News Release: Michigan Catholic Conference Testifies in Support of Religious Freedom

Conscience Clause Legislation Necessary for Faith-Based Health Care

March 30, 2004

LANSING—The Michigan Catholic Conference testified in defense of religious freedom and civil rights today by urging the House Health Policy Committee to pass legislation that would protect a health care right of conscience for institutional and individual health care providers.

A bipartisan package of bills would allow a health care facility to specifically provide services that are in accordance with faith-based teaching and are reflected in its article of incorporation, bylaws or adopted mission statement. Conscience protection would also be afforded to individual health care providers and health care insurance companies.

“The Catholic Church has a two thousand year tradition of providing essential medical care to the poor, the sick and the most vulnerable,” said Michigan Catholic Conference Vice-President for Public Policy Paul A. Long. “Individual and institutional health care providers can and should maintain their mission and their services without compromising social and moral teachings.”

The historic role of the faith-based health care provider to serve the common good in a manner consistent with Catholic doctrine is being threatened on several fronts. Catholic providers have increasingly been criticized for not offering what opponents label “a full range of health services.”

In recent years, adversarial campaigns, lawsuits and public relations events have been launched to force Catholic health care providers to offer services that conflict with Catholic moral teaching and to prevent affiliations or mergers between them and other-than-Catholic entities. If successful, these efforts will undoubtedly force Catholic hospitals to close—or substantially reduce their service to the community—rather than violate their consciences.

“Considering that religious freedom of conscience has been a fundamental principle of our republic, we must not allow the bedrock constitutional right of religious freedom to be re-framed or diminished in any capacity,” said Long. “A civil right of conscience must be recognized for all individuals and individual health care providers. Individuals do not lose their right to exercise their religion and conscience once they enter the health care field.”

Michigan residents are currently served by 26 Catholic hospitals, assisting some 5,126,648 patients annually. House Bills 5006 and 5276–5278 passed out of committee and now await consideration from the full House.

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.

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