The Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, a group representing 2,000 congregations and 26 denominations in ten counties in the region, released a statement last Friday expressing anxiety about the HHS mandate.
The diverse body said its opposition did not spring from theological opposition to birth control but out of respect for American traditions enshrined in her founding document.
“Our deep concern overt his mandate does not arise from the varying convictions we have about the moral content of the mandate, but from our common commitment to the right of religious freedom that all people of faith expect to enjoy in this country,” the statement reads. “The Constitution of the United States guarantees every religious institution and its affiliated bodies the inalienable right to define its own identity and ministries and to practice its own beliefs, not just freedom of worship.” (Emphasis in original.)
The ObamaCare regulation puts faithful employers “in the untenable position of a) violating their consciences, b) ceasing health insurance and paying ruinous fines, or c) withdrawing entirely from providing social services to the wider community that have long been a hallmark of their social justice ministry.”
“Creating gaping holes in the public welfare safety net is in and of itself an immense injustice,” it says.
It concludes by asking the Obama administration “to alter the ‘Preventative Services Mandate’ to broaden the religious exemption within it so that both the constitution right to the free exercise of religion…may not be impaired.”
The two-page document was signed by 18 prominent clergy, including Roman Catholic Bishop Lawrence Brandt of Greenburg, Bishop Kenneth Price of The Episcopal Church, and Archbishop Melchizedek of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).
Other signatories represented the African Methodist Episcopal (AME), American Baptist, Disciples of Christ, Lutheran (ELCA), Presbyterian Church-USA, United Church of Christ (UCC), Byzantine Catholic, and Orthodox Church.
At a press conference last week Anglican Archbishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, Roman Catholic Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh, and CASP executive director Rev. Donald Green explained that some churches declined to sign the statement because their church requires unanimous consent. The local United Methodist bishop refused to sign the statement because he believed it violated his denomination’s social teachings.
They also clarified that, while their statement affirms “the moral imperative of providing healthcare for all,” it does not endorse a national health care system – especially one that threatens to put Catholic Charities out of business. They said providing health care is a command God gave the Church.
The joint press conference signals growing ecumenical opposition to the HHS mandate.
On Tuesday, nearly 1,400 members of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod sent letters to the Roman Catholic bishop of the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend saying they stand with him on his fight against the mandate.
The full CASP press conference may be viewed here.