A new “Protect Our Conscience” campaign has been launched to help Catholic individuals, families, and parishes voice their opposition to the newly-confirmed federal contraception coverage mandate.
Matt Smith, president of Catholic Advocate, announced in a statement that his goal was “to have at least 100,000 faithful Catholics participate each month until Congress acts” to protect the rights of institutions that could be forced to cover contraception and sterilization for their employees.
“There are 17,782 parishes in the United States,” Smith noted. “If faithful Catholics were able to average 115 letters per parish to their representative and each senator, Capitol Hill would receive over six million contacts on this issue. We would send a powerful message that cannot be ignored.”
The campaign is currently seeking “parish leaders,” who will receive a set of tools designed to answer questions, facilitate letter-writing, and help raise awareness within their churches.
Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops' conference, has called on Catholics to “let your elected leaders know that you want religious liberty and rights of conscience restored and that you want the administration’s contraceptive mandate rescinded.”
Along with the reversal of the mandate, the Protect Our Conscience campaign aims to build support for the “Respect for the Rights of Conscience Act,” a bill that would amend federal health care reform to let employers opt out of covering some services.
Under the proposed legislation, health plans could “decline coverage of specific items and services that are contrary to the religious beliefs of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan or the purchaser or beneficiary (in the case of individual coverage) without penalty.”
Over the weekend of Jan. 28-29, a large number of U.S. bishops spoke out against the coverage mandate in letters read at Mass. The letters called for prayer and civic engagement, appealing to believers' right against state coercion in matters of faith and conscience.
Health and Human Services' contraception mandate, enacted as part of federal health care reform, has draw criticism for its narrow religious exemption, which applies only to groups that primarily employ and serve people of the same faith for the purpose of inculcating religious values.