News Release: Religious Freedom Defended as House Passes Conscience Clause Legislation

Legislative Package Approved by Overwhelming Bipartisan Majority

April 21, 2004

LANSING—The Michigan Catholic Conference today praised the passage of legislation that defends religious freedom by protecting a health care right of conscience for institutional and individual health care providers. The bills’ movement took place as hundreds of statewide Catholics were in Lansing to participate in Catholic Legislative Day.

“The Michigan Catholic Conference thanks those legislators who had the courage to defend our constitutional right to religious freedom by voting for these bills,” said Paul A. Long, Michigan Catholic Conference Vice-President for Public Policy. “Individual and institutional health care providers can and should maintain their mission and their services without compromising faith-based teaching.”

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 would undoubtedly force Catholic hospitals to close—or substantially reduce their service to the community—rather than violate their consciences. Approximately 5.1 million Michigan residents are served annually by the 26 Catholic hospitals across the state.

“American society’s respect for religious pluralism is a cornerstone of our nation,” said Long. “This regard for diversity of beliefs protects against oppression of religions and honors the role of religious organizations in providing critically needed social services.”

House Bills 5006 and 5276–5278 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.

All four bills involved in the “conscience clause” package passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, and now head to the Senate for further consideration.

“Conscience clause” legislation was made a top priority by the Michigan Catholic Conference board of directors prior to the 2003–2004 legislative session. The issue was conveyed to legislators today by Catholics who came from across Michigan to fulfill their roles as faithful citizens and to become familiar with the issues for which the Catholic Conference advocates.

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

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