.”
The Southern Baptist Convention uses a self-funded insurance plan, GuideStone, to cover 200,000 pastors, missionaries, and other church employees. Under this “accommodation,” GuideStone may have to provide abortifacient drugs, in violation of the church’s doctrine.
GuideStone’s President O.S. Hawkins called today’s statement “an insulting affront illustrating a basic lack of understanding that this issue will not be solved by sleight of hand word games.” The policy “threatens the very coverage of those dedicated persons who serve our churches and affiliated organizations. GuideStone will never depart from the core convictions it has held dear for decades regarding the sanctity of life.”
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Dr. Land, who previously stated Southern Baptists would go to jail rather than comply with the mandate, spoke for many Christian leaders.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins wrote in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com that the new rule “only creates some paperwork gimmicks that don’t change the fact that religious employers who object to coverage of these services will now have to drop health insurance altogether to maintain their conscience and face severe penalties for doing so. ”
Mathew Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, told LifeSiteNews.com, “Laundering a Catholic or Christian organization’s money through the insurance company to pay for abortifacients does not suddenly correct the moral sin inflicted by Obama.” He added the administration “has pressed its radical pro-abortion agenda on the American people and around the world.”
Others saw the rule as an attempt to buy time until after the 2012 presidential election. Noting that no concrete regulation had yet been drafted, Luke Goodrich of The Becket Fund told CNN this afternoon, “The president is saying, ‘Trust me.’”