Harrison signs letter opposing HHS final rules

Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison is one of some 100 religious leaders and scholars who signed an “open letter to all Americans” in opposition of final rules from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for religious groups to comply with the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

Titled “Standing Together for Religious Freedom,” the signatories’ one-page letter states that those final rules — set to become effective Aug. 1 — essentially violate their freedom of conscience.

The letter — issued in conjunction with a June 21-July 4 “Fortnight to Freedom” called for by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops — was made public several days after President Barack Obama’s administration announced the rules. The conference’s website describes the fortnight as “a two-week period of prayer and actions, to address many current challenges to religious freedom.”

“The Affordable Care Act requires most employers to provide contraception coverage to staffers at no cost,” according to a July 2 Religion News Service (RNS) story about the letter.

“The HHS policy is coercive and puts the administration in the position of defining — or casting aside — religious doctrine,” the “Standing Together” letter states. “This should trouble every American.”

“At a minimum,” the letter continues, “we call upon HHS to … expand conscience protections under the mandate to cover any organization or individual that has religious or moral objections to covering, providing or enabling access to the mandated drugs and services. Further, because HHS claims to be acting on authority granted it by Congress, we ask Congress to consider how it might prevent such offenses from occurring in the future. Any policy that falls short of affirming full religious freedom protection for all Americans is unacceptable.”

For a PDF of the “Standing Together for Religious Freedom” letter, click here.

To read the RNS story about that letter — through “Periscope” at Reporter Onlineclick here.

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Reporter Online is the Web version of Reporter, the official newspaper of
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Content is prepared by LCMS Communications.

22 Responses to Harrison signs letter opposing HHS final rules

  1. Walt Timm July 10, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    Thank you!

  2. Andrea Frobel July 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Thank you for standing against a violation of our Constitution AND the Word. I will continue to support you in this very unstable time of attacks against the foundation of our faith.

  3. Les Winters July 10, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    I’m so thankful that the LCMS and the Roman church will publicly stand for freedom of conscience and religious rights. If only more Americans will recognize the danger to religious freedoms and stand as well.

  4. Donnette July 10, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Thank you for being involved and proactive for our God and beliefs.

  5. Charlotte Gebauer Koelling July 10, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    May God bless the witness you and other church leaders are giving in these troubled times. If enough committed Christians and adherents of the U.S. Constitution speak out, perhaps someone in this administration will take heed. I keep reminding myself that our God is in charge and we are His beloved children. Thank you, President Harrison, for speaking on our behalf.

  6. Philip Hofman July 10, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Well done, Dr. Harrison! We stand with you!

  7. Jarvis Lehmann July 10, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

    Thank you! Pastor Harrison. And God bless your ministry and the United State of America.

  8. Jo Etta Hill July 10, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

    I’m confused.

    “The mandate will take effect in 2015. The final rule states that an organization that objects to providing contraceptives on religious grounds can offer employees a plan that does not provide contraceptive coverage. The health insurer administering the plan then enrolls employees in a separate, individual, private policy that only covers contraceptives at no extra cost.”

    So religious organizations are not required to pay for or provide coverage for contraceptives at no extra cost. And, of course, no one is required to use contraceptives just because they have coverage.

    So just what are you objecting to here?

    • James Newhard July 10, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

      I seriously doubt any insurance provider would pay claims for abortion/birth control simply ‘out of the goodness of their heart,’ without having income of some sort to cover the expected expenditures. That translates to a slightly higher premium on the ‘general’ policy, or perhaps on all ‘general’ policies, or even a government-paid ‘stipend’ to make up for the so-called “free” coverage. “There no such thing as a ‘free’ lunch.”

      • Jo Etta Hill July 10, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

        I’m sure you’re right, but that doesn’t address my question.

        The mandate does not require religious organizations to pay for or cover contraceptives. Churches themselves were never under the mandate.

        So why are the objections continuing? The issue is resolved IMO.

        • Jesse July 11, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

          Actually, your respondent is mistaken. Because pregnancy is more expensive than birth control, there’s a net savings to insurance providers in offering birth control for free.

          And hence, allowing an organization to restrict birth control coverage for their employees forces contributors to pay more for no better reason than submission to their employer’s religious beliefs.

    • Lisa Davis July 10, 2013 at 11:33 pm #

      If you haven’t already done so, read the letter. The objections involve the government mandating law and policy that is contrary to religious beliefs. If government can make a ruling about this health coverage issue disregarding religious beliefs, the precedent is set for future laws and policies contrary to such beliefs to be passed and upheld.

