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Area Christian Groups Say Provision in Affordable Care Act Violates First Amendment Rights

Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania has released a joint statement against a provision within the Affordable Care Act that has drawn wide opposition from Conservatives and religious groups regarding health insurance coverage of contraceptives.

Following opponents' criticism last month, the Obama Administration tweaked the mandate. The administration said in cases where hospitals and universities owned by religious groups insured themselves, female employees and students would still have access to free contraceptives. The coverage would be provided by companies that pay claims or "third party administrators."

The Christian Associates group said they still have two main concerns.

"First the infringement of religious liberty as it's set forth in the U.S. Constitution, which we believe no mandate of the government should work against the conscience or teachings of any of our members," said Associates Chair Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The second concern, added Duncan, has to do with their belief that all people should have access to health care. He applauded the work of the Catholic Church in its mission to provide care to a wide range of people.

"But one of the great dangers in the present legislation is that the Catholic Church and its organizations may be compelled to withdraw from providing the very health care that is essential to so many, not just Catholics, but over and over again to non-Catholics and non-Christians," said Duncan.

The Affordable Care Act requires new insurance plans to fully cover women's preventive care, which will include free birth control, yearly wellness visits, breastfeeding counseling and equipment, and screening for gestational diabetes, domestic abuse, HPV, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV/AIDS.

Bishop David Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said that by releasing a joint statement, the Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania hope to get the attention of government officials. They are calling on the federal government to alter the provision in question and broaden the religious exemption within it.

President Obama has stood by the revised provision.