By Vicki J. Biggs
In response to increasing intrusions by government into the realm of the church, the LCMS is launching “Religious Liberty: Free to Be Faithful,” an education and awareness campaign aimed at inspiring LCMS rostered members and laity to take informed action to protect the freedom of religion.
“We are committed to working to ensure that we remain free to practice the teachings of our faith and that we retain our rights of conscience,” said LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison. “Freedom of religion extends beyond the practice of our faith in houses of worship. We must be free to put our faith into action in the public square and, in response to Christ’s call, demonstrate His mercy through our love and compassion for all people.”
The goals of the campaign are to provide clarity about the church’s role in matters of Christian citizenship and impress upon elected representatives the vital nature of protecting First Amendment rights for all religious organizations – not just houses of worship – so that they are free to operate according to their religious beliefs.
Harrison said that “the immediate focus of the campaign is to provide educational materials prepared from an LCMS perspective that our members can use and share so they are equipped to participate in the electoral process and make informed decisions at the polls in November.”
Beginning in late September, educational resources available online include a Bible study and bulletin insert, articles and commentaries, a sample advocacy letter and additional materials.
The LCMS “Religious Liberty: Free to Be Faithful” campaign was conceived following the June 28 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), because the law includes a provision requiring certain religious employers to cover abortion-inducing contraceptives in their health plans. The so-called “birth-control mandate” became effective Aug. 1.
“Although the LCMS has no official position on the PPACA in its entirety, we regard the requirement to comply with the birth-control mandate, a provision of the law, as an infringement on religious liberties,” Harrison said. “The birth-control mandate runs counter to the biblical truth of the sanctity of human life and creates a conflict of conscience for religious employers and insurers, who face steep penalties for non-compliance based upon their religious convictions.”
Harrison spoke in defense of religious liberty and conscience before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in a Capitol Hill hearing in Washington, D.C., Feb. 16. (See stories at http://reporter.lcms.org/?19664 and http://reporter.lcms.org/?19660.)
On Feb. 21, the LCMS Council of Presidents (COP) adopted without dissenting voice a resolution asserting that it “stands with” and “commends” the LCMS president for his statements regarding the HHS mandate and his appearance before Congress.
In a statement prepared with that resolution, the COP reiterated that it stands united “in full support” of Harrison’s testimony as well as with “all citizens of the United States – Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, other Christians, as well as members of other faiths – in defense of religious liberty and freedom of conscience for individuals and institutions.” (For a full story about this, go to http://reporter.lcms.org/?19694.)
Numerous LCMS district conventions this year adopted resolutions supporting Harrison’s and others’ (including the Roman Catholics’) stance on the issue.
Also, Harrison authored “Free Exercise of Religion: Putting Beliefs into Practice,” an open letter issued June 21 to all Americans, voicing opposition to the birth-control mandate. Twenty-four religious leaders joined Harrison in signing the letter, which is on the LCMS president’s office Web page at www.lcms.org/president.
To learn more about the “Religious Liberty: Free to Be Faithful” campaign and to download resources, call 888-843-5267 or visit www.lcms.org/freetobefaithful.
Vicki J. Biggs is director, Integrated Communications, for the Synod.
Please note corrections to two Scripture references in the Bible study titled “Collision of Conscience” on Page 2 of the “Religious Freedom” insert with the October print-edition Reporter, which was mailed Sept. 25. The reference to Lev. 24:18 in the first paragraph should be Lev. 24:19. Also, at the end of the second paragraph under the subhead “Church, State and Conscience,” Acts 5:26 should be Acts 5:29.
Posted Sept. 25, 2012