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OPINION

500-member religious coalition rejects mandate

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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WASHINGTON (BP) -- A diverse coalition of 500-plus religious leaders, university presidents and professors, and health care professionals has signed a statement calling President Obama's contraceptive/abortion compromise a "grave violation of religious freedom" that "cannot stand."
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"The simple fact is that the Obama administration is compelling religious people and institutions who are employers to purchase a health insurance contract that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization," the Feb. 27 letter reads. "... It is an insult to the intelligence of Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other people of faith and conscience to imagine that they will accept an assault on their religious liberty if only it is covered up by a cheap accounting trick."

Among the signers were the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the presidents of three Southern Baptist seminaries and a host of academic leaders from dozens of other religious institutions.

Under the mandate announced by the Department of Health and Human Services, employers must offer employees health insurance covering all FDA-approved contraceptives for free -- including ones such as Plan B and "ella" that can act after fertilization, causing a chemical abortion. President Obama announced a compromise that he says protects religious organizations, although it was widely criticized. Under his compromise, the insurance companies would be responsible for offering the employees free contraceptives.

"Under the new rule, the government still coerces religious institutions and individuals to purchase insurance policies that include the very same services" that were offered before the compromise, the statement reads. "It is no answer to respond that the religious employers are not 'paying' for this aspect of the insurance coverage.

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"For one thing," the statement adds, "it is unrealistic to suggest that insurance companies will not pass the costs of these additional services on to the purchasers. More importantly, abortion-drugs, sterilizations, and contraceptives are a necessary feature of the policy purchased by the religious institution or believing individual. They will only be made available to those who are insured under such policy, by virtue of the terms of the policy."

It matters not "who explains the terms of the policy" purchased by the religious organizations, the statement says. From a moral perspective, it only matters "what services the policy covers" -- and the policy covers contraceptives, abortion-causing drugs and sterilization.

"This so-called 'accommodation' changes nothing of moral substance and fails to remove the assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience which gave rise to the controversy," the statement reads. "It is certainly no compromise."

Among the Baptist signers were Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Robert Sloan Jr., president of Houston Baptist University; David Whitlock, president of Oklahoma Baptist University; Samuel W. "Dub" Oliver, president of East Texas Baptist University; David Dockery, president of Union University (Jackson, Tenn.); and Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University.

Also signing it were Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Seminary; Jimmy Draper, former president of LifeWay Christian Resources, Micah J. Watson, director of the center for politics and religion at Union University; C. Ben Mitchell, professor of moral philosophy at Union University; and George H. Guthrie, professor of Bible at Union University. Eight Baylor professors signed it, among them Francis J. Beckwith and Thomas S. Kidd.

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, led the list of Catholic signers. Among the leading Catholics in the academic realm were John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America; H. James Towey, president of Ave Maria University; and Bernard F. O'Connor, president of DeSales University.

Read the entire list of signers online at http://www.becketfund.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Unacceptable-2-27-11am2.pdf

Michael Foust is associate editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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