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WELS response to the recent HHS requirements
In this issue: Pastor accepts call to new mission, 2011 CMO contributions and 2012 commitments, registration opens for two June events
Many WELS members are aware of the recent controversial announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It stated that all health care plans, including those provided by religious organizations, will be required to include coverage for contraceptives, abortive drugs, and other medical procedures, even though such things are contrary to the beliefs and doctrinal positions of many churches and denominations. After widespread objections, President Obama announced an “accommodation” that would require insurance companies to provide such coverage free of charge; religiously-affiliated organizations would not be required to pay for these services. Some have said this is a distinction without a difference, since organizations would likely still pay for these procedures through their insurance premiums.
How would this regulation affect our synod and synodical organizations that provide health insurance? Since our WELS VEBA is a self-insured plan, even the “accommodation” would require VEBA to provide coverage for all forms of contraceptives—even those such as the so-called “morning-after pill” that do not prevent pregnancy but instead cause an early abortion.
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.
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. We also believe the mission of the church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is not normally within the sphere of the church to become involved in secular politics. At the same time, we do recognize our responsibility to publicly state our beliefs, and we do not hesitate to do that just because an issue is being debated in the political realm.
We 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. Therefore, we encourage all of our members, as Christian citizens, to express their convictions boldly and to urge the government to be faithful in carrying out its primary responsibility to protect and preserve life. We also encourage our members to recognize and speak out against this clear threat to the blessing of religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment.
Finally, we 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).
You can read the complete public statement that was issued last week on the synod’s Web site.