Rev. Mark G. Schroeder, president of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, has issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' new requirement that all health care plans cover contraceptives, abortive drugs, and medical procedures. We the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church Council submit this statement from our synod president as what we believe.
"Recently the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it will require all health care plans, including those provided by religious organizations, to include coverage for contraceptives, abortive drugs, and medical procedures that are contrary to the doctrinal positions of many Christian churches and denominations. This action is a clear and unprecedented threat to the religious liberty guaranteed to all citizens by the First Amendment. No religious organization should be required by the government to support or facilitate activities which are in clear violation of its principles and beliefs.
"The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod holds to the biblical teaching that human life begins at conception and that the unborn are fully human beings, created by God. We are deeply distressed that the government of the United States would require the health care plans of our church-affiliated organizations to provide abortion-inducing drugs or other procedures that would end the life of an unborn child and would require coverage for any other medical treatment that violates our teachings and conscience.
"More recently, President Obama has announced an 'accommodation,' saying that religious organizations will not be required to pay directly for such coverage. Instead, insurance providers serving religious organizations will be required to make these services available free of charge. As one congressman has correctly said, this is a 'distinction without a difference,' since such costs would still be provided indirectly by the religious organizations through the insurance premiums they pay.
"The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod clearly understands and teaches that Jesus has directed his followers to 'give to Caesar what is Caesar's' (Mark 12:17) and that secular government is used by God for the good of all society. Christian citizens recognize their responsibility to pay taxes, support the government, obey its laws, and pray for its leaders. While it is not normally within the sphere of the church to become involved in secular politics, we do recognize that individual Christians have a responsibility to exercise their rights as citizens, to express their beliefs, and to encourage the government to act in the best interest of society.
"We also confess and affirm that if the government directs us to do something in clear violation of the will of God, 'we must obey God rather than men' (Acts 5:29)."
Pastor Paul Doletzky and the Church Council of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Escanaba, a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.