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LCMS President Issues Statement in Response to
U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Health Care Reform Legislation
ST. LOUIS, June 28, 2012—In response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today to largely let stand the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, issued the following statement:

“In light of today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), we remain opposed to the controversial birth control mandate, which is one of the requirements included in the law.

“The Court’s decision today guarantees that we will continue to bring awareness to the threat to religious liberty represented by the birth control mandate, which requires virtually all health plans, including those of religious organizations, to cover birth control drugs and products that could cause the death of the unborn. We are opposed to the birth control mandate because it runs counter to the biblical truth of the sanctity of human life and creates a conflict of conscience for religious employers and insurers, who face steep penalties for non-compliance based upon their religious convictions.

“We will continue to stand with those who have filed suit in the many religious freedom cases pending against the birth control mandate. Through education and civic advocacy, we will continue to educate the public about the vital necessity of protecting our First Amendment right to act according to the tenets of our faith. We remain steadfast in our opposition to the birth control mandate and will continue working to ensure our right to refrain from paying for products and services that conflict with our doctrine about the sanctity of all human life.

“And, regardless of the Court’s decision on the health care reform law, we in the LCMS will continue to uphold the sanctity of all human life while we care for the sick and work to restore the health and well-being of people in our communities and around the world.”

On June 21, 2012, Rev. President Harrison and many other church leaders wrote and signed the following letter:

FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION:
Putting Beliefs into Practice
An Open Letter from Religious Leaders in the United States to All Americans

FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION:
Putting Beliefs into Practice

An Open Letter from Religious Leaders in the United States to All Americans

Dear Friends,

Religious institutions are established because of religious beliefs and convictions. Such institutions include not only churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places of worship, but also schools and colleges, shelters and community kitchens, adoption agencies and hospitals, organizations that provide care and services during natural disasters, and countless other organizations that exist to put specific religious beliefs into practice. Many such organizations have provided services and care to both members and non-members of their religious communities since before the Revolutionary War, saving and improving the lives of countless American citizens.

As religious leaders from a variety of perspectives and communities, we are compelled to make known our protest against the incursion of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) into the realm of religious liberty. HHS has mandated that religious institutions, with only a narrow religious exception, must provide access to certain contraceptive benefits, even if the covered medications or procedures are contradictory to their beliefs. We who oppose the application of this mandate to religious institutions include not only the leaders of religious groups morally opposed to contraception, but also leaders of other religious groups that do not share that particular moral conviction.

That we share an opposition to the mandate to religious institutions while disagreeing about specific moral teachings is a crucial fact. Religious freedom is the principle on which we stand. Because of differing understandings of moral and religious authority, people of good will can and often do come to different conclusions about moral questions. Yet, even we who hold differing convictions on specific moral issues are united in the conviction that no religious institution should be penalized for refusing to go against its beliefs. The issue is the First Amendment, not specific moral teachings or specific products or services.

The HHS mandate implicitly acknowledged that an incursion into religion is involved in the mandate. However, the narrowness of the proposed exemption is revealing for it applies only to religious organizations that serve or support their own members. In so doing, the government is establishing favored and disfavored religious organizations: a privatized religious organization that serves only itself is exempted from regulation, while one that believes it should also serve the public beyond its membership is denied a religious exemption. The so-called accommodation and the subsequent Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) do little or nothing to alleviate the problem.

No government should tell religious organizations either what to believe or how to put their beliefs into practice. We indeed hold this to be an unalienable, constitutional right. If freedom of religion is a constitutional value to be protected, then institutions developed by religious groups to implement their core beliefs in education, in care for the sick or suffering, and in other tasks must also be protected. Only by doing so can the free exercise of religion have any meaning. The HHS mandate prevents this free exercise. For the well-being of our country, we oppose the application of the contraceptive mandate to religious institutions and plead for its retraction.

Sincerely yours,

Leith Anderson
President
National Association of Evangelicals

Gary M. Benedict
President
The Christian and Missionary Alliance

Bishop John F. Bradosky
North American Lutheran Church

The Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson
Archbishop of St. Louis

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, S.V.
Superior General of the Sisters of Life

Sister Barbara Anne Gooding, R.S.M.
Director, Department of Religion
Saint Francis Health System

Sister Margaret Regina Halloran, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Brooklyn Province
Little Sisters of the Poor

The Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
President
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

U.S. Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.
Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church
Bishop, Fellowship of International Churches

The Very Rev. Dr. John A. Jillions
Chancellor
Orthodox Church in America

The Most Blessed Jonah
Archbishop of Washington
Metropolitan of All American and Canada
Orthodox Church in America

Imam Faizul R. Khan
Founder and Leader
Islamic Society of Washington Area

The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky
Director of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations
Orthodox Church in America

The Most Rev. William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
Chairman
USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty

Sister Maria Christine Lynch, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Chicago Province
Little Sisters of the Poor

Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, l.s.p.
Provincial Superior, Baltimore
Province Little Sisters of the Poor

The Rev. John A. Moldstad
President
Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Deaconess Cheryl D. Naumann
President Concordia Deaconess Conference
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
President
NHCLC
Hispanic Evangelical Association

Sister Joseph Marie Ruessmann, R.S.M., J.D., J.C.D., M.B.A.
Generalate Secretary
Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan

The Rev. Mark Schroeder
President
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

L. Roy Taylor
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America

Sister Constance Carolyn Veit, l.s.p.
Communications Director
Little Sisters of the Poor

Dr. George O. Wood
General Superintendent
The General Council of the Assemblies of God

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“I, _____ having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

From The Constitution of the United States of America, Article 2, Section 1: 

“Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:

‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.'”

