On July 2, 2013, ERLC President Russell D. Moore, along with more than 100 other leaders from diverse faith communities, released an open letter expressing opposition to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraceptives mandate, saying it “continues to breach universal principles affirmed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws.” The letter “call[s] upon HHS to, at a minimum, expand conscience protections under the mandate to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services.” Further, the letter urges Congress “to consider how it might prevent such offenses from occurring in the future,” adding that “[a]ny policy that falls short of affirming full religious freedom protection for all Americans is unacceptable.”
Below is the text of the letter.
Standing Together for Religious Freedom
An Open Letter to All Americans
We write as an informal and diverse group of religious leaders, theologians, lay practitioners and community servants. We believe the doctrines of our respective faiths require something of us beyond the walls of our churches, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship. Those faith convictions manifest themselves through our daily interactions among family, neighbors, strangers and institutions.
Further, we recognize the United States, at its best, is unique among the nations of the world when it defends the self-evident freedom of all people to exercise their faith according to the dictates of their consciences. This freedom contributes to the vibrancy of our nation. Unfortunately, this delicate liberty of conscience is under threat.
Through its contraceptive coverage mandate, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) continues to breach universal principles affirmed and protected by the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws. While the mandate is a specific offense, it represents a greater fundamental breach of conscience by the federal government. Very simply, HHS is forcing Citizen A, against his or her moral convictions, to purchase a product for Citizen B. The HHS policy is coercive and puts the administration in the position of defining–or casting aside–religious doctrine. This should trouble every American.
Many of the signatories on this letter do not hold doctrinal objections to the use of contraception. Yet we stand united in protest to this mandate, recognizing the encroachment on the conscience of our fellow citizens. Whether or not we agree with the particular conscientious objection is beside the point. HHS continues to deny many Americans the freedom to manifest their beliefs through practice and observance in their daily lives.
The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Free exercise includes the freedom to order one’s life, liberties and pursuits in accordance with his or her convictions. HHS breaches the free exercise clause and federal statutes (passed with broad bipartisan support) by selectively denying some Americans this constitutionally protected right.
Americans afford each other broad liberties with respect to lifestyle choices. However, the federal government has neither a compelling interest nor the appropriate authority to coerce one citizen to fund or facilitate specific lifestyle choices of another. If the federal government can force morally opposed individuals to purchase contraception or abortion-causing drugs and devices for a third party, what prevents this or future administrations from forcing other Americans to betray their deeply held convictions?
Therefore, we call upon HHS to, at a minimum, expand conscience protections under the mandate to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services. Further, because HHS claims to be acting on authority granted it by Congress, we ask Congress to consider how it might prevent such offenses from occurring in the future. Any policy that falls short of affirming full religious freedom protection for all Americans is unacceptable.
Most Rev. William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
Chairman United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty
Russell D. Moore, Ph.D.
Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
Southern Baptist Convention
National Association of Evangelicals
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Hispanic Evangelical Association
Bishop Gary E. Stevenson
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church of America
Dr. William J. Hamel
Evangelical Free Church
Randall A. Bach
Open Bible Churches
Bishop Bruce D. Hill
Evangelical Congregational Church
The Most Rev. Craig W. Bates
International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church
Great Commission Churches
A.D. Beacham, Jr., Th.M.
International Pentecostal Holiness Church
Clyde M. Hughes
International Pentecostal Church of Christ
Dr. Gary M. Benedict
The Christian and Missionary Alliance, U.S.
Dr. Jeffrey Jeremiah
Evangelical Presbyterian Church
Bishop John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church
Jo Anne Lyon
The Wesleyan Church
Minister of Communications
Governing Body Commissioner, Vice Chair
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Dr. George O. Wood
Assemblies of God
Most Revd Robert Duncan
Anglican Church in North America
Brethren in Christ Church, U.S.
Rev. Jim Eschenbrenner
Most Reverend Nicholas J. Samra
Bishop of Newton
Melkite Greek Catholic Church
Missionary Church, Inc.
Rev. Susan Taylor
National Public Affairs Director
Church of Scientology
Grace Communion International
Terri Marsh, J.D., Ph.D.
