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Posted on Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

Federal contraceptive coverage rule is an attack on religious freedoms in the U.S.

By Letters to the Editor

The U.S. State Department has eliminated sections on religious freedom from its latest reports on human rights in the world’s nations and apparently will print that report separately as an International Religious Freedom Report.

I cannot help but wonder if that decision might have been made because of our country's current battle over the HHS (Health and Human Services) mandate (requiring health insurance coverage of contraceptives) and its attempt to encroach on the religious freedom of so many Christian organizations in the U.S. Might not the U.S. have to embarrassingly report on its own lack of religious freedom?

The following sentence opens the statement found at the State Department's website ( for the International Religious Freedom Report: "The Office of International Religious Freedom has the mission of promoting religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy." Would that it would be the core not only of our foreign policy but also of our domestic policy.

The International Religious Freedom Report has not been published in two years. This report is mandated by, and presented to, the U.S. Congress. The website further states: "The designation by the Secretary of State (under authority delegated by the President) of nations guilty of particularly severe violations of religious freedom as ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (H.R. 2431) and its amendment of 1999 (Public Law 106-55). Nations so designated are subject to further actions, including economic sanctions, by the United States." Are not the repercussions of the HHS mandate a "severe violation of religious freedom"?

The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Department "publishes a newsletter, Religious Freedom in Focus, covering cases involving religious freedom around the United States. In addition a number of NGOs who monitor human rights issues around the world also report on conditions in the United States." I look forward to its next issue to see how fair its coverage will be of the nation's own issues in this area.

On May 21, 43 Catholic dioceses and organization sued the Obama administration over the definition of a "religious institution" under the ObamaCare law. The Catholic Church has never undertaken something of this magnitude, yet all the major networks ignored it except for CBS Evening News, which devoted only 19 seconds to this historic event. I honestly do not have much hope for anything more than that from the Freedom Report.

Does no one else find this disturbing?

Sr. Dorcee Clarey
Ann Arbor



Thu, Jun 21, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.

Some of the fallacies I perceive in response to Sr. Dorcee's letter and my own reply seem worth addressing. The idea that pedophile priests' heinous and criminal acts represent the whole Church is dismissive of the other 1+ Billion Catholics in the world who, with you, condemn these sins. The hierarchy is not the equivalent to the Church. Recall too the tens of thousands of priests who only serve others and lay down their lives in a daily way to care for us, and who would also condemn the sexual abuse. Another post says the government is just setting rules. That's a poor rationale, similar to "I was just following orders," in the moral decision-making process. "What if a religious group has a belief that is against the public interest," one replier implied. The question should also be directed at the government's recent trend toward making rules against the beliefs of religious groups that are not forcing others to believe or act in a certain way. Why is it so important to the current administration and its believers to force Catholics to support, whether indirectly or not, the violation of a central tenet that life is sacred and should be protected? Err on the side of life, rather than coercion. Yes, the gov't has power to make laws, and the people, so far, have the power to vote, so that's what we have to do. We can also speak up, pray, and work for the good of society.


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 3:29 a.m.

Thank you Sister Dorcee for your letter. One post claimed the Church is oppressing employees at many Catholic hospitals by opposing the HHS mandate requiring insurance plans offer abortifacients, sterilization, and contraceptives. Quite a stretch, as these "services" are widely available without forcing a controversial requirement down the Church's throat. Others imply that standing up for lives in the womb is the equivalent of mysogyny and sexism. What do we call sex selection driving the death of so many females in the womb? Seems like the real war against women. What is the health of a nation and world that has to wipe out our smallest and weakest humans? It can't be good. Those of you who assume conspiracies in the Church against women have not understood the teaching of very organization being vilified at the core for standing up for the poorest and weakest of us. Will we be content with the government taking over the role of civil society, replacing the many institutions, not just Catholic, that make up the fabric of one of the oldest and most effective safety nets, true charity? Is "free" birth control and morning-after pills availability really worth the loss of institutions that are in the "business" (as one of the posters called it), but the work anyway, of serving the most disadvantaged? Is it really more important than even the perception of the loss of religious freedom? Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, read the Gospels, to see more what we teach (yes, I'm a Catholic). If those criticizing the Church's resistance to governmental intrusion were to be better informed about the relevant teaching, it would give more credibility to their arguments, or might even provide some balance to ensure Big Brother does not take the place of Our Father. The Church is God's family. We all know we need to protect our families. He will also protect the family He loves so much.


Thu, Jun 21, 2012 : 12:40 a.m.

The Church enabled hundreds of pedophile priests to commit thousands of sexual assaults against innocent children. How can any rational human being consider the Catholic Church anything but morally bankrupt? Sheesh.


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 4:04 a.m.

You are falling into a trap. No one is telling the Church or Faithful to change their beliefs. The government is merely setting standards for coverage for insurance. People make their own choices. If the Jehovah's Witnesses forbade their employees from blood transfusions, would that be acceptable? What about if Muslim or Jewish organizations forbade treatment for diseases contracted from eating pork or drinking alcohol? Where does it stop? The government's job is to set rules and that is all that is occurring.


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 3:25 a.m.

"Are not the repercussions of the HHS mandate a "severe violation of religious freedom"?" No. "Does no one else find this disturbing?" No one who truly values religious freedom does. No one who is aware of what true religious persecution looks like. No one other than those trying to push their religion and their politics off onto others. But thanks for asking. Next?


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 11:49 p.m.

Also of note, it appears that the "Church" is already exempt from this. This whole debate is over Hospitals and schools. Places like "St. whatever Mercy Hospital". So it's not about priests and nuns, but about nurses and doctors and janitors and IT people and phone operators. They're the ones who are being oppressed. This debate has NOTHING to do with an actual "Church".

Tony Livingston

Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 11:34 p.m.

There are so many problems in the world yet this is what Catholics are focusing on. It's a great example of the problem with the church in the first place.


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 3:28 a.m.

Imagine how many hungry kids they could feed with the money they're about to waste on lawyers trying to sue their own government. I wonder how many Chinese Christians they could save with that cash? How many lives they could save in many American inner city kids they could deliver into clean clothes, healthy food and good schools? No, instead let us spend hundreds of millions on trying to keep insurance companies from paying for medications our employees can also buy for themselves with the money we pay them. Pathetic.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 10:55 p.m.

To be clear, the Church refuses to say exactly how many dioceses joined the suit...43 ORGANIZATIONS and dioceses sued......there are 195 dioceses on the US .....meaning possibly around 20% of Catholics in the US are suing. The others are Notre Dame and some institutions joining on. And what is happening to the Catholic Church in this area right now? How do the people of the parishes feel about the far right extremist political position the US leadership is taking? Take a look:


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 10:26 p.m.

I'm with the ....they are my heroines. And they will be in Michigan soon! You go girls!


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 11:17 p.m.

You might not know that the nuns on the bus will probably be booted out of the church.....but they have taken up the fight for an end to politicizing the mass anyhow. This is the group that the pope is "investigating" and muzzling.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 10:05 p.m.

When religious organizations are preaching, they have religious freedom under the First Amendment. When religious organizations are operating businesses, they have to follow the same rules other businesses follow. They don't get religious exemptions to building codes, or the ADA. They don't get religious exemptions to workplace safety regulations, or to health regulations on serving food at proper temperatures. Why should they get exemptions to this? When they're businesses, they're businesses.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 8:42 p.m.

The health benefit plans of church-sponsored employers do not restrict the use of contraception; the plans simply don't pay for it. The employers don't pry into their employees lives and "forbid" contraception, they just don't pay for it. The proponents of the HHS mandate claim it is to increase access to birth control for people employed by church-sponsored employers, but these employees don't have access problems. They are employed and have health benefits that might cover the appointments where the contraceptive are prescribed. They are free to go and have the prescription filled. The cost of several oral contraceptives is lower than the co-pay for many prescription plans. It is their choice and they have many options that are affordable. If the HHS mandate is to increase access, it is a solution for a problem that doesn't exist. But I think the comments to this editorial give voice to the real reason for the mandate. It is not about access. Many people don't agree with the official Catholic stance on birth control and feel justified in force the Church to act against its teaching. How is this not a suppression of religious freedom?


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.

Quit feeding at the government trough if you don't want to be "suppressed/oppressed" or whatever...


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 3:35 a.m.

Once again it seems we have what appears to be an otherwise intelligent and articulate individual who isn't able to distinguish between a church and a hospital or school. A Church voluntarily elects to run a business, knowing full well what the requirements are, yet somehow it is being "forced" to act against its beliefs? No one yet has been able to explain why this particular delusion should receive any legitimate consideration.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 11:51 p.m.