____________________________________________________________________________________

1.  Seven or so years ago one of the first cadets I knew was commissioned into the Armed Forces at VMI.  I attended the ceremony in Cameron Hall to see Brad commissioned.  Cameron Hall is where VMI plays basketball and so it is of good size.  On the main floor in four sections were the cadets in their respective branch of the Armed Forces for the ceremony.  Before the ceremony, there were speeches by reps from the 4 branches of  our Nation’s military, all officers.  I was not expecting much in the way of oration.  But the content of one officer’s speech, or the gist of it, has stayed with me.  He soon began to speak of the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War.  (My Lai Massacre: Wikipedia)  This grabbed my attention.  The officer then began to explain that Lt. Calley’s defense:  he was following orders.  The officer then said that the lieutenant was following unlawful orders.  But how would he know?  The speaker then told the cadets-soon-to-be officers of our Armed Forces that finally you do not obey a man,”…but  a bunch of words on a page, and not just any words but The Constitution of the United States of America. ”   When I heard that, my Lutheran heart sang out: Yes!  We are to follow words!   I heard growing up in the Lutheran Church, the Pastor say before offering Absolution, “I, a called Servant of the WORD…”  The Constitution is the final arbiter for which orders are legal. You are to obey words on a page, the Constitution.  Christians are as well to obey words in both the kingdoms of this world and eternally, in the Kingdom of God. Notice in the oaths above, from the President to the brand-new officer is to those words on a page:  our Constitution.  Senators and Congressmen’s oaths are likewise to the constituting document of our nation. 

2.  I enjoy reading American History and in particular regarding history of  the colonial period, the lead-up to the American Revolution and that revolution and it’s results.  At least one thing is certain about the American Revolution:  it was against all odds, against the world’s greatest super-power at the time.  Many factors played into it’s success:  a group of men and women of exceptional talents and abilities;   the sheer distance between the Colonies and Great Britain;  homefield advantage;  the rise of Enlightenment thinking and political philosophy, etc.  I think there was another significant factor, which reached into the very hearts of the nascent Americans that made the American Revolution and especially it’s aftermath, the formation of the nation and governmenet  which we swear to “preserve, protect and defend” that made this happen.  

Generally speaking, the Protestant Church was predominate.  A Protestant Church, the Church of England, was the offical religion of the British Empire. For instance:  the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg had an Anglican priest preach to them.   Remember that in 1776 the Reformation was just over 200 years old. In the lives of nations, it wasn’t that old yet.  It’s great battle cry was Sola Scriptura: Scripture alone.  The Protestants in their various Church bodies were many:  from Lutherans to Baptists to Anglicans  to Presbyterians.  Now the various Protestants all agreed on one thing:  we follow the Bible, and not a man, i.e. the Pope or a Bishop.  We disagree as to the correct interpretation of the sacred Scriptures and yet one thing was certain:  Scripture is crucial.  The Lord wants us to follow, yes, “a bunch of words on a page”!  Now these words on the page are  not just human words, but the very Word of God, living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword! (See Hebrews 4: 12-14)  .  My contention is that the American Revolution, and especially the Constitution could be written and be implemented, because we were a people already sensible to the rule of words on a page:  the rule of the Word, the Holy Bible.   I would further maintain that the Roman Catholic Church has not abandoned the rule of the Word in it’s worship and teaching, but Protestants were particularly insistant in it’s teaching and preaching as judging all doctrines and practices.  If a practice or behavior was contrary to the Word, then the Scriptures, God’s Word must be obeyed.  If  a doctrine and practice is contrary to the Scriptures, then even a seemingly holy man  espousing a  seemingly holy practice, e.g. praying a Hindu mantra repeatedly, must not be obeyed. 

3.  The centrality of the Word of God as recorded in the words of the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is seen in the Creation by the Word of the Lord, to the Call of Abram to the Call on Sinai and the writing by the finger of God the Ten Commandments, to  the preaching and actions of the Judges, Kings, holy women  and the Prophets,  and in the fulness of time, the Word became flesh, and  then the preaching of the Apostles and the apostolic Church, now to the ends of the earth.  I think  this set the stage for the great American experiment in political freedom by law.  As is sung in the song, “Oh, Beautiful for Spacious Skies”:    

AmericaAmerica! May God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

The American experiment has succeeded because her people were “people of the Book”.   We know that this country’s social contract is The Constitution of the United States of America.  We are to obey a “bunch of words on a page”.  If we get away from the Book, then we suspect that other documents which are authoritative are not.  The cry, Sola Scripture! must be heard in the Church again.  She still needs the Lord’s reforming Word. So does our Nation in these dark days.

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