Harrison issues “A Statement on Recent HHS Decision and Religious Freedom”

February 3, 2012

A Statement on Recent HHS Decision and Religious Freedom

We are deeply distressed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) recent decision to require nearly all private health plans, including those offered by religious employers, to cover contraceptives. This will include controversial birth-control products such as “Ella” and the “morning after” pill, even though the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that such drugs can cause the death of a baby developing in the womb. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) objects to the use of drugs and procedures that are used to take the lives of unborn children, who are persons in the sight of God from the time of conception, and we are opposed to the HHS’ decision mandating the coverage of such contraceptives.

This HHS action relates to a provision in the “health care reform” legislation (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) signed into law in 2010. The church’s benefits partner, Concordia Plan Services, which provides health care coverage to nearly 48,000 people, has been actively monitoring this legislation and, as a result, Concordia Health Plan (CHP)—the LCMS church workers’ health plan—has been maintained as a “grandfathered” plan. As such, employers and workers participating in CHP would not be subjected to the mandate. However, many religious organizations do not have grandfathered plans and cannot avail themselves of the extremely narrow religious-employer exemption, which only is applicable to religious employers that primarily serve and employ members of that faith.

For centuries, Lutherans have joyfully delivered Christ’s mercy to others and embraced His call to care for the needy within our communities and around the world. In a nation that has allowed more than 54 million legal abortions since 1973, we must consider the marginalization of unborn babies and object to this mandate.

In addition, I encourage the members of the LCMS to join with me in supporting efforts to preserve our essential right to exercise our religious beliefs. This action by HHS will have the effect of forcing many religious organizations to choose between following the letter of the law and operating within the framework of their religious tenets. We add our voice to the long list of those championing for the continued ability to act according to the dictates of their faith, and provide compassionate care and clear Christian witness to society’s most vulnerable, without being discriminated against by government.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, a church body of sinners redeemed by the blood of Jesus, has affected the lives of millions of people with care, aid, housing, health care, spiritual care and much more. We have been a force for good in this nation, promoting education (the nation’s largest Protestant school system), marriage and giving people the tools and assistance to be good citizens. We live and breathe Romans 13:3–7. The governing authorities are “God’s servant for good.” We pray constantly for our President and those in authority. We have sent our sons and daughters to fight for this country. We have provided military chaplains, elected officials, officers, including some who have held the highest military offices and other appointed positions in this country. Our people have and are serving as congressmen and women and senators.

Increasingly we are suffering overzealous government intrusions into what is the realm of traditional and biblical Christian conscience. We believe this is a violation of our First Amendment rights. We will stand, to the best of our ability, with all religious and other concerned citizens, against this erosion of our civil liberty. Come what may, we shall do everything we can, by God’s grace, to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod


Harrison issues “A Statement on Recent HHS Decision and Religious Freedom” — 26 Comments

  1. Imprecatory prayers regarding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) and its recent decision are certainly appropriate for church services and for individual Christians. Psalm 109 comes to mind; there are, of course, other appropriate Scriptural imprecatory references.

    PMMV (Pacifist mileage may vary).

  2. It seems that for now, we have dodged the bullet. What do we do should the government attempt to force us to go against our convictions?

  3. I think we would have to start practicing civil disobedience. This is an area beyond even the constitution – we simply can’t be part of paying for the murder of children.

  4. @David Hartung #3
    Don’t worry David, the time is coming when we won’t be able to dodge anything. Two months ago the administration targeted the Ministerial Exception, now this. Yesterday our President said that all of his actions are fueled by his Christian beliefs. The first verses of John 16 cover that well. Acts 5:29 covers what we do if Caesar asks us to go against our convictions. We are Lutherans after all.

  5. One of my petitions in Matins every morning is, “Have mercy upon all of the doctors, nurses, other medical staff, and other personnel who perform, participate in, or facilitate abortions that they might repent of their evil ways and bring this holocaust to an end throughout the world.”

