Sioux Falls, SD
A new mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is causing a lot of controversy within the Catholic church
Bishops from across the country, including right here in South Dakota, say the rule compromises religious freedom.
Hundreds of thousands of Catholics attended mass across the country Sunday, and many were told about the new healthcare mandate that religious leaders believe is a violation of the church's beliefs.
"It's a core issue of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, Bishops all across the country are responding in the same way because we feel as if our freedom of religion, our ability to live out the church teachings are being compromised by this regulation that's come out of the department of human services," Bishop Paul Swain with the Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese said.
The new mandate requires all employers that provide health insurance, including faith-based ones, to provide and pay for all forms of contraception, including birth control. Swain says the mandate strikes at the very core of the country's rights.
"We have the freedom to exercise individually and as church what we believe free from the interference of government at any level I mean that's what the first amendment was all about," Swain said.
And Swain says this is a step beyond what has happened in the past. Before, the government has created a conscience clause, which allows you to be exempt from the regulation if it goes against your beliefs, but that isn't the case with this mandate.
"If you provide health insurance to your employees then you must provide this coverage and pay for it even though it goes against core teaching, core beliefs," Swain said.
Swain hopes the regulation will be modified in such a way that can be true to the Catholic Church's teachings, and not be forced to conform under government pressure.
"The first amendment is there for a purpose, to protect this very type of thing," Swain said.
The Catholic Church has one year to comply with the new mandate, which goes into effect in January 2013. South Dakota senator John Thune and Representative Kristi Noem have both signed on to different challenges to the mandate.