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Faithful Catholic Colleges Urge HHS to Rescind ‘Direct Violation’ of Religious Liberty

From the Cardinal Newman Society press release:
This post was updated on May 31, 2012. Joined together by their firm commitment to strong Catholic identity and fidelity to Catholic teaching, 19 Catholic colleges, universities and online programs partnered today with The Cardinal Newman Society and Catholic faculty in a last-chance appeal to the Obama administration to rescind its illegal health insurance mandate and regulations that violate religious freedom.

This is the second such appeal organized by The Cardinal Newman Society’s Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education and authored by attorney Matthew Bowman of the Alliance Defense Fund.  Joining the Center and 19 colleges in the letter is the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, a national association of Catholic professors and scholars.

“In just a few short months, Catholic colleges and their students will be forced into health insurance that violates our moral beliefs,” said Msgr. Stuart Swetland, Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education and Vice President for Mission at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., upon submitting the letter to HHS.  “The colleges joining this letter have been admirable in their Catholic identity, both inside and outside the classroom.  They are defending their God-given and Constitutional rights to act according to their religious beliefs.  The Administration ought to recognize these rights.”

Most of the 19 colleges signing the letter are recommended in The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College for their fidelity to Catholic teaching, both inside and outside the classroom.  Other Newman Guide colleges – including Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, the Catholic University of America and the Franciscan University of Steubenville – have separately filed lawsuits to challenge the Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate.

Together the Newman Guide colleges and The Cardinal Newman Society have been leaders in opposing the HHS mandate and renewing Catholic identity in Catholic higher education.

Today’s letter has been submitted to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in response to the agency’s call for “comments” on proposed “accommodations” to a health insurance mandate that would require coverage for sterilization and contraceptives – some that cause abortion – in most employee and student health plans.  The Obama administration proposes to require insurance companies or third-party providers to insure employees for practices that Catholics find morally objectionable, claiming that this would alleviate the violation of religious freedom.

But the letter’s signers argue that the proposal, “far from alleviating this violation, promises to worsen it.”  Simply shifting responsibility for the mandated coverage won’t help, because Catholic colleges “object not merely to paying, but to any means of enabling the coverage through their own plans.”  Moreover, HHS has “no authority to force an insurer or a third party to provide coverage apart from the employer’s own plan.”

For this reason we urge HHS… [to exempt] all stakeholders with a religious or moral objection to being forced by the federal government to provide, offer, pay for or in any way participate in a health insurance plan that covers “contraceptives” (including abortifacients as well as non-abortifacient mechanisms of action), sterilization, and related education and counseling.  The right to religious freedom requires no less.

The letter explains that fidelity to Catholic teaching on abortion, sterilization and contraception is essential “to the very nature of Catholic higher education.”  Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Vatican constitution for Catholic colleges and universities, requires “Fidelity to the Christian message in conformity with the magisterium [the teaching office] of the Church.”

Monsignor Swetland hopes the Obama administration will listen to the concerns of Catholic colleges and universities, even as the mandate’s August deadline approaches.  “We cannot violate Catholic teachings and remain truly, faithfully Catholic,” he said.  “The Obama administration is asking us to deny who we are.  No persons or institutions in the United States ought ever to be forced to choose between obeying their conscience and obeying federal mandates.  If we are, faithful Catholics will choose to serve God rather than man.”

Signers include: The Cardinal Newman Society’s Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas Catholic Distance University in Hamilton, Virginia Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia College of Saint Mary Magdalen in Warner, New Hampshire College of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More in Fort Worth, Texas DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut Holy Spirit College in Atlanta, Georgia Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program in San Francisco, California John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego, California Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, Texas Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Oklahoma Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming Society of Catholic Social Scientists in Steubenville, Ohio

Catholic Education Daily is an online publication of The Cardinal Newman Society. Click here for email updates and free online membership with The Cardinal Newman Society.

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