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Union leader says lawmakers' education cuts, Medicaid changes 'immoral'

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WASHINGTON -- The secretary-treasurer of the Texas AFL-CIO said lawmakers in his home state last year conducted "the most immoral legislative session I have ever witnessed," especially their actions on education funding and Medicaid.

John Patrick, a Catholic, also criticized lawmakers for trying to pass a measure that he said would have made it illegal for labor officials to use union dues to "advocate for working families."

But he reserved his greatest scorn for budget cuts.

"In 2011, the Texas Legislature took $4 billion out of public schools. Instead of investing in our future, Texas lawmakers divested from the future," he said. "Instead of helping the poorest among us, Texas lawmakers wrote billions of dollars in IOUs for Medicaid."

The cuts were part of a two-year budget the Republican-controlled Legislature passed last May. School districts had to lay off about 32,000 school employees, including 12,000 teachers. Democratic lawmakers and the Texas State Teachers Association have asked the Gov. Rick Perry to call a special session to resolve the crisis.

Staffer: Bishops 'will not relent' on contraception compromise

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A key staffer for the U.S. bishops’ conference said Thursday that the bishops “will not relent” and “have no choice” but to voice their objections to the controversial mandate requiring coverage of contraceptive services in health care plans.

“Foundational principles, religious liberty are at stake,” said Anthony R. Picarello, Jr., the bishops’ conference’s general counsel and associate general secretary, on a conference call with reporters from Catholic papers across the country Thursday afternoon.

“And...we’re not going to stop until we get it done,” he continued. “We’re just not. The bishops have no choice. They just have no choice. They’re not going to relent on this. They can’t relent. They have no choice.”

Picarello’s comments come as several bishops are becoming more vocal about their opposition to the mandate.

Strange bedfellows: religious liberty and neoliberalism

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COMMENTARY

Is the fight really about religious liberty, or is it about neoliberalism completely eradicating the hard-won social protections of workers and the poor?

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has been sounding the alarm about the alleged attempt of the administration of President Barack Obama to destroy religious liberty.

Bishop: Conscience protection must be legislated

WASHINGTON -- Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., chairman of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said the ongoing debate over a federal mandate requiring employers, including most religious entities, to provide no-cost contraception and sterilization coverage demonstrates the need that a religious right to conscience protection be enacted into federal law.

"Our religious freedom is too precious to be protected only by regulations," Bishop Lori said in a Feb. 13 phone interview with Catholic News Service. "It needs legislative protection."

"More legislators, I think, are looking at it. There's more bipartisan support for it. There should be a lot of pressure exerted on Congress to pass it and for the president to sign it," he said.

Among the bills under consideration is the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.

Bishops take hard line toward contraception compromise

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Three days after President Barack Obama announced a revision to a controversial mandate regarding coverage of contraceptive services in health care plans, key leaders in the U.S. bishops’ conference have indicated dissatisfaction with the compromise, taking a hard line and saying they will be satisfied only by a full rescission of the mandate.

USCCB official: Mandate still violates religious liberty

WASHINGTON -- A revision in a federal health care mandate that would shift the payment of contraception and sterilization coverage from religious employers to health insurance companies still infringes upon religious liberty and must be addressed, said an official of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The mandate's narrow exemption for religious organizations and how the revision pertains to self-insured parties, like many dioceses and Catholic organizations, could still force entities morally opposed to contraception to pay for such services, said John Carr, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development.

"The fact is we have to go back to the beginning," Carr told several hundred people during the opening session of the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering Feb. 12. "The best way to get out of this is to not get into it. We should not have the government deciding what's a ministry or not. We need the administration to revise it, we need the Congress to repeal it or we need the courts to stop it."

Bishops studying revised contraception mandate

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Following news that President Barack Obama has decided to revise a controversial mandate requiring contraceptive coverage in health care plans, several of the groups who expressed the most concern about the mandate are trying to sort out whether they will support the revision, while others have already rejected it outright.

An initial statement from the bishops’ conference said the conference was “studying” the revised mandate.

White House fact sheet regarding contraception mandate

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THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 10, 2012

FACT SHEET: Women’s Preventive Services and Religious Institutions

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most health insurance plans will cover women’s preventive services, including contraception, without charging a co-pay or deductible beginning in August, 2012. This new law will save money for millions of Americans and ensure Americans nationwide get the high-quality care they need to stay healthy.

Today, President Obama will announce that his Administration will implement a policy that accommodates religious liberty while protecting the health of women. Today, nearly 99 percent of all women have used contraception at some point in their lives, but more than half of all women between the ages of 18-34 struggle to afford it.

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