    I then follow that up with, “Have mercy upon all women who have had or are considering an abortion. May they find rest and peace in the blood of Christ and unending happiness in the blessing of children.”

    I greatly appreciate Pres. Harrison’s remarks. First, it lets me know where C.H.P. stands. We’re okay and we’ll be okay. The grandfather clause can’t be taken away. Any attempt to do so will result in more lawsuits than what will come about in light of this edict. Eventually it will go to the SCOTUS and be ruled in our favor.

    Secondly, all the more do I appreciate his closing comments. We obey God, not men. We will never act against our consciences and our beliefs.

  6. Pastor Joshua Scheer :
    @David Hartung #3
    Don’t worry David, the time is coming when we won’t be able to dodge anything. Two months ago the administration targeted the Ministerial Exception, now this. Yesterday our President said that all of his actions are fueled by his Christian beliefs. The first verses of John 16 cover that well. Acts 5:29 covers what we do if Caesar asks us to go against our convictions. We are Lutherans after all.

    I fully agree, and I suspect that in a court, the Obama Administration would lose. My concern is that see that historically, the institutional Church has not always “obeyed God rather than man”.

  7. Time for some action. Vote. File suit. Use the legal system. Preach. Teach. Onward Christian Soldiers. This socialism is killing us and needs to be stopped now. Lutherans need to get off their dime and stand with others. It already seems too late, in so many ways. But, we will work, fight, and prevail for the truth.

  8. In his letter LCMS President Harrison noted that he was “deeply distressed” by the murderous Demo[ni]crat Department of Health and Human Services’ edict. Roman bishops have also written a similar letter, which was read in church services throughout each of their dioceses:

    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

    I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith. The federal government, which claims to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just been dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people — the Catholic population — and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic faithful.

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees’ health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those “services” in the health policies they write. And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

    In so ruling, the Obama Administration has cast aside the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, denying to Catholics our Nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty. And as a result, unless the rule is overturned, we Catholics will be compelled to either violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees (and suffer the penalties for doing so). The Obama Administration’s sole concession was to give our institutions one year to comply.

    We cannot—we will not—comply with this unjust law. People of faith cannot be made second class citizens. We are already joined by our brothers and sisters of all faiths and many others of good will in this important effort to regain our religious freedom. Our parents and grandparents did not come to these shores to help build America’s cities and towns, its infrastructure and institutions, its enterprise and culture, only to have their posterity stripped of their God given rights. In generations past, the Church has always been able to count on the faithful to stand up and protect her sacred rights and duties. I hope and trust she can count on this generation of Catholics to do the same. Our children and grandchildren deserve nothing less.

    And therefore, I would ask of you two things. First, as a community of faith we must commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored. Without God, we can do nothing; with God, nothing is impossible. Second, I would also recommend visiting http://www.usccb.org/conscience, to learn more about this severe assault on religious liberty, and how to contact Congress in support of legislation that would reverse the Obama Administration’s decision.

    If he were alive, one wonders what kind of letter would Martin Luther have written about this latest Obamanation.

  9. I am so glad that our Synodical President has issued this message. Sorry to be repetitive on this thread, but: thank you, thank you, thank you for your courage, President Harrison!

    We must not fail to support our Catholic brothers and sisters in resisting federal government attempts to compel Christians to act contrary to their faith. The “Progressive” assault on the Christian faith is reality, and it will be unrelenting as long as “Progressives” hold power. Much of the press will help. It’s certainly not new in history, but we are seeing its current wave in our country, today.

    We need to understand what we are dealing with. If you have not done so, search for President Obama’s fairly long interview (2004) with Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun Times regarding his personal faith. It will be an eye-opener for some. Please read the interview. It is easily searchable on the web. One place it appears is on the Christianity Today website. Look at what he has said, freely, in his own words. Having been raised in a “Progressive” and non-believing home, his statements are pretty famliar to me.

