On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores that the HHS contraceptive mandate cannot be used to force a family business to provide coverage for drugs and devices that violates the family members’ religious convictions. The Court relied on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1993. Legal challenges by non-profit religious groups are still pending.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) has introduced a bill (S. 2578) that would not only reverse Hobby Lobby, but would range more broadly. It negates any right that employers, insurers or employees may have, under RFRA or any other federal law, to opt out of federally mandated coverage. The Senate may vote on this anti-conscience bill as early as Wednesday, July 16. Please contact your Senators today!
- Send e-mails through NCHLA’s Action Center. Click here.
- Contact your Senators by phone. Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call Senators’ local offices. Full contact info is on Senators’ web sites at: www.senate.gov.
Suggested Message: “Please vote against the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act (S. 2578). This misnamed measure would revoke conscience rights now guaranteed by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other federal laws. In the future it could empower federal officials to mandate abortion or any other item in all health plans, forcing Americans to violate their deeply held religious and moral beliefs on respect for human life.”
When: The Senate may vote as early as Wednesday, July 16. Please contact your Senators today!
Sen. Murray’s bill states that an employer has no right to opt out of a federal mandate for any specific benefit, for any employees or their “covered dependents.” In the future this could include RU-486 or elective surgical abortions. Employees themselves, and women and men buying individual coverage, also have no right to object. The Act overrides RFRA and “any other provision of Federal law” that gets in the way. Crippling penalties could be imposed on sponsors and issuers of insurance who provide generous coverage, but object in conscience to a specific “item or service.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urges Senators to oppose S. 2578. See:nchla.org/datasource/idocuments/071414LoriOMalleyLtrMurrayUdallBill.pdf.
The HHS mandate requires health plans to cover all FDA-approved prescription contraceptives, female sterilization, and “counseling and education” promoting these to women and minor girls. It allows only a very narrow religious exemption, chiefly for “houses of worship.” Nonprofit religious groups serving the vulnerable, such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, receive only an “accommodation” requiring them to authorize their insurer or third-party administrator to provide the objectionable items. In its Hobby Lobbydecision, the Supreme Court allowed an opt-out for family businesses with religious objections (the objection in this case being to drugs or devices that can be abortifacient); other cases are pending. But S. 2578 would nullify laws to protect anyone’s conscience, once the federal government decides to mandate coverage of any item. Even the “exemption” and “accommodation” on contraception could be modified only in ways that serve the bill’s purpose of maximizing mandated coverage. For more information: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/S-2578-Backgrounder.pdf.
The botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma on Tuesday evening clearly demonstrates the horror associated with the use of this punishment in the United States. In a prepared statement Archbishop Paul Coakley said:
The execution of Clayton Lockett really highlights the brutality of the death penalty, and I hope it leads us to consider whether we should adopt a moratorium on the death penalty or even abolish it altogether.
Citizens across the U. S. grasped the obscenity of this killing. In his role as chairperson of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, of which the Conference is a member, Fr. Delahanty received this email from a Kentuckian who has had concerns about the use of the death penalty and been putting off taking action:
The news out of Oklahoma however has prompted me to reach out today. I would like to know what I can do as a citizen who is disturbed by the use of murder to discourage murder to change our society’s perception of what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
The Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty also issued a statement in both English and Spanish and concluded:
The botched execution of Mr. Lockett is another stark reminder to us all that life is a freely given, sacred gift from God. It should not be ended, except at the time of His choosing.
The CMN website has a wealth of information for Catholics about the church’s teaching regarding the death penalty and includes curriculum for teachers and others engaged in the education and formation of the faithful of all ages.
The Archdiocese of Louisville Catholic Charities office prepares monthly prayer suggestions and is focusing in May on the death penalty. This month’s prayer begins:
Merciful Father, we ask your blessing on all we do to build a culture of life. Hear our prayers for those impacted by the death penalty.
We will not bring an end to the death penalty in Kentucky without the advocacy of individuals like those who read this post. Contacting state legislators is essential. Pressing them to give up the use of executions for both moral and practical reasons must take place. If you, like the person who sent the email quoted above, want to become involved, please contact us at the Catholic Conference or visit the website of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and become a supporter with your time, talent, and treasure. Working together we can end the death penalty in this state before we have our own botched execution, or, worse, execute an innocent person.
If you want to download the statements from the Catholic Mobilizing Network or the prayer service prepared by Catholic Charities for use in parishes and other settings, click on these links: Response to Execution of Clayton Lockett – English, Spanish; Prayer for Life, Catholic Charities.
The Catholic Conference of Kentucky (CCK), located in Frankfort, is the official public policy agency of Kentucky’s four Roman Catholic Dioceses. Its mission is to represent the Church and the state’s Catholic Bishops to elected officials and government agencies at the local, state and national levels.
The associate director assists the executive director with communication efforts to secular media, state and federal agencies, and legislative and executive branches; monitors state and federal actions on issues of concern to the Conference; helps coordinate committee activities, and assists with maintaining a close working relationship with constituents.
Applicants for the position must be an active and committed Catholic, possess a working knowledge of Church doctrine, familiarity with the legislative process and government; ability to work with diverse groups and possession of excellent speaking and writing skills. A Masters level degree in relevant areas or Juris Doctor degree is preferred.
Interested candidates should submit their resumés and other relevant documentation on or before June 15, 2014 to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Catholic Conference of Kentucky, 1042 Burlington Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601.
Three important bills related to a woman’s right to have all the information she needs to give informed consent before undergoing a surgical or medical abortion are up for discussion in the March 20th meeting of the House Standing Committee on Health and Welfare: HB 575, SB 3, and SB 8.
Rep. Gerald Watkins, sponsor of HB 575, has asked the Catholic Conference to testify. The Conference has provided Rep. Watkins our prepared testimony and committee staff will distribute it to all Health and Welfare committee members.
In part, the Conference stated:
House Bill 575 represents a commonsense approach to ensure that women facing a difficult decision have all the information needed to consider their choices while fully protecting their privacy.
Catholic moral and social teaching strongly emphasizes the importance, the inherent dignity, of the human person. Individuals exercise their basic rights in the midst of the community. In addition to the right to life, to religious freedom, to freedom of conscience, and to other goods such as education, we recognize a basic right to health care that respects the dignity and autonomy of each human person.
Thus, a person’s right to health care extends beyond access to medical procedures and includes access to the relevant and useful information needed when making a major decision regarding one’s health care.
All three bills have strong bi-partisan support in the House chamber. House Bill 575 has 59 co-sponsors in addition the Rep. Watkins and the principal co-sponsor, Rep. Robert Benvenuti III. In addition to supporting HB 575, the Conference strongly supports all of these commonsense measures. Because each of these has more than enough support to pass on the House floor, the Catholic Conference of Kentucky urges that Health and Welfare Committee members these bills with a YES vote and not deprive the full House the opportunity to consider them on the floor of their chamber.
Photo: Kentucky Legislative Research Commission