.- A group of ministers from numerous religious backgrounds sent a message to the White House declaring a âstate of emergencyâ over a health insurance mandate that may force religious employers to violate their consciences.
âProtestants are beginning to close ranks and join our Catholic friends on this issue,â said Lutheran minister Dr. Norman Lund.
Lund told CNA on Feb. 21 that he considers the issue to be part of his Christian identity and âan issue worth fighting and dying for.â He explained that the core problem âis not birth controlâ but âthe freedom of churches to determine their own policies and positions on issues like birth control.â
âIn other words,â he said, âthis is an issue of religious liberty and freedom of conscience.â
Lund is a member of the National Clergy Council, a group that represents Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Orthodox leaders.
After deliberating with pastors and theologians across the country, the council has declared a state of emergency for the Churches in response to the Obama administrationâs contraception mandate.
The mandate will require employers to provide health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences and religious beliefs.
A declaration outlining a âState of Emergency and Time for Speakingâ was delivered to the White House on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22, in an appeal to President Barack Obama.
The statement affirms the councilâs âunwavering positionâ on the âsanctityâ of conscience rights and maintains the âGod-givenâ ability to live out principles of conscience within a religious institution.
Clergy members said they hope the matter can be resolved by a repeal of the mandate, but warned that âwe must hold to our convictions and positions and act according to our prerogatives no matter the legal, social, pecuniary, or political consequences.â
The council noted that its statement was inspired by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and martyr who worked to resist the Nazis.
It described Bonhoeffer as âan exemplar of what it means to hold to and to exercise one's religious, moral, and ethical convictions, even to the surrender of every other right, including the right to one's life.â
At the Feb. 2 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., President Obama was given a copy of Bonhoefferâs biography by author Eric Metaxas.
Calling for âall people of conscienceâ to stand with them, the council members informed Obama that they âmust take extraordinary action to respectfully resist your decrees.â
The National Clergy Council joins with a growing number of faith groups that have objected to the contraception mandate on the grounds of religious freedom.
The U.S. bishops have called for the mandate to be repealed, and multiple members of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities â representing both Catholic and Protestant schools â have urged the administration to substantially change or remove it.