Respect religious liberty, rescind the mandate


“That’s a really, really hard question,” explained Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline when asked if Catholic institutions such as Providence College and Fatima Hospital should be exempted from the Obama Administration’s mandate for healthcare coverage that includes birth control, sterilization and abortion inducing drugs.

In fact, it’s not a hard question at all. It is rather easy question that requires an easy answer. Yes, Catholic institutions and agencies that serve and minister in the name of the church, even to non-Catholics, should be exempted from this assault on religious liberties.

Apparently this question is proving difficult not only for Congressman Cicilline but also for President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. In a rather cheap attempt to contain political fallout from Catholics, Mr. Obama and Ms. Sebelius on Friday announced an “accommodation” to the mandate suggesting that a compromise had been found that respected religious liberty and women’s rights. It failed to expand the exemption to include many Catholic institutions and agencies and does not account for those employers who self-insure health care coverage. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput correctly stated: “The HHS mandate, including its latest variant, are belligerent, unnecessary and deeply offensive to the content of Catholic belief.”

It is clear that the President’s revised policy still demeans the mission and ministry of the Catholic Church in this country to serve the common good of all Americans not only those who happen to be Catholic. Even as a non-Catholic, President Obama knows this very well because his first job as a community organizer was funded by the Catholic Church to serve the common good of all not just Catholics. For Mr. Obama and his pro-abortion allies to suggest that Providence College, Salve Regina University, Fatima Hospital, Mt. St. Rita Health Care, Emmanuel House Homeless Shelter or schools such as LaSalle Academy are not significantly religious enough because they educate, heal, and serve non-Catholics is not only deeply insulting and gravely misinformed it is also a clear violation of our constitutional religious liberties.

The answer to fixing this misguided policy isn’t really a “tough question” at all. Rather it is an easy question with an easy answer: respect religious freedom and rescind this draconian policy that undermines the mission and ministry of the Catholic Church in America. We urge President Obama to rescind his mandate and to begin to respect the freedom of religion enshrined in our U.S. Constitution. Further, we urge Congressman Cicilline and the other members of the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation to stand with the faith communities across the nation in protecting our religious liberty and co-sponsor and help enact it into law the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467) that protects all religious groups and people of faith from violating their conscience.

It isn’t only the answer to an easy question; it is the right the thing to do.