  10. OBAMA:
    And the pastor there, Jeremiah Wright, became a good friend. So I joined that church and committed myself to Christ in that church.
    Did you actually go up for an altar call?
    Yes. Absolutely.
    It was a daytime service, during a daytime service. And it was a powerful moment. Because, it was powerful for me because it not only confirmed my faith, it not only gave shape to my faith, but I think, also, allowed me to connect the work I had been pursuing with my faith.
    How long ago?
    16, 17 years ago. 1987 or 88
    So you got yourself born again?
    Yeah, although I don’t, I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma. And I’m not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I’ve got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others.
    I’m a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it’s best comes with a big dose of doubt. I’m suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.
    I think that, particularly as somebody who’s now in the public realm and is a student of what brings people together and what drives them apart, there’s an enormous amount of damage done around the world in the name of religion and certainty.

    Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/stevenwaldman/2008/11/obamas-interview-with-cathleen.html#ixzz1lVJaYxaj

  11. Notwithstanding wild-eyed cries to the contrary, THE HEALTH CARE LAW DOES NOT FORCE EMPLOYERS TO ACT CONTRARY TO THEIR BELIEFS–unless one supposes the employers’ religion forbids even the payment of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion).

    Questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith are entirely real, but not new. The courts have occasionally confronted such issues and have generally ruled that the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, fraud, negligence, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. Were it otherwise and people could opt out of this or that law with the excuse that their religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate. When moral binds for individuals can be anticipated, provisions may be added to laws affording some relief to conscientious objectors.

    Here, there is no need for such an exemption, since no employer is being “forced,” as some commentators rage, to act contrary to his or her belief. In keeping with the law, those with conscientious objections to providing their employees with qualifying health plans may decline to provide their employees with any health plans and pay an assessment instead or, alternatively, provide their employees with health plans that do not qualify (e.g., ones without provisions they deem objectionable) and pay lower assessments.

    The employers may not like paying the assessments or what the government will do with the money it receives. But that is not a moral dilemma of the sort supposed by many commentators, but rather a garden-variety gripe common to most taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action of the government. That is hardly call for a special “exemption” from the law. Should each of us feel free to deduct from our taxes the portion that we figure would be spent on those actions (e.g., wars, health care, whatever) each of us opposes?

  12. @Ted Crandall #12 Obama is an Alinskite and fundamentally will lie to “progress” the socialist agenda. He is in the estimation of many of us truly an evil man. We may pray for him but with our eyes wide open.

  13. @Doug Indeap #13 You do not understand the limits the constitution places on government actions. The powers given to the government are very few and enumerated and purposely so. Government intrusion in anything beyond those limits is tyranny (not to mention treason) including directing and/or controlling from where or by whom you get you health care. Our founders understood that all actions outside the enumerations would lead to a new kind of tyranny placed in the hands of a few folks in DC. Jefferson referred to all taxation outside the enumerations as “the thief state.” Not unrelated is that many of the founders derived their idea of government limits from Samuel (1,2) and the warnings God gave regarding centralized power. Taxation and control of aspects of our lives outside the enumerations is unconstitutional; we live in a Constitutionally Limited Republic not a direct democracy. Just because a large number of people want to impose on us or the Congress votes for something does not make it legal or right if it violates the limits of government as detailed in our Constitution. Without a fixed limit we are doomed to centralized tyranny or mob rule. WE THE PEOPLE allowed this to occur when we opened the door for all manner of unconstitutional government involvement beginning with Wilson, accelerated by the deceitful FDR, exploded by LBJ and then came “W” who opened the door further by pushing corporate bailouts with citizen money which Obama to hold of to monumental and destructive proportions. It has to stop somewhere.

  14. @mames #15
    Do you mean to argue then that anyone who voices religious objections to a law is entitled to an exemption from it? If so, how do you suppose the government, indeed the rule of law, will operate?

  15. @Doug Indeap #17 If the law is unconstitutional yes! If the Feds would stick to their enumerated powers conflicts would be extremely minimal if not non existent.

