Dr. Richard Land

HHS Proposed Rule Continues to Violate Issues of Conscience and Religious Freedom

April 8, 2013

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention filed a public comment that expressed disappointment with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) proposed rule that would amend regulations relating to the coverage of certain preventive services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

“We do not believe HHS’ proposed rule issued in February adequately addresses the issues of conscience violation and religious freedom that we expressed concerning both the original notice of final rule issued in August 2011 and the subsequent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in March 2012,” said Richard Land, president of the ERLC, in a written letter to the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Specifically, we urge HHS to make the necessary accommodations to make the contraception services rule consistent with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Land continued. “Anything short of protecting the freedoms of conscience and religious expression for all Americans–not merely houses of worship and their integrated auxiliaries–is unacceptable.”

Land noted, “While the proposed rule appears to free houses of worship and their integrated auxiliaries from the mandate requirements, the religious employer exemption still does not apply to many religious organizations.

“The freedom of conscience is a universal human principle not subject to the whims of a government agency,” Land said. “It is a human right to be protected, not granted, by the U.S. government on behalf of all Americans,” he continued.

As it presently stands, the preventive services mandate continues to commit two offenses against Americans whose participation in communities across our nation happen to be organized as either a business or non-religious non-profit organization, Land explained.

First, it represents a fundamental breach of the freedoms of conscience and religion for all Americans in principle, Land said. Second, it offends specific tenets of faith and conscience held by millions of Americans, he continued.

“If the federal government can force Catholic Americans to pay for contraceptives and other pro-life Americans to pay for abortifacients, what will this or future administrations force American citizens to do tomorrow?” Land asked.

“For the sake of the universal principles of freedom of conscience and religious expression and in defense of these freedoms for all Americans, in accordance with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we respectfully plead with the Department of Health and Human Services to, at a minimum, expand conscience protections under the mandate to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objection to covering, providing, or enabling access to these services,” Land said.

You can read the ERLC’s full comment on the organization’s website.

The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest non-Catholic denomination with more than 16.2 million members in over 44,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn. and Washington, D.C.

- END -

To request an interview with Dr. Richard Land,

contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8401,

or by e-mail at ebristow@erlc.com.

Visit our Web site at www.erlc.com.

Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/erlcsbc