Have Your Religious Leaders Joined The Fight To Preserve Freedom?
Confessional Lutherans are not known for our political activism. Or, we're not known for it as part of our corporate church work. We focus on worship, the sacraments, forgiveness of sins and our mercy work. Some church bodies of various political persuasions have aggressive political arms, telling members how to vote on H.R. 1283 or whatever. We're not inclined in that direction.
But we're all in on the religious liberty battles that have reached something of a boiling point with the HHS mandate. The Rev. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod -- the country's second largest Lutheran body and the largest of the confessional Lutheran church bodies here in America, has penned an open letter signed by religious leaders.
He explains why we did this:
"We drafted this letter because there are moments in history where one needs to speak and stand for basic principle," Harrison said. "The time to confess is now. We don't know what tomorrow might bring. We have been too silent as our nation has continued to slip into the morass of relativism."
You may remember that awesome mustache from his testimony in front of Congress on the matter back in February. Anyway, here's how the letter ends:
HHS has mandated that religious institutions, with only a narrow religious exception, must provide access to certain contraceptive benefits, even if the covered medications or procedures are contradictory to their beliefs. We who oppose the application of this mandate to religious institutions include not only the leaders of religious groups morally opposed to contraception, but also leaders of other religious groups that do not share that particular moral conviction.
That we share an opposition to the mandate to religious institutions while disagreeing about specific moral teachings is a crucial fact. Religious freedom is the principle on which we stand. Because of differing understandings of moral and religious author- ity, people of good will can and often do come to different conclusions about moral questions. Yet, even we who hold differing convictions on specific moral issues are united in the conviction that no religious institution should be penalized for refusing to go against its beliefs. The issue is the First Amendment, not specific moral teachings or specific products or services.
The HHS mandate implicitly acknowledged that an incursion into religion is involved in the mandate. However, the narrowness of the proposed exemption is revealing for it applies only to religious organizations that serve or support their own members. In so doing, the government is establishing favored and disfavored religious organizations: a privatized religious organization that serves only itself is exempted from regulation, while one that believes it should also serve the public beyond its membership is denied a religious exemption. The so-called accommodation and the subsequent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (AN- PRM) do little or nothing to alleviate the problem.
No government should tell religious organizations either what to believe or how to put their beliefs into practice. We indeed hold this to be an unalienable, constitutional right. If freedom of religion is a constitutional value to be protected, then institutions developed by religious groups to implement their core beliefs in education, in care for the sick or suffering, and in other tasks must also be protected. Only by doing so can the free exercise of religion have any meaning. The HHS mandate prevents this free exercise. For the well-being of our country, we oppose the application of the contraceptive mandate to religious institutions and plead for its retraction.
Women religious who have signed include Lutheran deaconesses and a variety of Catholic Superiors from across the country.
Among the others are Leith Anderson, President National Association of Evangelicals; Gary M. Benedict, President The Christian and Missionary Alliance U.S.; The Very Rev. Dr. John A. Jillions, Chancellor Orthodox Church in America; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York President United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; The Most Blessed Jonah Archbishop of Washington Metropolitan of All American and Canada Orthodox Church in America; Imam Faizul R. Khan Founder and Leader Islamic Society of Washington Area; and Dr. George O. Wood, General Superintendent The General Council of the Assemblies of God.
If you don't see your religious leaders on the list, please send it along to them and encourage them to join the fight for preserving religious liberty.