WASHINGTON—The mandate for virtually all private insurers, including most religiously-affiliated organizations such as Catholic hospitals, universities and charities, to include contraceptives, sterilizations and drugs that can cause early abortions in their employee health plans is akin to mandating that a kosher deli serve pork, the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told Congress.
In his February 16 testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, outlined the bishops’ opposition to the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate through an extended parable of a country where a new law requires all businesses to serve pork, including kosher delicatessens.
When the Orthodox Jewish community expresses its outrage, Bishop Lori said, it’s met with arguments of “But pork is good for you,” “So many Jews eat pork, and those who don’t should just get with the times,” and “Those Orthodox are just trying to impose their beliefs on everyone else.”
Bishop Lori’s parable had a happy ending, that people recognized “it is absurd for someone to come into a kosher deli and demand a ham sandwich,” “it is beyond absurd for that private demand to be backed with the coercive power of the state,” and “it is downright surreal to apply this coercive power when the customer can get the same sandwich cheaply, or even free, just a few doors down.”
“The question before the United States government—right now—is whether the story of our own Church institutions that serve the public, and that are threatened by the HHS mandate, will end happily too. Will our nation continue to be one committed to religious liberty and diversity? We urge, in the strongest possible terms, that the answer must be yes.”
The full text of Bishop Lori’s testimony may be found online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/lori-testimony-for-oversight-on-religious-freedom-2012-02-16.pdf