Human Rights Law Firm
Fellowship of Evangelical Churches
Prof. Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, and
Prof. Dr. Christof Sauer
International Institute for Religious Freedom
Association of Gospel Rescue Missions
Institute on Religion and Democracy
Sister Jane Marie Klein
Chairperson of the Board
Franciscan Alliance, Inc.
Rabbi Aryeh Spero
Caucus for America
Sister Margaret Regina Halloran, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Brooklyn
Sister Maria Christine Lynch, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Chicago
Sister Loraine Marie Clare Maguire, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Baltimore
Little Sisters of the Poor
National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools
President & CEO
Advocates International | William A. Estrada, J.D.
Director of Federal Relations
Home School Legal Defense Association
Alliance Defending Freedom
Patrick J. Reilly
The Cardinal Newman Society
Catholics for Freedom of Religion
Executive Director & CEO
Christian Legal Society
Manuel D. Gonzalez, M.D. and Adriana Gonzalez
President and Vice-President
Catholics Called to Witness
David Stevens, MD, MA
Christian Medical Association
Dr. Tom Cathey
Chief of Staff, Director for Legal/Legislative Issues
Association of Christian Schools International
Family Research Council
Richard Land, D.Phil.
Southern Evangelical Seminary
Senior Vice President
Focus on the Family
John Garvey, J.D.
The Catholic University of America
The Mitchell Firm
Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D.
Professor of Government
Patrick Henry College
Sr. Mary Sarah Galbraith, O.P., President
Sr. Mary Angelica Neenan, O.P., S.T.D., Theologian
Dr. Richard Bulzacchelli, S.T.D., Theologian
Sr. Jane Dominic Laurel, O.P., S.T.D., Theologian
Aquinas College, Nashville | Msgr. Edward J. Dillon, J.C.D., President
Fr. Paul A. Burke, J.C.D., Chair of the Faculty of Theology
Prof. Matthew McWhorter
Holy Spirit College
Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D., President
Prof. Marc D. Guerra, Ph.D.
Prof. Christopher P. Klofft
Prof. Marc A. LePain
J. Brian Benestad, Ph.D.
(Rev.) Barry Bercier, A.A.
Rev. Charles Sikorsky, LC, JD, JCL, President
Prof. Craig Steven Titus, S.T.D./Ph.D.
Institute for the Psychological Sciences
Jim Towey, President
Michael A. Dauphinais, Vice President for Academic Affairs
Dr. William Riordan, Director of Undergraduate Theology
Prof. Steven A. Long, Ph.D.
Ave Maria University
Dr. Derry Connolly
John Paul the Great University
Dr. Bill Thierfelder
Belmont Abbey College
Dr. Thomas Powell, President
Msgr. Stuart Swetland, Archbishop Flynn Chair of Christian Ethics
Mount Saint Mary’s University
Stephen D. Minnis
D. Gregory Main, President
Assist. Prof. Richard S. Meloche, Ph.D.
St. Gregory’s University
Timothy T. O’Donnell, STD, KGCHS
Michael F. McLean, President
Paul O’Reilly, Vice President for Development
Brian T. Kelly, Dean
John Quincy Masteller, General Counsel
Thomas Aquinas College
George A. Harne, Ph.D., President
The Rev. Roger Boucher, Chaplain
Commander, US Navy (ret)
College of St. Mary Magdalen
William Edmund Fahey, Ph.D., President & Fellow
Walter J. Thompson, Fellow
Ryan Topping, Ph.D., Fellow
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts
Rev. Bernard F. O’Connor, O.S.F.S.
Monsignor James P. Shea, President
Dr. Sam Condic, Chair of the Department of Philosophy
Prof. Leroy Huizenga
Prof. David Fleischacker
The University of Mary
Fr. Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, President
Prof. Anne Hendershott, Ph.D.
Prof. Daniel R. Kempton, Ph.D.
Prof. Patrick Lee, Ph.D.
Franciscan University of Steubenville
Dr. Kevin D. Roberts
Wyoming Catholic College
Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance
Edward O. Blews, Jr.
Council for Christian Colleges & Universities
Dr. Robert Ivany
University of Saint Thomas – Houston|Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V.
Sisters of Life
Sister Regina Marie Gorman, O.C.D.
Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious