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Health policy goes against concience and religious freedom say United States bishops

WASHINGTON (CNS): “As a practical or moral matter, none of (the approaches proposed by the administration) will solve the problem that the mandate creates for nonexempt religious organisations with a conscientious objection to contraceptive coverage,” said attorneys for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on May 15 in a 21-page comment was filed with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 
The comment was filed in response to the Obama administration’s “advance notice of proposed rulemaking” accommodation, published on March 16 in the Federal Register, pertaining to its controversial health reform law mandate requiring employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilisation and abortion-inducing drugs, even if it violates their consciences.
The administration suggested, among other things, having the costs covered by a third-party administrator of a health plan, or an independent agency that receive funds from other sources, such as rebates from drug makers. 
The USCCB comments said the proposed changes would still require “conscientiously objecting nonexempt religious organisations ... to provide plans that serve as a conduit for contraceptives and sterilisation procedures to their own employees and their premiums will help pay for those items.” 
The comments, signed by Anthony Picarello and Michael Moses, general counsel and associate general counsel for the USCCB, said that the mandate “may create an appearance of moderation and compromise,” but it does not change the administration’s fundamental position. 
It said, “We are convinced that no public good is served by this unprecedented nationwide mandate and that forcing individual and institutional stakeholders to sponsor and subsidise an otherwise widely available product over their religious and moral objections serves no legitimate, let alone compelling, government interest.” 
It repeatedly stresses that the best solution would be the complete revocation of the mandate. “We believe that this mandate is unjust and unlawful—it is bad health policy and, because it entails an element of government coercion against conscience, it creates a religious freedom problem,” it said. 
The comments went on to note, “These moral and legal problems are compounded by an extremely narrow exemption that intrusively and unlawfully carves up the religious community into those that are deemed ‘religious enough’ for an exemption, and those that are not.”......

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