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US bishops again call for conscience-protection legislation

Catholic World News - September 08, 2011

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, has again called upon Congress to pass the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act.

“Recent events make this request more urgent,” he said in a September 7 letter to Congress. Referring to the Department of Health and Human Services’ new requirement that all private insurers offer free coverage for female contraception and sterilization, the cardinal added that the

new mandate … includes an incredibly narrow exemption for “religious employers” that protects almost no one. For example, a Catholic institution serving the poor and needy would have to fire its non-Catholic staff, refuse life-affirming care to non-Catholic people in need, and devote itself instead to “the inculcation of religious values” to qualify for the exemption. Individuals, insurers, and the sponsors of non-employee health plans (e.g., student health plans in Catholic schools) would have no exemption at all. This effort to corral religion exclusively into the sanctuaries of houses of worship betrays a complete ignorance of the role of religion in American life, and of Congress’s long tradition of far more helpful laws on religious freedom.

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