USAID's directive on conscience gives church officials glimmer of hope


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ABSTRACTCNS STORY: USAID's directive on conscience gives church officials glimmer of hope Home    |    About Us    |    Contacts    |    Products        News Items   Top Stories   News Briefs   Vatican   Origins   Africa   Headlines   Also Featuring   Movie Reviews   Sunday Scripture   CNS Blog   Links to Clients   Major Events   2008 papal visit   World Youth Day   John Paul II   For Clients   Client Login   CNS Insider   We're also on ...   Facebook   Twitter   RSS Feeds   Top Stories   Vatican   Movie Reviews   CNS Blog .   For More Info  If you would like  more information  about Catholic  News Service,  please contact  CNS at one of  the following:  cns@  catholicnews.com  or  (202) 541-3250 .   Copyright  This material  may not  be published,  broadcast,  rewritten or  otherwise  distributed,  except by  linking to  a page on  this site. .   CNS Story: WASHINGTON LETTER Mar-23-2012 (1,030 words) Backgrounder. With photos. xxxn USAID's directive on conscience gives church officials glimmer of hope Jeanne Mollen of Falls Church, Va., holds a crucifix and rosary during a rally outside the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services March 23 in Washington. The rally was one of many held across the country to oppose the HHS contraceptive mandate. (CNS/Bob Roller) By Dennis Sadowski Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A little publicized policy directive from the U.S. Agency for International Development is getting a closer look from religious freedom advocates and promoters of conscience protections in federal law. Months in development, the directive offers one of the broadest and most inclusive conscience protections to faith-based organizations funded by USAID to operate AIDS treatment and prevention programs and other health care programs around the world, Catholic observers said. Specifically, the directive bans discrimination against faith-based and other organizations that decide not to engage in activities that violate religious or moral principles, such as condom distribution and education in their use. Advocates of religious freedom see the language in the agency's acquisition and assistance policy directive as a model that could be implemented in all government programs, contracts and grants with minor changes depending on the programs individual agencies oversee. Such language could pertain to federal programs ranging from health care reform to assistance to human trafficking victims. The directive implements the conscience protection mandate that was included in the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008. The law authorized up to $48 billion over 5 years to combat malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. It includes funding for the widely lauded President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program, known as PEPFAR. The law, which expires at the end of fiscal year 2013, passed handily in both houses of Congress, both then under the control of Democrats: 308-116 in the House and 80-16 in the Senate. President George W. Bush signed the bill July 30, 2008. For the record, President Barack Obama, then a U.S. senator from Illinois, did not vote on the measure. "(The directive) we feel expresses quite well what we would have wanted to see, and we are pleased with the constructive process we went through with them and they went through with us," said Bill O'Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services. "It's very important obviously because the church's global health network is critical to addressing the problem of AIDS in many countries. That was recognized in the legislation and now is recognized explicitly in this guidance so we can at least compete fairly. We're not asking for any preferential treatment. But as the law specified we wanted to be able to complete fairly without discrimination because of our teaching," O'Keefe said. He acknowledged that CRS played the leading role in the directive's development. The ag.......