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Catholic archbishop calls out Trump, asks why HHS contraception mandate is still standing

President Donald Trump is flanked by clergy members after signing an executive order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty, during a National Day of Prayer event on May 4 in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C. A Catholic archbishop wrote an op-ed Thursday asking Trump why Obamacare’s contraception mandate is still standing six months into his presidency. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)\n

A Catholic archbishop wrote an op-ed Thursday asking President Donald Trump why Obamacare’s contraception mandate is still standing six months into his presidency.

During former President Barack Obama’s administration, The Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who care for the elderly poor, sued for an exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s Health and Human Services mandate, which requires employers to cover contraceptive and abortifacient drugs in their employee health insurance plans. The nuns argued that providing such drugs would violate their conscience, as Catholic Church teaching does not permit their use. Other religious organizations also objected to the mandate.

In May, Trump signed an executive order directing the IRS not to target religious organizations for political speech, and directing HHS to “consider issuing amended regulations” to address “conscience-based objections” to the contraception mandate.

During remarks at the White House before signing the order, Trump invited the Little Sisters onto the stage with him and vowed to them that their “long ordeal will soon be over.”

But three months later, the mandate still stands. The Daily Caller reported last month that Department of Justice attorneys are still pursuing the case.

In an op-ed for The Hill, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote that he met with Trump in the Oval Office in May and was in attendance when he signed the executive order.

“Yet here we are, nearly three months later, and the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate still stands,” he wrote.

DiNardo wrote that “for four years, the Little Sisters and many other faith-based nonprofit groups have patiently asked the government to do the right thing and let them serve the poor,” adding that Trump promised to do just that.

He noted that the Little Sisters — as well as other organization — still face millions of dollars in fines from the federal government for their refusal to comply with the mandate.

Despite Trump’s executive order, DiNardo wrote, the “onerous regulations that are still on the books have not been amended.”

DiNardo argued that the mandate jeopardizes religious freedom.

“Freedom belongs to us by human nature, not by government dictate. A government that serves its citizens is one that respects the right to religious freedom,” he wrote. “President Trump suggested that he understood the stakes when he said, “Freedom is not a gift from government. Freedom is a gift from God.”

“The HHS mandate puts an unnecessary burden on religious freedom, a burden that the administration has the power to lift, a burden that the administration has promised to lift,” DiNardo wrote. “And yet the burden has not been lifted.”

“Mr. President, please lift this burden,” he concluded.

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