Interfaith Alliance of Pennsylvania

Issue - Feb 12 2012 PDF Print E-mail
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In This Issue:
Statement issued by Interfaith Alliance President
News from University of Pittsburg
A Personal Reflection
History and resources
Feedback and Input
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Interfaith Alliance Supports the President's
Alternative Proposal on Contraception

Statement Issued

by Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy


"The controversy that has erupted this past week over the Obama Administration's new rule on contraception raised important issues related to religious freedom, which today's alternative addresses.  At the same time, we can't be in the position of allowing a single religious perspective to dictate public policy.  The alternative proposed by the President today provides a path to full access to contraception without placing an undue burden on religious institutions that have a theological objection.

The President's intention to provide access to contraception is right, but the original rule was wrong; today's proposal is a good-faith attempt to address the issues at hand.  I urge both sides to resist using this important issue as a political football and instead focus on coming to a solution that works for all sides. As always we both expect and appreciate a president that protects religious freedom while respecting the diversity of belief in the country."

News from Christine Stone , National Council of Jewish Women - PA


"This afternoon, I was invited to participate in my role as State Policy Advocacy Chair in PA for the National Council of Jewish Women, Inc.  Planned Parenthood, in connection with their student group, held a visibility/press event on the Pitt campus. It was to celebrate and educate the students about the Administration's birth control benefit, which covers birth control with no additional co-pays. Also, it was done to gain some positive media attention. As we all know, there has been so much negative pressure on the White House from the Catholic Conference and other Catholic groups.  Our event was to counter that with a positive youth event that highlights how this ruling will affect college aged women come August 2012.

They had out 2,500 cups of ramen to highlight the fact that that the average woman would save more than $600 a year (which is equal to 2,500 cups of ramen) because of the new birth control benefit. There were sign up tables to thank the Administration and on the cups of ramen, which were handed out to the students, there was a label to text a particular number, it called back the cell phone to connect you to the White House to leave the President a message of thanks for one of the greatest advancements of women's health in decades. (a script was also on the label).

Of course, NCJW (and everyone else who is a member of PA Clergy for Choice!) has a unique voice in countering the Catholic argument to restrict who should benefit from the contraception coverage. I spoke with 4 reporters while I was there (the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, The PittNews and Rustbelt Radio) and stressed our message that women deserve basic health care and that reproductive freedoms are integrally bound with religious freedoms. That no one religion should be imposed on others when it comes to women's reproductive health choices - including when to use contraception."


Catholics and Bishops' Teaching on Contraceptives - a Personal Reflection

By Josie Byzek

I've been watching the Catholic church's bishops over-react to the Health and Human Services requirement that Catholic hospitals, universities and other institutions must provide their employees with the same contraceptive services that most other American employees enjoy.

I hear pundits claim that these teachings are core to what it means to be a Catholic. And I keep thinking, really? Since when?

Here's a not-so-secret secret: Most American Catholics think for ourselves, following our own conscience. In my own case, my ability to think critically was fostered by the excellent religious training I received through the church's catechism classes as well as the Catholic college I attended. It's troubling to me to hear that most of America, or at least most of the pundits on cable TV, are buying into the narrative that teachings on birth control are central to the church's teaching.

Yes, the bishops are spinning this issue as being about what it means to be Catholic. But I never once ever was taught anything about birth control, abortion or sexuality in my life-long dance with the church of my ancestors. I attended CCD from first grade through high school, and taught younger children their prayers. I attended a Catholic college and took religion courses, including one called "Modern Catholicism." I even lived in a Catholic convent one summer as part of a program on social action sponsored by the Sisters of Charity. Plus I am on mailing lists and listservs that focus on our unique Catholic approach to social justice - the focus is on alleviating poverty, in case you're interested. And yet, despite monuments to and the requisite prayers for the unborn, I have never been formally taught anything at all about contraception or sexuality in a Catholic context.

