Statement of the NYS Bishops on Contraception Mandate

Published on February 5th, 2002

We, the Catholic Bishops of New York State, are united in the view that legislation passed today in the state Senate that would force Catholic employers to provide coverage for contraception in employee health insurance plans is a clear and unprecedented violation of religious liberty. By providing a religious exemption for parishes while forcing Catholic education, health and human service ministries to violate the teaching of our faith, the Senate is legislating what is and is not Catholic. This is a grave and unconstitutional encroachment by government into the realm of religion.

We have received repeated assurances from various members of the Senate Majority that their house would stand for religious freedom in any mandate for morally offensive procedures. Sadly, today they have followed in the path of the state Assembly, which has previously passed similar legislation with even fewer protections than that of the Senate.

We now request that the members of the state Legislature reconsider their position on this issue and reject any measure not providing adequate protection for religious conscience. Failing that, we will call on Governor Pataki to veto this intolerant legislation. All people of good will, regardless of their views on the morality of contraception, should reject the attempts by our Legislature to trample on the First Amendment. The framers of the Constitution intended for all religious beliefs and practices to be accommodated, not simply those deemed acceptable by the particular cultural climate of the day.

We fully support those provisions of the Women’s Health and Wellness bill that deal with screenings for diseases, such as breast cancer, cervical cancer and osteoporosis. We consider it to be unconscionable that these important women’s health issues are being used as a pawn by abortion and contraception advocates to limit the influence of religious organizations in public policy and to drive the Church out of the business of education, health and human services.

–Roman Catholic Bishops of New York State

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