Six weeks on there is still no sign of any further movement on this issue. The Churches are still expressing their opposition to the Mandate, but the news cycle has moved on, and their protests are not being covered by the mainstream media. For the time being it seems that the so called "compromise" offered by the President and Secretary Sibelius will remain the last word on this issue leaving the Government and the Church in something of a "Mexican Stand-off" as neither side wants to conceed its point. From the Church's point of view, the compromise is no compromise because the universality of contraception coverage is maintained irrespective of the moral teaching of the Church providing the coverage via its insurer. In essence, the Administration is asking the Churches to be complicit in allowing the contravention of Church teaching by Church employees. On the other hand, the present administration seems to regard contraception and abortions as beneficial to society and seems to want to avoid opt outs wherever possible.
February 13 2012
A STATEMENT FROM THE HOUSE OF BISHOPS OF THE UNITED EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF NORTH AMERICA CONCERNING THE HHS CONTRACEPTION MANDATE
The Bishops of the United Episcopal Church of North America would like to express their whole-hearted support of their brethren in the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Conference, and other religious groups who have expressed their opposition to the HHS Mandate requiring religioius institutions to provide contraceptive devices, inclusing abortifacients, as part of their employee health insurance.
The HHS Mandate is problematical as it fails to take account of the Church's moral teaching concerning abortifacients and contraception. It also constitutes a thinly veiled attack on religious institutions within the United States and an infringement of the principle that the Federal Government shall not intervene in the religious lives of its citizens.
The new healthcare mandate may also have serious unforeseen consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable in our society if it forces religious institutions to withdraw from the provision of education, health and social services.
The Bishops of the United Episcopal Church of North America would also like to express the opinion that the "compromise" proposed by the President and the HHS shifting responsibility for paying for those services from the employer to the insurer does nothing to resolve the issue.
+Peter D. Robinson, Archbishop
United Episcopal Church of North America
Unfortunately, the current 'stand-off' about contraception is only the first in a series which are going to occur as "Obamacare" goes into effect. There are going to be further spats over stem cell derived therapies as they become available, and, of course, over the big two moral issues in healthcare - abortion and euthanasia. One thing that is quite clear from this initial skirmish is that the HHS has little patience with outright religious opposition, and no understanding of nuanced theological and moral positions such as that taken by the 1930 Lambeth Conference on Birth Control, which did not to institute a contraceptive free for all, but acknowledged that there were certain very limited circumstances in which artificial forms contraception were admissible as, for want of a better term, the lesser of two evils.
A further difficulty with the HHS Mandate comes through its assumption that the Constitutional principle of 'freedom of religion' actually constitutes nothing more than 'freedom of worship' and that religion is something that only exists behind church walls. God forbid that it should actually be allowed to influence the morals and politics of the country. This interpretation of 'religious freedom' smacks rather more of Joe Stalin trying to make Soviet Russia acceptable in the West when trying to gain our help against Hitler than of the American tradition of religious liberty. Certainly, it is another demonstration, as if one were needed, that the secularists in the American political scene wish to make Christianity irrelevant and precipitate its collapse by confining it behind Church walls. This may seem a harsh assessment, but there are chilling parallels in their attitude towards religion between those of the political elites in the USA, and those of Stalin's Russia or Hitler Germany.
Remember - it is better to raise the alarm now than to wear chains later!
Lastly, it was something of a disappointment to me that the Continuing Anglican Churches were not able to make a joint statement on the HHS Contraception Mandate. I am sure that the opposition that has already been registered by many of our bishops would have carried more weight with the politicians had a single statement been issued over the signatures of several archbishops and a dozen or two diocesan and suffragan bishops. It demonstrates the need for a standing conference of Continuing Anglican leaders in the USA to act as an orthodox counterpoise to the liberal views espoused by TEC, and, from time to time, by the ACNA.