Since the Obama administration announced in January that religious organizations would not be exempt from buying insurance that covers contraceptives, potential abortion-inducing drugs and sterilizations for employees, the Catholic Church has been protesting loudly.
Now, evangelical leaders are increasing their opposition to it as well, saying an assault on religious liberty affects people from all faiths and denominations.
On Tuesday, Prison Fellowship Founder Chuck Colson, Princeton University Prof. Robert George, and Beeson Divinity School Dean Timothy George started a petition drive to force the Obama administration to reverse the policy.
“There is, for all intents and purposes, no recognition of the rights of conscience for those Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or other faith-based employers to be free of this imposition,” they wrote in an open letter on Tuesday.
“The Catholic Church, as the largest provider of faith-based education, health care, and social services for the poor, is on the front lines of the struggle, but because of the required abortion drug coverage and the violation of religious freedom at the heart of the mandate, it is a struggle that implicates all believers. If the mandate is rammed down the throat of Catholics, no people of faith will be safe.”
Faith-based groups from across the denominational spectrum have vowed to commit civil disobedience if the mandate is not eliminated — a move that could cost not only them, but all taxpayers, millions of dollars. According to The Wall Street Journal, Catholic Charities alone could be charged as much as $140 million a year in fines for not complying — costs that will result in a reduction of services and be passed on to all taxpayers as the federal government moves in to fill the void. One in every six hospitals nationwide has ties to the Catholic Church.
The St. Gianna Physician’s Guild — a Catholic organization — began circulating its own petition last August. But since the Obama administration announced that faith-based organizations would only be given a one-year extension to comply with the mandate, rather than an exemption, its number of signatures has doubled.
Meanwhile, the controversy is touching the Republican presidential primary race, with three of the four remaining candidates denouncing the Obama administration’s attack on religious liberty. But so far, only one — former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — has taken the step of signing an official pledge to protect religious freedom at home and abroad should he be elected.
Catholic League President Bill Donahue said this week he will make the mandate an election issue in November if it isn’t eliminated before then. The Catholic Church includes approximately 70 million voters.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said today that “if the president does not reverse the … attack on religious freedom, then the Congress, acting on behalf of the American people and the Constitution we are sworn to uphold and defend, must.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Sign the petition asking the Obama administration to eliminate the contraception mandate.
Find out more about the Pledge for Religious Freedom.