  9. Sandra Gates July 10, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    Thank you for standing up for our God given religious freedoms (and by freedom I mean, the freedom to love God in the way He has ordained us to). Thank you for standing firmly against the evil current that tries to overtake us.

  10. Elizabeth Thomson July 10, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    The recent accommodation does not require religious employers to contract, provide, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage. The Catholic Health Association (represents Catholic Hospitals) has accepted this compromise.
    I do not believe the Affordable Care Act takes away our religious freedom. It does what Christians are supposed to do – care about each other and take care of each other so we all have access to health care and a healthy life. Contraception is part of that. Most couples reach a point where they do something to limit the number of children they have or don’t have at all and that is called contraception. Most people use it, including Lutherans.

    • Jo Etta Hill July 10, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

      I agree Elizabeth. If the Catholic Health Association has accepted the compromise, why is the LCMS still raising objections? I don’t understand that at all.

      I also don’t see how the ACA takes away any religious freedoms either. We’re all in the same boat with our health care system and the ACA makes it a more accessible boat to be in.

    • Rev. Mark D. Post July 12, 2013 at 1:45 am #

      Elizabeth, your response is not congruent with the concept of Christian charity.
      You said, ” … the Affordable Care Act … does what Christians are supposed to do – care about each other and take care of each other so we all have access to health care and a healthy life. Contraception is part of that.”

      This is not a correct understanding. Christian care is not about Congress passing legislation to take money from the public at large to pay for a health program determined by those who have proven by their actions and public statements to be pro-abortion, anti-Christian-family liberals. Christian care is not about having a too-powerful government take money from people under threat of penalty to give to others. That would be called socialism, communism, or some form of dictatorship. Christian care is when the love of Christ motivates us to open OUR OWN wallets, our hearts and our appointment books to help those truly in need, especially, as Galatians says, among our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

      Additionally, as government grows in scope, size, and responsibility for the various concerns of life, history recent and ancient shows that the Family and the Church (both where saving Faith in Jesus is nurtured) shrink in comparison.

      Furthermore, while Christians seem to differ in their views on contraception, nowhere in the Bible do we find that advocating for taxpayer funded contraception (let alone abortion) is considered part of “what Christians are supposed to do.”
      And finally, such views as you have expressed here in support of what is commonly called Obamacare are incongruent with what our Confessions in the explanation of the Fourth Commandment in the Large Catechism, Book of Concord, state is our Bible-based, Christ-centered understanding of the role of government.

      Elizabeth, may the Lord bless you as you study His Word, and you grow in your understanding of this topic from a Lutheran/Biblical/Christian perspective.
      Pastor Post

      • Rev. Gerald Heinecke July 13, 2013 at 3:34 pm #

        Thank you Rev. Post for that good reply to Elizabeth. The problem is not about condoms, it is about forcing insurance plans to provide abortion-causing drugs such as the morning after pill or devices that keep a fertilized egg from implanting like an IUD. As Lutherans we rightly confess and teach that life begins at conception and so these things eliminate that life that our Heavenly Father has created.

        It is important Elizabeth and Jo Etta that Obamacare does teach God’s holy people to choose sin by saying these abortion-causing drugs are ok to use and as a church body the LCMS does have a responsibility to teach correctly.

        Thank you Pastor Harrison for taking this stand on behalf of the LCMS and may the Lord bless this confession of faith.

        Rev. Gerald Heinecke

  11. Robert July 11, 2013 at 1:08 am #

    The Catholic Health Association does not represent all Catholic hospitals, nor does it support the Roman Catholic bishops on this matter.

    Shame on you, “Elizabeth” and “Jo Etta,” for propagandizing this Web site.

    • Elizabeth Thomson July 11, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

      Expressing an opinion is not propagandizing. Provision was made for responses and I responded. Our Synod’s leaders need to know the opinions of all members.

  12. Todd July 11, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

    Since when are Lutherans against birth control? I thought we had separation of Church and State? Since when does the Church think it has the right to control an individual’s choice of being a parent or not? Matthew Harrison – we don’t need a Lutheran Pope!

    • Chris July 11, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

      For (Missouri-Synod) Lutherans, the birth-control issue deals with the case of post-conception (i.e. abortive) methods. These are against the 5th Commandment (“You shall not murder.”). Of course, as infertile couples and those seeking abortions would point out, individuals only have the choice of NOT being a parent (by abstaining from intercourse).

  13. Tim July 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Do the people that signed this document have any idea what our tax money is used for? We buy things every day for other people that likely compromise the religious convictions of America’s faithful, yet are unspoken about publically in religious circles. That’s not to say that the Affordable Care Act should not be criticized for the reasons they’ve listed. However, our focus should not be limited to issues that compromise our blissful ignorance.