The regulation of insurance is not in the Bible. The government is not a theocracy. No one is telling religious organizations to change or alter their beliefs. The government is regulating insurance companies, that is all.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

Cory: While some oral contraceptives may cost $120 a month, several generically available forms can be purchased at Krogers/Meijers/Walgreen/CVS, etc. and are advertised at $9/month. That is lower than the common copays, so it is not an access problem. Insurance company pays? Published reports from insurance companies have made it clear that this will result in an increase in premiums, so the employer (Church) is picking up the tab. The Church has a right to express its view even if the majority disagrees with it. It has a right to act on its beliefs if it does not infringe the rights or safety of others. Current health plans at these organizations do not forbid its employees from using contraceptives and the medications can be obtained inexpensively. If access were a problem, there would be an unusually high rate of unwanted pregnancies among these employees? Is there any evidence that that is the case? What problem is this mandate solving? It really seems this is being motivated from a disagreement with a religious view, not for health or access reasons.

Susie Q

Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 9:17 p.m.

In addition, most of these church-affiliated places (hospitals, schools & universities) accept public money to pay their employees, build new structures, fund care for the elderly and indigent with Medicare & Medicaid, etc. If they are willing to forego all public tax money, maybe then they can have their so-called religious freedom. I have read statements that some people are morally opposed to having tax $ spent on contraceptives; well, it is also true that I am offended by many of the things the government spends money for.......yet, I cannot pick and choose among the items in the budget. I support the mandate for contraception coverage. I am sick and tired of the religious right trying to control women. They are not so different from radical Islam in this endeavor.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

The problem is that the daily pill is expensive for women. We're talking hundreds of dollars. Most prescription plans cover these, so you simply pay a $30 co-pay instead of $120 a month. The HHS mandate says that the church cannot specify that the pill is NOT covered. So that for that single medication, there is no prescription coverage. Couple that high cost with the relatively low salary of a secretary or treasurer at a church and you can see how the cost would be restrictive. Another thing to remember is that the church isn't really the one paying for the prescription, the insurance company is. Furthermore, no one is forcing the employees to take the birth control. In fact, if the employees were devoted, by-the-book followers, this wouldn't even be an issue.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

Ya know, I find it funny every time Christians get all defensive about condoms. Yet tatoos aren't spoken of: Leviticus 19:28 which says, "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord."" They're not pushing for the re-instatement of slavery: Leviticus 25:44-46 However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. Frankly, I'm tired of the church picking and choosing when it wants to feel religious, and what topics it wants to support that day. Either support your holy book, and preach for slavery, or drop the abortion and birth control debate.

Stephen Wehmeyer

Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

Only religious organizations would claim that their freedoms are being restricted because of their restriction on restricting others freedoms.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 9:41 p.m.

that's very good!


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 8:23 p.m.

When your beliefs can not exist in the presence of another person's, it's not a religion. Spirituality is a deeply personal thing and we should all work hard to keep it that way.


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 12:45 a.m.

Preach it! :-)


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 8:16 p.m.

I do find it disturbing, but perhaps not for the same reasons you do. If Obamacare forced you to use contraception against your will, that would be an infringement on your religious liberty. But it doesn't. Instead it allows employees to follow their own conscience in this matter. Yet this is an infringement on their (or your? or the Bishops?) liberty in the twisted logic that has come to characterize the Catholic Church. I was raised a Catholic and realized several years ago that I could not in good conscience allow myself to be counted as a member or supporter of such actions. I say this without malice and some sympathy as I watch the contortions represented in this letter. No one is being forced to use contraception. If the Church cannot convince its members and employees to follow its teaching in this matter, then restricting its ability to force people to do something they don't believe in hardly counts as a restriction of religious freedom.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 7:41 p.m.

When religions conflict with sensible and informed social policy or non- harmful individual rights they need not be coddled, whether the issue is encouragement to jihad , or encouragement to overpopulate a resource-stressed planet ,drive women into back-alley abortions and promote homophobia.. . The first is the worst but the others are bad enough and deserve to get little sympathy, although stopping short of being criminalizable ( as the first sometimes deservedly is).


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

Don't make me laugh.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

Nah, the State Department just doesn't want to acknowledge that our helping to "liberate" assorted Muslim countries has resulted in the mass murder of Christian minorities and other horrors. Forcing Catholic institutions to do Big Brother's bidding in regards to the ruling class' population control agenda is a purely domestic matter outside of State's purview. In both cases voting Libertarian this time around is very, very tempting.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 7:48 p.m. got all the usual cliched rightwing conspiracy bullet points into that one. mazal tov.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 7:19 p.m.

Why would the state department make comments on domestic policy? And regardless, religious institutions want to limit access to medical care for women because of sexism and misogyny. While they're free to believe that women are inferior, when they attempt to act upon that feeling, regulations need to be in place to stop them.


Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 12:43 a.m.

Thank you Peter for summing up so precisely what so many sensible women and other men feel on this issue. Religious freedoms? What about the freedom of women to protect their bodies for the right time to reproduce?


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 7:42 p.m.

on this we can agree.