Area religious leaders who oppose President Obama’s health care overhaul say Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding it doesn’t change a thing.
Previously scheduled events opposing the law will still take place, and a lawsuit filed by 43 Roman Catholic dioceses and other entities objecting to the law will go forward, said Sean McBride, spokesman for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, one of the suit’s plaintiffs.
McBride said the church’s legal action challenges the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality on the basis of the First Amendment, which guarantees religious freedom; Thursday’s 5-4 decision addressed other aspects of the law on other grounds.
“As far as our lawsuit goes, the lawsuit is still active,” McBride said. “If the whole thing (were) struck down, then that makes our lawsuit moot.”
The Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades, diocesan bishop, was traveling Thursday and not available for immediate comment said McBride, who provided a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The bishops have objected to the law, saying it forces them as self-insured employers to provide and pay for coverage that includes medical interventions that go against church teaching – artificial contraception, including abortifacients and sterilization.
The statement urges new legislation “to correct the fundamental flaws” in the law, including that provision, one that allows federal funding of abortion and one that does not allow undocumented immigrant workers to buy insurance from newly created insurance exchanges.
The statement says the bishops have not supported repealing the law in its entirety and still do not. They remain committed to affordable health care for all, it says.
Other Christian groups, including the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and some evangelical churches have voiced official concern that the government is infringing on religious freedom.
Jayne Sheafer, spokesman for the synod’s Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, said synod pastors and seminary leaders were attending an annual convention out of town on Thursday.
But the Rev. Matthew Harrison, a former Fort Wayne pastor who now heads the synod, said in a statement the synod remains opposed to the birth-control provisions.
“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,” the statement said.
“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.”
Chris Barnekov of Fort Wayne, a member of the LCMS-affiliated St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, said a previously scheduled Rally for Religious Freedom at 10 a.m. Saturday at Freimann Square, would still go on. Roman Catholics and members of several evangelical Protestant denominations and Allen County Right to Life, a group opposed to abortion rights, plan to attend.
A recent poll found three-quarters of evangelicals oppose the health care law.
Meanwhile, Catholics are continuing the church’s nationwide Fortnight for Freedom campaign in Fort Wayne with a Mass celebrated by Rhoades at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 1122 S. Clinton St.
Events in individual parishes also have been scheduled through Wednesday, including a talk on threats to religious freedom followed by a rosary procession from the cathedral to the Allen County Courthouse lawn at 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.