Baptist ethicist: We'd rather go to jail


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ABSTRACTBaptist Press - Baptist ethicist on mandate: We'd rather go to jail, pay fines - News with a Christian Perspective     April 3, 2012 Loading           Subscribe to BP SECTION BP News BP en Español BP Sports BP Cartoons FEATURES Culture Digest International Digest Life Digest Marriage Digest Story Collections DOWNLOADS Today's Edition Past Editions SEARCH Search Stories Search Photos MEDIA Photo Library Audio/Video Library RSS NEWSFEED BP Newsfeed BP Español feed BPNews BP en Español BPSports ABOUT US About Baptist Press Journalism Conf.   FAQs Tell A Friend Contact BP   Baptist ethicist on mandate: We'd rather go to jail, pay fines Posted on Feb 17, 2012 | by Tom Strode Email this Story My Name*: My Email*: Comment:   Enter list of email recipients, one address per box Recipient 1* Recipient 2 Recipient 3 Recipient 4 Recipient 5 To fight spam-bots, we need to verify you're a real human user. Please enter your answer below: What is the first month of the year? Answer*:   * = Required Fields Close Print Email Download WASHINGTON (BP) -- The Obama administration's mandate that health insurance plans cover contraceptives that can cause abortions harms not only Baptists and other religious adherents but all Americans, two Southern Baptist ethicists told a congressional panel Feb. 16. Their comments came during a four-and-a-half-hour hearing on the federal rule's impact on freedom of religion and conscience before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee of the House of Representatives. Ten representatives of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish bodies spoke in opposition to the mandate and what critics describe as its lack of sufficient religious and conscience protections for houses of worship, religious institutions and individuals. C. Ben Mitchell of Union University told the committee the rule "is an unconscionable intrusion by the state into the consciences of American citizens." "Contrary to portrayals in some of the popular media, this is not just a Catholic issue," said Mitchell, Graves professor of moral philosophy at the Baptist school in Jackson, Tenn. "All people of faith �- and even those who claim no faith �- have a stake in whether or not the government can violate the consciences of its citizenry. Religious liberty and the freedom to obey one's conscience is also not just a Baptist issue. It's an American issue enshrined in our founding documents." Testifying as part of the same panel, Craig Mitchell of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary told members the requirement "is wrong not just for religious conservatives." "It's wrong for all Americans, because it takes away the freedom of the citizens while emboldening the federal government to do whatever it wants," said Craig Mitchell, associate professor of Christian ethics at the seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. "It's wrong because it violates the Constitution. It's wrong because it violates religious liberty. It's wrong because it forces people to violate their consciences. ... This ruling is just plain wrong for America." The Mitchells, who are unrelated, added their voices to the growing public dissent by Southern Baptists against the "contraceptive mandate," as it has become known. Southern Baptist leaders have joined the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church, other Protestant bodies and some Jewish organizations in opposition to the rule since the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Jan. 20 that health plans must cover contraceptives and sterilizations as preventive services for employees. The HHS mandate requires all methods approved as birth control by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be included in a range of services offered to patients free of charge. Those FDA-endorsed contraceptives include ones that have abortion-causing properties -- "ella;" emergency contraception, such as Plan B, and the intrauterine device (IUD). Those methods all have mechanisms that can prevent tiny embryos from implanting in the uterine wall. In the case of "ella," it also can block production of the hormone progesterone, destroying the placenta that provides nutrition to the embryo and causing the unborn child's death. Opponents of the rule especially have protested its failure to provide an adequate religious or conscience exemption. The rule includes an exception for employers who oppose paying for such coverage on religious grounds, but it is narrowly drawn. It will protect many churches and other houses of worship, but it apparently will not cover churches that may primarily serve people outside their faith. The exemption also will not extend to such faith-based organizations as schools, hospitals and social service programs. After an onslaught of criticism, President Obama announced a change Feb. 10, saying religious organizations would not have to pay for or provide contraceptives if they object on religious grounds. Instead, he .......