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Thousands of religious leaders voice concerns about HHS mandate

.- Over 2,500 religious leaders have signed a letter to President Obama calling for the reversal of the HHS-mandated insurance coverage of contraception because it “essentially ignores the conscience rights of many Catholic and Protestant Americans.”

“Our country was founded on certain freedoms, the first of which is the freedom of religion. The ability of a religious person to follow their conscience without fearing government intervention has long been a protected right for Americans.

“It is unfathomable to picture a country that would deny religious freedoms,” the letter says.

It said that due to the “narrow” religious exemption, the “vast majority” of religious organizations will be forced to choose either to violate their consciences or to drop health coverage for employees.

The letter was released at a Feb. 20 press conference at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention and Exposition in Nashville. The Family Research Council led the letter signature effort.

Those who announced the letter included Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and Bishop Harry Jackson, the senior pastor of the Beltsville, Maryland-based Hope Christian Church.

The letter underscored that the Obama administration’s rule means that millions of Americans will incur the costs for the mandated products and procedures.

“Forcing religious entities to do the same, despite objections of good conscience, is a severe blow to our religious liberty,” the signers said.

The Jan. 20 mandate also requires all religious organizations to refer people for the objectionable drugs or procedures.

In reaction, the letter quoted Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, which says “"to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.”

The letter calls for the reversal of the mandate and the protection of the conscience rights of those who have “biblically-based opposition” to funding or providing contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs.

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