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The leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week issued a statement reiterating the conviction of the Catholic Church in the United States that President Barack Obama's mandate that all insurance plans--including those that are purchased by and provided by Catholics and Catholic institutions--must provide free coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients is an "unjust and illegal mandate."

The Administrative Committee of the conference, led by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, declared the mandate a "violation of personal civil rights."

The bishops pointed out that they not only opposed the mandate's violation of the religious freedom of Catholic institutions but also the mandate's violation of the religious freedom of all individual Americans who object on moral or religious grounds to being forced to pay for, or provide coverage for, sterilization, artificial contraception and abortifacients.

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