    @Rev. Paul T. McCain #18 I have no problem dealing with those who are unbelievers in the area of religious freedom and constitutional governance, after all atheism is a faith too! I have a few atheist friends and they too are entitled to their own irrational opinions. 🙂 They can teach me nothing in regards to my Lord and Savior but they may still teach me something in the secular arena and of course our Lord loves them more than we do.

  16. From the CNSNews article, “Archbishop to U.S. Troops: Obamacare Reg ‘Is a Blow to a Freedom…for Which You Have Seen Your Buddies Fall in Battle’“:

    “On Thursday, January 26, Archbishop Broglio emailed a pastoral letter to Catholic military chaplains with instructions that it be read from the pulpit at Sunday Masses the following weekend in all military chapels,” the Catholic Archdiocese for the Military said in a statement.

    “The letter calls on Catholics to resist the policy initiative, recently affirmed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, for federally mandated health insurance covering sterilization, abortifacients and contraception, because it represents a violation of the freedom of religion recognized by the U.S. Constitution,” said the statement by the archdiocese.

    “The Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains subsequently sent an email to senior chaplains advising them that the Archbishop’s letter was not coordinated with that office and asked that it not be read from the pulpit,” said the archdiocese’s statement. “The Chief’s office directed that the letter was to be mentioned in the Mass announcements and distributed in printed form in the back of the chapel.”

    On Saturday, Jan. 28, after the Army’s Office of the Chief of Chaplains issued this directive, Archbishop Broglio spoke with Secretary of the Army John McHugh, a political appointee of President Barack Obama.

    Archbishop Broglio’s position was that, in trying to stop Catholic Army chaplains from reading his pastoral letter, the Army was violating his First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion and the First Amendment rights of Catholic chaplains and Catholic service members.

    “Archbishop Broglio and the Archdiocese stand firm in the belief, based on legal precedent, that such a directive from the Army constituted a violation of his Constitutionally-protected right of free speech and the free exercise of religion, as well as those same rights of all military chaplains and their congregants,” said the statement from the archdiocese.

    In his Jan. 28 telephone conversation with Army Secretary McHugh, Archbishop Broglio was able to extract from the secretary an admission that it had been wrong for the secretary to try to silence the Catholic chaplains. The archbishop decided that the line in his letter that said Catholics cannot and will not comply with the “unjust law” of the HHS regulation would not be read aloud in Catholic Masses by the chaplains, but that the rest of the letter would.

    No word on whether President Harrison’s statement on the HHS edict was read to Lutherans in the Army or whether Army Secretary McHugh tried to censor it being read by Missouri Synod chaplains at Lutheran services… or even whether we would be told if such censorship was tried.

  17. @mames #19
    Your answer (if the law is unconstitutional, yes) begs the question. Do you now mean to argue that when anyone voices religious objections to complying with a law, the law necessarily restricts their religious freedom in violation of the Constitution? If so, I renew my further question: How do you suppose the government, indeed the rule of law, will operate?

  18. Just think: contraception as part of “health” service. Preventing conception, a child as a health issue: this means a child is on par with cancer, AIDS and the common cold.

  19. Pastor Schroeder, #12: I sense that like many Americans, religion is about as important to him as a hobby. And like most liberals, he’s tolerant of everyone who agrees with his philosophy.

  20. The administration’s mandate that requires private health plans offered by religious employers, among others, to cover contraceptives effectively makes F. A. Hayek’s case against socialism, that “It presupposes a much more complete agreement on the relative importance of the different ends than actually exists, and in consequence, in order to be able to plan, the planning authority [read: H.H.S] must impose upon the people that detailed code of values that is lacking.” Included in contraceptives is the “morning after pill,” which is clearly an abortifacient. Nancy Pelosi said that the Health Care bill had to be passed so we would know what’s in it. Now we know, and it is not pretty.

    In his commencement speech at Notre Dame, the president said, “Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women …”

    Where is the conscience clause? Where is the “good will” that the President spoke of at Notre Dame? The “conversation” is over. Big Brother has spoken: We are all equal, only some of us are more equal than others. The unborn have no rights, no equality.

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