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Franciscan University opposes federal health insurance mandate that undermines religious liberty


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BY: FATHER TERENCE HENRY, TOR

PRESIDENT, FRANCISCAN UNIVERSITY OF STEUBENVILLE

Like many of you, I am closely following the recent decision by the Obama administration that will soon require virtually every employer and insurer in the United States to provide sterilization and contraceptives, including some abortion-inducing drugs, in their health plans.

As Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), aptly put it in his January 23 Vigil Mass leading up to the March for Life, "Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn't happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights."

To underscore Cardinal-designate Dolan's words: By making this insurance coverage mandatory, our government has violated the consciences of people of faith and infringed on our right to practice our religious beliefs. Mandatory contraception and sterilization coverage forces Catholic colleges to undermine their missions as Catholic institutions. Make no mistake: according to Catholic teaching this mandate is intrinsically evil.

The so-called "religious exemption" will likely not protect hundreds of Catholic colleges, schools, and organizations, including Catholic hospitals, nursing homes, and social service agencies, which serve people regardless of religious affiliation. As a recent USCCB statement noted, "not even Jesus and his disciples would have qualified," so narrow is the exemption.

The first among our many rights as Americans is religious freedom. I assure you that Franciscan University will not comply with this federal mandate or anything similar that would violate our moral conscience or religious beliefs.

I am confident that the best way to insure that Franciscan University continues to fulfill its mission is for us to stand united with the Church, our courageous U.S. bishops, and other Catholic and religious leaders who are challenging this federal directive.

I urge you to join in this battle. Educate yourself and voice your opposition by calling your U.S. representatives to support the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179, S. 1467). This bill, introduced by Franciscan University alumni U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry R-Nebraska, MA '96, would grant exceptions to the new health-care law on religious and conscience grounds.

You can e-mail your U.S. congressman and senators from the Web site operated by the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment: www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=292.

You can read more about this national healthcare crisis at the USCCB's Web site, www.usccb.org.

Franciscan University remains unequivocally opposed to this federal mandate and will not comply with it. I will keep you informed as the University joins forces with others to overturn it.

Finally, I ask you to please keep this new battle for the culture of life in your prayers," For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness" (Eph. 6:12).

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