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A Message From President Powell Concerning the HHS Mandate


A Call to Action: Defending Religious Liberty

-Thomas H. Powell, President, Mount St. Mary's University

Mount St. Mary’s University was founded by a political refugee fleeing persecution from an overreaching secular state that was trying to force him to violate his conscience. In the United States, he discovered a new nation dedicated to the principals of freedom, especially the “first freedom” -- the right to religious liberty.  That liberty is now under threat in the United States.

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that almost all employers, including Catholic employers, will be forced to offer their employees health coverage that includes sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception.  Almost all health insurers will be forced to include those ‘services’ in health policies.  And almost all individuals will be forced to buy that coverage as a part of their policies.

Secular sources, as well as Catholic, have denounced this over-reach. For example, earlier this week, the editors of USA Today wrote: “Few Americans of any political stripe would disagree with the simple proposition that the government should steer away from meddling in church affairs. Certainly, it should never try to force a religiously affiliated institution to violate a central tenet of its faith. Yet in drawing up the rules that will govern health care reform, the Obama administration didn't just cross that line. It galloped over it, requiring employers affiliated with the Catholic Church to include free birth control in their health insurance plans. That's contrary to both Catholic doctrine and constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.”

In his January 25th letter, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Apostolic Administrator for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, University Trustee, and Chancellor of our Seminary, has called on us all to take action in light of this decision. Cardinal O’Brien is calling on Mount St. Mary’s University, as a community of faith, to commit ourselves to prayer and fasting that wisdom and justice may prevail, and religious liberty may be restored. 

In this spirit, I am urging members of the Mount community to designate tomorrow, February 10th as a day of fasting and prayer for religious liberty.  Please join me in Founder’s Plaza Friday (2/10) at 12:30 p.m. for a brief program.  I am asking Father Brian Nolan, University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry, to lead this initiative on behalf of the campus.

This matter calls for the attention of all members of our Mount St. Mary’s University community as well as all citizens of our country and must be addressed on a number of levels.  To that end, the Mount is launching several initiatives:

  •  I am writing letters to President Obama and our Congressional representatives urging reform and would urge you to do the same;
  •  I have signed, along with my colleague presidents of Catholic universities and colleges across the country, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ letter;
  • Our Board of Trustees will be meeting in early March to discuss further the options before us;
  • Our Seminary community gathered for an educational forum on this issue earlier this week; and
  • Additional educational events will be scheduled throughout campus this semester under the leadership of Provost Dr. David Rehm and Executive Vice President Dan Soller.
  • Contact Congress and let your voice be heard: Online

As a community grounded in our Catholic faith, I would urge you to do whatever you can to work towards the withdrawal of this mandate from the laws of this great Nation. 


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