Christian Associates statement religious freedom/health care
Statement in response to mandate issued by HHS
Pictured in the above photo are as follows:
Left (Archbishop Robert Duncan, Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh)
Podium (Rev. Dr. Donald Green, Executive Director of Christian Associates)
Right (Most Rev. David A. Zubik, Diocesan Bishop Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh)
Please use the following link to view the Christian Associates Press Conference
Please also refer below for important information regarding the HHS Mandate.
Bishop David Zubik joined other members of Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania in responding to the Preventive Services Mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by releasing a statement on religious freedom and health care.
Bishop Zubik joined Archbishop Robert Duncan, council chairman and bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh; and the Rev. Dr. Donald Green, executive director of Christian Associates, April 13 during a live cablecast on Christian Associates Television. The broadcast originated from the Christian Associates' headquarters in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood.
"While we recognize our different perspectives and theological understanding, we look for opportunities to give expression to how much we share in our hopes and aspirations, as well as in our concerns," Archbishop Duncan read from the statement.
The statement focused on two shared concerns -- the preservation of religious liberty as guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution, and the moral imperative to provide health care to all people.
Bishop Zubik said that the statement was released to inform the public that Christian leaders join their hearts and hands in their concern over the mandate, and that the bodies want to get the attention of not only the executive branch of government, but the legislative and judicial branches as well.
"I think the key is to keep this message alive because it is an issue that is of great concern to us as people of faith," he said.
The statement was signed by 18 members of the council, representing 14 different jurisdictions in the region. It included Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant bodies.
Diocese of Greensburg Bishop Lawrence Brandt, a member of the council executive committee, was among the signers.
Rev. Green pointed out that when the council speaks on an issue it can do so in two ways: It can release a consensus statement when all 26 members agree to a common text; or when a significant representation of the council agrees to a common text, but who sign individually as council members. In this instance, he noted, the second method was used.
The principle reason that some of the leaders did not sign the statement, Archbishop Duncan said, is that certain church practices stipulate that a leader cannot make a statement unless the whole body has approved of it.
Bishop Zubik, who serves as vice chairman of the council, said that it is another example of how members of different faiths can sit down and address an issue that is both current and of great concern. One of his concerns, he noted, are the efforts of some to divert the focus away from one of religious liberty. Another is that the mandate is sometimes looked at as an issue of only one denomination.
"I believe that our statement here today shows that the concern is shared by all of us who are members of Christian Associates," he said.
Rev. Green read a brief statement from Rev. Dr. Sheldon Sorge, a member of the council's executive committee and pastor to the Presbytery, Presbytery, PC-USA.
In noting that the U.S. government has a long history of going to great lengths to exempt citizens from mandates that violate their religious convictions without imperiling public welfare, he stated, "While our various faith communities do have significant differences in our convictions about reproductive regulations we agree that any government mandate that requires religious bodies to violate their religious beliefs, without demonstrating necessary public interest, in doing so violates the freedom that is guaranteed by the Constitution."
Bishop Zubik noted President Barack Obama's Feb. 10 compromise to the mandate in which he seemed to place responsibility in the hands of insurance companies. The problem with this, the bishop said, is that some one-half of the 197 U.S. dioceses -- including the Diocese of Pittsburgh -- are self-insured and would not fit under the umbrella of accommodation.
"Clearly, what we are hoping for in all of this is that the religious exemption might be a part of the mandate," he said.
Bishop Zubik pointed to the fear expressed in the final sentence of the statement signed the members of the council. If the mandate is put into effect, it states, it could affect the ability of religious organizations to provide outreach to the poor and needy.
In particular, he mentioned the work of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which serves more than 80,000 people every year.
"There is great concern that the mandate would certainly affect that outreach to those people who are in most need," he said.
"What our statement is," added Archbishop Duncan, "is a commitment by whatever means to find a way to provide health care to all people of the Lord."
Bishop Zubik said that he was inspired and enthused by the manner in which the council was able to tackle the mandate issue.
A video of the conference is available on the Christian Associates' website at: www.casp.org.