On Today’s Respect for Rights of Conscience Act Vote
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Lansing)—Michigan Catholic Conference released the following statement today regarding the U.S. Senate vote, including that of Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, on the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which was offered as an Amendment to the Transportation Authorization Bill. The quotes that follow may be attributed to Michigan Catholic Conference President and CEO Paul A. Long:
“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) mandate that requires religious employers to pay for morally objectionable services in their health benefit plans entered the federal record on February 10 ‘without change.’ This means, despite President Obama’s failed attempt that same day to appear to ‘accommodate’ religious employers, that those who are morally opposed to abortion-inducing drugs and artificial contraception will be required by the federal government to pay for such coverage. This is unacceptable, and disastrous not only for religious employers but also for the venerable and constitutional guarantees of religious liberty in our nation.
In order to provide legal protections for religious employers who are morally opposed to abortion-inducing drugs, artificial contraception and sterilization, and to prevent those employers—as well as premium-sharing paying employees—from being coerced into paying for such services, the U.S. Senate today debated and voted on the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. Unfortunately, the vote failed by a narrow margin 51–48. The defeat of the Blunt Amendment, to which the Act has been referred, represents a defeat for religious liberty and conscience rights to the favor of those who have leading up to the vote misrepresented the legislation and have undertaken a public campaign of fear-mongering.
Numerous press reports and comments from opponents of the Blunt Amendment, including the Administration, have made outrageous claims that the Act would allow for religious employers to deny coverage, for example, for mammograms and cervical cancer screenings. Curiously, none of those detractors cited which religious organizations are morally opposed to such necessary services, nor has any supposed religious entity opposed to the services come forward in opposition to the legislation. It must be communicated widely that efforts from politicians and those opposed to religious liberty rights have preyed on women’s concerns for critical health services in order to advance their agenda. Such tactics are reprehensible and, more importantly, represent an affront to the dignity of women.
The votes of Michigan’s U.S. senators, Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, against the Blunt Amendment represent an unacceptable position—one that seeks to inflict significant monetary damages on religious employers who will abide by their consciences rather than the dictates of the state. Today's vote may not be the end of legislative efforts to protect conscience rights, and this critical issue will almost certainly be addressed by the courts. As such, the Catholic Church, numerous other faith denominations and persons of goodwill will continue to oppose the HHS mandate in all three branches of government. While these efforts are underway, opposition from the Catholic faithful, along with consistent and clear teaching from the bishops in the State of Michigan, will continue in order to protect religious liberty rights in our great nation.”
Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.