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News from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops
Jan 31, 2014 - 12:20:08 AM

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Cardinal O'Malley Urges Congress to Support the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

WASHINGTON--Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), urged support for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7) when it comes before the U.S. House of Representatives. In a January 28 letter to the House, Cardinal O'Malley called the bill "one small step toward a society that promotes life and not death for unborn children and their mothers."

"It will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 37 years: The federal government should not use its funding power to support and promote elective abortion, and should not force taxpayers to subsidize this violence," Cardinal O'Malley wrote. "Even public officials who take a 'pro-choice' stand, and courts that have insisted on a constitutional 'right' to abortion, have agreed that the government has every right (in the Supreme Court's words) to 'encourage childbirth over abortion.'"

Cardinal O'Malley noted that this consensus is reflected in the Hyde amendment and other provisions in appropriations bills, but that such measures have not prevented the Affordable Care Act of 2010 from subsidizing health plans that cover elective abortions. H.R. 7, he wrote, "would end this glaring contradiction in federal law." He added: "The American people, including American women, oppose public funding of abortion and want that opposition reflected in our law once and for all."

The full text of Cardinal O'Malley's letter is available online.

On January 9, Richard Doerflinger of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities testified before the House Judiciary Committee in support of H.R. 7. More information is available online: .

Unnecessary Confiscation of Palestinian Lands in Occupied West Bank

WASHINGTON--The United States should urge the government of Israel to cease and desist in efforts to unnecessarily confiscate Palestinian lands in the Occupied West Bank, said the chairman of the Committee of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to Secretary of State John Kerry. In a January 28 letter, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, specifically addressed the situation in the Cremisan Valley, which he visited earlier this month.

"As I stood amidst the beauty of this agricultural valley and heard the testimony of the Christian families whose lands, livelihoods and centuries-old family traditions are threatened, I was simply astounded by the injustice of it all," wrote Bishop Pates.

Bishop Pates enclosed a January 28 communique from the bishops of the Holy Land Co-Ordination, which made a similar call:

"Our deep concern, as we have repeatedly stated is that this planned security wall is more about consolidating the settlement areas and permanently choking off Bethlehem from Jerusalem," wrote bishops from Europe, North America and South Africa. "This particular plan is a microcosm of the tragic situation in the Holy Land which incites resentment and mistrust, making the possibility of a much-needed solution less likely."

The full text of Bishop Pates' letter and the message from bishops on the Holy Land are available online.

U.S. Bishops File Amicus Curiae Brief Challenging HHS Mandate

Laws must protect individuals and families who seek to practice faith in daily life

WASHINGTON--The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on January 28 filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. In both cases, family-owned businesses are challenging the legality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation that forces virtually all employers to include in their employee health plans coverage of sterilization, contraceptives, and drugs and devices that may cause abortions, as well as related education and counseling.

The USCCB explained in its amicus brief that it opposes "any rule that would require faithful Catholics and other religiously motivated business owners to choose between providing coverage for products and speech that violate their religious beliefs, and exposing their businesses to devastating penalties." These penalties include "potentially fatal fines" of $100 a day per affected individual.

The brief reflects and implements the U.S. bishops' consistent support for litigants from the non-profit and for-profit sectors alike who have challenged the HHS mandate in court.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, stated that "Catholics believe that the right to religious freedom proceeds from the inherent dignity of each and every human person, and that includes people who run businesses. They should not be specially excluded from the freedom to practice their faith in daily life."

The amicus brief argued that religious exercise cannot, and should not, be excluded from the marketplace; that the mandate substantially burdens Hobby Lobby's and Conestoga's religious exercise; and that the mandate cannot survive strict scrutiny review by the Court.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are among over 90 lawsuits filed by more than 300 plaintiffs challenging the HHS mandate in courts around the country.

The brief is available online.

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