Sunday, February 19, 2012

Patriarch Statement on Religious Freedom

Statement on President Obama’s Contraceptive Mandate

If you have been watching the news and reading the internet you are well aware of the decision of President Obama to require religious organizations to purchase health insurance that covers abortion inducing drugs, surgical sterilization and contraception.

We must be clear that the debate around this issue has nothing to do with health insurance. And, even though President Obama and his administration is the most pro-abortion administration in the history of America, if not the world, the issue is really not about abortion, surgical sterilization, or contraception. Nor, is this about a women’s reproductive health. This is an issue of religious liberty.

What the present administration wants to accomplish is forcing religious institutions to violate their faith and conscience by paying for procedures that go clearly against their moral and ethical teachings. The government would force these institutions to purchase insurance or face heavy fines ($2,000 per employee) for failure to do so.

This is also not a Roman Catholic issue. Though the Roman Catholic Church has been consistent and clear in its opposition to abortion and artificial means of contraception, there are many in the Orthodox, Evangelical, Anglican, and Protestant communities who would hold similar moral positions particularly when it comes to abortion. There are also many non-Christian faith communities for example Jews and Muslims that oppose abortion. These Christian and non-Christian faith groups all have organizations and agencies that provide medical care, schools/colleges, drug/alcohol services, counseling services, agencies to assist the poor, as well as counseling services that aid women who are pregnant by offering alternatives to abortion. Under the mandate by President Obama agencies that are morally opposed to abortion inducing drugs, surgical sterilization, and artificial contraception would be required to violate their conscience.

It is clear that Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and other religious groups would not be required to purchase this mandate. But again, like other groups, the Charismatic Episcopal Church has schools, treatment facilities, counseling centers and programs for unwed mothers that will be forced to violate their conscience.

There is now, and there has been, a long assault on religious liberty in the United States. Over and over again we see legislation passed and court rulings that increasingly secularize our country. Our President has said publically that the United States is a secular country. God and religious morality are being removed from the public arena and debate. And, though all the assaults on our religious freedom are serious this is by and far the most serious assault so far. We cannot remain silent.

The Christian community will not tolerate this mandate. We cannot be silent as the government takes away our religious liberty. The Constitution was established for the very purpose of protecting citizens from government intrusions in our lives particularly our religious lives. I urge all members of the clergy and laity of the Charismatic Episcopal Church – North America to write the President and their Senators and Congressional representatives and voice their strong objection to the Mandate.

This is not a political issues and the mandate should offend all who believe in liberty, whether Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Liberal. This is a matter of liberty and freedom. In the words attributed to German Pastor Martin Niemoeller,

“First they came for the Socialist, and I
did not speak out –
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
And I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did
not speak out – Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was
no one left to speak out.

Under His mercy,

The Most Rev. Craig W. Bates,
Patriarch, International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church
Primate, Charismatic Episcopal Church of North America

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