.- Evangelical and Jewish leaders are supporting the Catholic Church's opposition to proposed federal rules requiring contraception and sterilization coverage in most new health care plans.
In a Dec. 21 letter to President Barack Obama, more than 60 religious leaders affirmed that “religious organizations beyond the Catholic community have deep moral objections” to providing abortion-causing drugs and other controversial services.
Authors of the letter included Orthodox Jewish representatives, along with figures from various Christian organizations, including National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson, Ron Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, and Christian Legal Society Executive Director Fred L. Potter.
They expressed “solidarity” with the Catholic leaders and organizations that have already spoken out against the contraception mandate proposed by the Obama administration's Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The rule, published in August 2011 as part of federal health care reform, would allow a religious ministry to opt out only if it has “the inculcation of religious values as its purpose,” and primarily employs and serves “persons who share its religious tenets.”
In their letter to President Obama, the Christian and Jewish leaders made it clear that Catholics are not the only groups opposed to the rule.
“Most press reports on the controversy concerning the contraceptives mandate portray the opposition as coming only from the Catholic Church and Catholic organizations,” they noted.
“But this is wrong. It is emphatically not only Catholics who deeply object to the requirement that health plans they purchase must provide coverage of contraceptives that include some that are abortifacients.”
They pointed out that many religious believers share the Catholic Church's objection to a “narrow exemption” that does not cover “churches with a social outreach and other faith-based organizations” whose work “goes beyond worship and prayer.”
Neither Evangelicalism nor Judaism holds a single consistent position on contraception, a fact the signers of the letter acknowledged.
Despite differences in their moral teachings, however, all of the authors said they were “deeply concerned about the narrow exemption, including proposals made to expand it while still leaving unprotected many faith-based organizations.”
The Department of Health and Human Services stopped accepting feedback on the proposed mandate at the end of September 2011. A Health and Human Services official told CNA Jan. 4 that there is “no statutory deadline by which a final rule must be issued” after the end of the comment period.