NASHVILLE – Influential conservative Christian leaders, including Tony Perkins and Richard Land, were among those who participated in a press conference Monday at the National Religious Broadcasters convention to call for the reversal of the highly contentious contraception mandate proposed by the Obama administration.
The speakers also signed a letter, containing the signatures of some 2,500 religious leaders, that express their concerns over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which mandates that all health insurance plans – including those of most religious institutions that are not churches – cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, including the "morning after pill," which is viewed by pro-life Catholics and non-Catholics alike as an abortifacient.
"This is not a Catholic issue," said Tony Perkins, Family Research Council president, but one that concerns all denominations. "We will not tolerate any denomination having their religious freedom infringed upon by the government of the United States."
It stands as clear violation of the constitutional right to religious freedom, Perkins said.
"If there was ever a separation of church and state violation, this is it," the FRC president declared.
The contraception mandate "essentially ignores the conscience rights of many Catholic and Protestant Americans," the letter charges. "Our country was founded on certain freedoms, the first of which is the freedom of religion. The ability of a religious person to follow their conscience without fearing government intervention has long been a protected right for Americans."
Meanwhile, Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said that what is disturbing is the government is infringing on the citizens' right to refuse to participate in actions that their conscience deems wrong. The mandate is also attempting to "neuter" religious freedom down to freedom of worship, Land asserted.
"We are not going to sit by and allow our God-given rights, which are acknowledged, recognized and protected by the constitution, to be at defeat, to be neutered, and to be confined and restricted by the Obama administration," Land said.
He added that the mandate is part of a disturbing trend in the current administration, where when religious rights conflict with "supposed sexual rights," religious rights are always to give way.
The Obama administration has "taken off its mask," Land said, "and we have seen the ugly business end of government control of health care."
Religious institutions have special, innumerate protections under the first amendment, he said, and the president and his administration have no respect for them.
"I would encourage the Obama administration to rethink this and to hire someone who understands the constitution," he concluded.
Star Parker, founder and president of CURE (Center for Urban Renewal and Education), said that the government is making the mistake of trying to create a "one size fits all" health care program. The church community needs to be exempted from the mandate, she said.
"It is not open and honest dialogue that this administration [does not] allow the churches and religious institutions of our country to come to the forefront and have an honest debate about the social cost of the government involvement in healthcare," she said.
Others who spoke at the press conference included Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Maryland and founder of High Impact Leadership Coalition, and Gary Simons of High Point Church in Texas.