By Adriane Dorr
The Supreme Court of the United States June 28 ruled largely to let stand the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the controversial health-care reform legislation.
The 5-4 ruling on the individual mandate leaves intact two prominent pieces of the act: (1) the individual mandate itself, which requires that individuals either purchase health-care coverage or face a tax, and (2) the Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Jan. 20 mandate, which requires virtually all health plans, including those of religious organizations, to cover contraceptive services and drugs that can cause abortions.
LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, who has been a bold proponent of religious liberty, issued a response, saying, “The Court’s decision today guarantees that we will continue to bring awareness to the threat to religious liberty.” He also noted that the HHS birth-control mandate, in particular, “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 deeply-held religious convictions.”
Concordia Plan Services, the Synod’s benefits provider, released a statement as well, noting that the organization will “continue to review the legislation and work to implement all applicable components of the Affordable Care Act for the Concordia Health Plan” and promised to help its members “navigate the changing landscape of health-care reform.”
Harrison also sits on the board of Conscience Cause — a non-profit, non-partisan, public-policy advocacy organization comprising leaders from various faiths — which today released a statement noting that the ruling has “opened the door to a government that sees no limit to the amount of freedoms it can take away.”
The ruling follows the release of an open letter — drafted by Harrison and signed by more than 20 religious leaders — in support of religious freedom. Titled “Free Exercise of Religion: Putting Beliefs into Practice,” the document was released June 21, 2012, in advance of the Supreme Court’s ruling. The letter can be found at lcms.org/hhsmandate.
The letter’s signatories included Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson, archbishop of St. Louis. Leaders from other Lutheran churches as well as the Orthodox Church in America, the Hispanic Evangelical Association, the Islamic Society of Washington Area and others also signed their names to the letter.
Maggie Karner, LCMS Life and Health Ministries director, also reacted to the ruling, saying, “In our well-meaning and zealous strides to provide a solution to this [health-care] dilemma, we cannot selectively trample on the guaranteed freedoms of a singled-out population, particularly those who serve the public, but who, in the course of their service, carry deeply held religious convictions that value the sanctity of all human life.”
Adriane Dorr is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.
Posted June 28, 2012 / Updated July 2, 2012