So what is at the core of this issue? Where are the bishops coming from? They have been quite assertive recently, making first amendment cases on issues ranging from school choice to contraceptives.

Regardless of motives, Catholics don't typically vote the way priests or bishops tell us to vote - the pundits are way off base on this issue. According to a Catholics for Choice poll from 2008, 70 percent of Catholics simply don't pay attention to who the church thinks we ought to support. I'm pretty sure this is a result of the excellent Catholic traditions that encourage critical thinking and the role of the individual's conscience.

History and Resources


At the end of January, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an Interim Final regulation requiring most health care providers to include contraceptive services. The regulation included an exemption for houses of worship, but was narrowly tailored so as not to include other religiously affiliated employers (such as hospitals, universities and charities), though the regulation provided them a year-long extension to comply.

A number of religious organizations and denominations raised concerns on religious freedom grounds, objecting both to being required to pay for contraceptive services and/or being required to provide information to employees on how they can otherwise receive coverage. On February 10, the Obama Administration announced an alternative proposal which provides necessary balance, taking the burden off religious organizations and placing it not on women, but instead on health care companies. The alternative proposal requires the health care companies Based on internal, Interfaith Alliance conversations what follows is an outline of our message on this issue and the reasoning behind it, as well as our public press statement.

Before the compromise was announced we determined our position to be: the President's intention to provide access to contraception was right but the rule itself was wrong and the Administration needed to find a way to better implement this intention that did not place the same burden on religious freedom. While an expansion of the regulation to cover all religiously affiliated organizations that some critics called for was unwarranted and a disservice to women, we recognize there are legitimate religious freedom issues that needed to be addressed.

This is an issue of great complexity that people of goodwill on all sides are struggling over. Those who disagree with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' position on contraception and have been critical of them for raising this issue should take a step back and recognize that they do have a religious freedom right at stake here, a right which Interfaith Alliance supports.

If there is a way to preserve the strength of the First Amendment and provide a religious freedom exemption while not compromising the freedom of every woman to have access to reproductive health care, we must implement and support it.

Therefore, from our perspective, the best possible outcome seems to be taking the religious organization out of the position of the "middle man" between the employee and the health care provider; which is exactly what the Obama Administration has done, in the end. Our goal is to ensure that employees' contraceptive care is paid for and they are given information on how to get it by their health care company or government. If not, then at the end of the day the government's interest in the health of women must stand. Most, if not all, of these religious organizations have entered into a financial partnership with the federal government and there are responsibilities and requirements that accompany the acceptance of taxpayer funds. Furthermore, it is Interfaith Alliance's long-held belief that religious denominations-in this case the USCCB and Evangelical Christianity-cannot be in charge of the laws and public policy of this nation.

Joint Statement from Religious Leaders


In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that women would have access to the birth control coverage benefit, without costly co-pays, no matter where they work.  This means that nurses, secretaries, janitors at religiously affiliated hospitals and universities would have access to this benefit.

This benefit is widely popular, and supported by majority of Americans, including Catholics. A new Public Policy Polling Poll released this week shows 56 percent of voters support the birth control coverage benefit, including 53 percent of Catholic voters, and 62 percent of Catholics who identify themselves as independents.

Fifty-seven percent of voters believe women employed by Catholic hospitals and universities should have the same rights to contraceptive coverage as other women.

Another poll released this week by Public Religion Research Institute shows that 58 percent of Catholics believe that employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception. The poll also shows 65 percent of Millennials (young people between the ages of 18 and 29) believe that employer health care coverage should include contraception at no cost.

Planned Parenthood Myths and Facts on Birth Control Benefit:

Talking Points Memo: Putting The Growing Birth Control Firestorm In Perspective



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To create an interfaith movement in Pennsylvania where citizens committed to the American values of justice, equality and compassion are encouraged to speak out in support of issues and policies which promote that vision.

To create politically resonant religious language derived from that progressive social vision, and engage our community by restoring that language into the larger society.
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