Dear President Obama:
The undersigned pastors and Christian leaders all write to raise serious concerns over what some have called the “contraception mandate” stemming from the action of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on August 1st, 2010 to mandate that all health insurance plans in the individual and group market cover all FDA approved “contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures,” including abortifacient drugs and other devices that can destroy life in its early stages.
This mandate was not necessary, nor warranted under the provision of “preventive care services for women” contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Worse still is the fact that the mandate essentially ignores the conscience rights of many Catholic and Protestant Americans. Our country was founded on certain freedoms, the first of which is the freedom of religion. The ability of a religious person to follow their conscience without fearing government intervention has long been a protected right for Americans. It is unfathomable to picture a country that would deny religious freedoms.
On August 1, 2011, your Administration granted a narrow exemption that only covers houses of worship. However, the fact remains that the vast majority of religious organizations will be required to choose either to violate their consciences or drop their health coverage for employees. This mandate is all the more egregious for including drugs and devices that are known and scientifically shown to function in ways that can cause abortions, including varieties of the morning-after-pill, both before and after implantation. The conscience rights of those who object to such drugs, let alone object to being forced to cover such drugs, is clearly violated by the Administration action.
Due to significant opposition to this mandate, many people of faith hoped that the Administration would chose to protect the conscience rights of all people who have moral or religious objections to covering contraceptives and sterilization procedures and accordingly submitted comments to your Administration totaling over 200,000. In the face of this outcry, your Administration issued a press release on January 20, 2012 that offers groups only a one year reprieve on being forced to violate the tenants of their faith. Worse still, the decision includes a new requirement that all such religious organizations will be required to refer for that which they find objectionable in the first place.
The contraceptive mandate with the requirement that there will be no co-pay to the patient means millions of Americans will incur the additional cost for these drugs and devices. Forcing religious entities to do the same, despite objections of good conscience, is a severe blow to our religious liberty. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom in 1779, which passed in 1786, and set the stage for the First Amendment. In it, Jefferson states: “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.” Consequently, we ask that you would reverse this decision and protect the conscience rights of those who have biblically-based opposition to funding or providing contraceptives and abortifacients.