February 1, 2012

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 was formed to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just 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 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 either to violate our consciences or to drop health coverage for our employees (and bring about the consequences for all in doing so). The Administration’s sole concession was to give nonprofit employers, like hospitals and universities, which do not currently provide such coverage, one year in which to comply.

We believe this new requirement signals a direct attack on our religious freedom. 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 counted 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 Administration’s decision.

I call upon each of you to join me and the Bishops of the United States in speaking out on this violation of religious freedom and conscience by contacting your U.S. Representatives and our U.S. Senators. Every Catholic has the responsibility to promote the dignity of human life and religious freedom. If we do not make our voices heard, no one else will. Let us work together to preserve the freedoms our forefathers established in our Constitution!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson

Archbishop of St. Louis

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