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N.C. Bishops Ask Faithful to Oppose HHS Planned Mandate

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The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, and the Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte, are calling on the faithful in both Dioceses to contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to register an objection to its plans to mandate contraception and sterilization as part of the new health reform bill approved by Congress. On August 1, HHS issued an “interim final rule” that will require nearly all employers to provide all FDA-approved contraceptives, including some that can cause an abortion, at no cost to women by their health insurance plans.

In announcing its plans, HHS said it would allow what it termed a “religious exception.” That “exception” was challenged by the USCCB’s General Counsel as being restrictive and an “unprecedented intrusion of the federal government into the precincts of religion.”

A Catholic News Service story states:

HHS has proposed that only religious employers meeting four criteria would be exempt from providing contraceptives and female sterilization through their health plans. Those requirements are that the organization (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a nonprofit organization" under specific sections of the Internal Revenue Code.

In a 35-page challenge to HHS’s planned mandate, the USCCB’s General Counsel wrote, "Under such inexplicably narrow criteria -- criteria bearing no reasonable relation to any legitimate (let alone compelling) government purpose -- even the ministry of Jesus and the early Christian church would not qualify as 'religious,' because they did not confine their ministry to their co-religionists or engage only in a preaching ministry."

HHS is welcoming comments to its planned mandate. Bishop Burbidge and Bishop Jugis are asking Catholics to join with Catholics throughout the United States in making their voices heard on this important issue that also calls into question the conscience rights of health care providers who have a religious concern in providing contraceptive or sterilization services.

Read the N.C. Bishops’ statement and take action at www.catholicvoicenc.org.