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US Bishops Renew Commitment in Support of Religious Freedom

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By a vote of 51-48, the U.S. Senate tabled the bipartisan Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (S. 1467), sponsored by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and 37 other senators. In a statement, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said the Senate’s action impels the Church to strengthen its resolve to support religious freedom.

The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge has expressed disappointment with Senate vote. “I remain committed with my brother bishops to do everything possible to right this serious threat to our religious liberty and conscience rights,” Bishop Burbidge said. “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate calling for most employers and insurers to provide sterilization, abortifacients and contraception to employees against their religious beliefs is a challenge to our guaranteed Constitutional freedom.”

“The need to defend citizens’ rights of conscience is the most critical issue before our country right now,” said Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bishop Lori chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “We will continue our strong defense of conscience rights through all available legal means. Religious freedom is at the heart of democracy and rooted in the dignity of every human person. We will not rest until the protection of conscience rights is restored and the First Amendment is returned to its place of respect in the Bill of Rights.”

“I am grateful today to Senator Roy Blunt and the 47 other Senators who cast a bipartisan vote reaffirming our nation’s long tradition of respect for rights of conscience in health care,” said Bishop Lori.  “We will build on this base of support as we pursue legislation in the House of Representatives, urge the Administration to change its course on this issue, and explore our legal rights under the Constitution and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”