Rev. Peter Bender and Rev. John Wille of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod present Archbishop Jerome Listecki with a resolution commending steadfast opposition to the current HHS Mandate. (ArchMil Photo/Amy Taylor)
(Updated 6/22/12) MILWAUKEE – While debates on the Affordable Care Act’s impact on religion and contraception continue nationwide, members of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in southeastern Wisconsin officially stand in agreement with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Roman Catholic Church; opposing the current HHS mandate.
The South Wisconsin District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod passed an official resolution on June 10, commending the Roman Catholic Church for “its stance on religious freedoms and defense of the rights of the unborn.”
Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki received a copy of the official resolution at the LCMS’ annual catechesis symposium on Thursday, June 21, 2012 at the Country Springs Hotel, Pewaukee.
In a letter written by LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison – read by Rev. John Wille –
Archbishop Listecki and the entire U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops were thanked for their role in defending religious freedom.
“We are honored to publically stand with you in this grave moment of government infringement on the rights of religious citizens,” Rev. John Wille read. “We stand with you against government intrusion into the principle practices of religious institutions; we stand with you in asserting the rights of religious people to determine what is a violation of a religious conscience. We stand with you in concern of the unborn. We stand with you for the sanctity of marriage.”
In receiving the award, Archbishop Listecki reminded those present that it was religious community leaders – both Catholic and Lutheran alike – who created schools, hospitals and welfare programs before the government stepped in.
“Who helps foreign people in our communities? We do so by our beliefs. Let me tell you, it was our parochial sisters – Lutheran Sisters and Catholic Sisters – throughout our country that helped to shape the systems that we have today,” he explained. “You were providing the education when the government did not. You were providing the heath care when the government was not. You were out there treating people, responding to people’s needs … when the government was not.
“The historical memory of current government leaders, is extremely short. No one is going to tell us and our faith – we as believers – that we cannot take our faith, the faith that drives us to serve citizens of this country and our community, out into the public. They’re not going to do that,” he added adamantly.
While there are differences in the Catholic and Lutheran faiths, there is a common thread binding them together, the archbishop noted.
“We share in the mandate that is given to us from the Gospel to reach out. We don’t look at whether a person exercises this faith or that faith. We understand that they are a child of God, and therefore we have a mandate to respond.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Affordable Care Act, signed into law in March 2010, requires group health plans to include accessibility to “all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.”
While the mandate exempts “group health plans sponsored by certain religious employers,” it defines a religious employer as “one that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii). 45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B).”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops believes the HHS’ definition of a religious employer is an unacceptable constraint on religious liberty, as it may exclude Catholic schools, charitable agencies, healthcare facilities, and educational institutions.
This resolution is a noteworthy example of interfaith unity, as Catholics and Lutherans come together in support of common beliefs, religious freedom and life beginning at conception.